Caruso, the voice of love
RaiFiction and Ciao Ragazzi
A film by:
for Ciao Ragazzi
Massimo and Simona De Rita
with the collaboration of Melania Romanelli
Luna Park ed. musicali e discografiche srl
Naples. Young Enrico Caruso – better known as Erri – works with his father and brother at the local foundry. Stubborn and spirited, he’ got big dreams: he wants to become a world-renown tenor. At the end of the day, he takes off his dirty workers’ clothes and performs in taverns sharing his scratchy and powerful voce. One night, he’s spotted by Maestro Vergine who invites him to come audition for his school. To stand by the dream he had with his mother who always supported him and who died prematurely, Enrico has to go against his father’s will for him of finding a regular job. Maestro Vergine admits him into his class, Enrico leaves his job at the foundry and dedicates himself completely to what he does best: sing.
His Maestro’s lessons are hard and exhausting especially when Enrico tries to convince him that he’s a tenor and not a baritone. His Maestro believes in this young man’s talent and wants to turn him into a star. He gets him an audition for La Bohéme, an Opera recently composed by the still unknown Giacomo Puccini. Soprano Ada Giachetti is a star and Enrico falls madly in love when he hears her sing for the first time. Puccini’s audition goes well even if Enrico sings O’ Sole Mio. He’s picked to be tenor Ferdinando De Lucia’s understudy, the man who is starring next to Ada in La Bohéme. Unreachable Ada is now approachable. De Luca falling sick just before opening night turns into Enrico’s greatest opportunity. Backed by Puccini, Enrico overcomes Ada’s hostility and his singing debut takes place with the woman he loves. Ada initially doesn’t want to sing with him but Enrico wins her over with his tenacity and she slowly gives in to the point that she falls madly in love with him. Her admiration morphs into mad love.
Success comes with difficulties, especially in the emotional department regarding those who are close to his heart: he still clashes with his father and fights with his brother Giovanni who’s always trying to push him harder beyond his possibilities because of a birth defect in his vocal chords. Then there’s also Rina, Ada’s sister, who has fallen madly in love with him but who has to hide her feelings to keep peace in the family. Ada will also leave him for a long period of time during her unplanned pregnancy and will resent this man who has made her so happy for having given her a child. Enrico will do everything in his power get her back, but she will hide behind an incommunicable wall of rage and silence.
But Enrico’s unique voice will get him through these difficulties and bring him to the other side of the Ocean. Thanks to the world’s first recording in which he sings, he will be invited by an New York impresario to come sing at the Metropolitan Opera House. Here he will experience the audience’s unconditional love. Enrico and Ada live far apart while he’s shining on stage and she is trying to find herself in the beautiful villa Enrico bought hoping to make her happy. When she finds out she’s again carrying a child by Caruso, she’s busy accepting Cesare’s attentions, the driver Caruso picked for her. Giovanni and Rina will witness this love and it will be Rina who will inform Enrico of what’s been going on inside his own home.
New York. Enrico, once known as Erri, the young boy from Naples whose dream was of becoming a tenor, has now become the Great Caruso. He’s the city that never sleeps’ biggest star and son. For all the Italians who came to America, Caruso represents the victory of the immigrant and a newfound pride: for Gerome and Luisa, the couple with the big heart who take Enrico into their home, Enrico is a generous man who needs love. As he waves goodbye to the ship that’s taking them back to Italy, Enrico’s eyes swell up with tears. It’s time for him to go back home: Rina has informed him in a letter of the birth of his second child, Enrico Jr.
But his dream of patching his family back together falls apart when faced with reality. Back in Naples his father spends his time in taverns and all the money his son sends him in booze. Ada is detached and cold, a far cry from the passionate and madly in love woman he used to know who was ready to give up everything to be with him. Rina and Giovanni share a secret that can’t be told. And Cesare is worried and depressed. Enrico also is hiding something: his throat’s excruciating pain drags him to see countless doctors who all tell him he should stop singing. By the time he finds out about Ada and Cesare’s relationship, he’s so exhausted and depressed that he decides to ignore the doctors’ warnings and throws himself completely into his art.
Back in New York, Caruso turns into a demanding performer: he expects to be paid astronomical fees for his performances, he picks when and what to sing, to the point that he breaks out at the Met in an unplanned O’ sole Mio dedicated to all the immigrants who have come to hear him sing. Meanwhile he tries to create a family of his own in the Big apple because he misses his own family back home so much that he convinces Gerome and Lucia to open a restaurant. But that’s when he realizes that it’s impossible to replace one’s own family and decides to go back for a reconcilement. He’s changed, at least he’s convinced he is, and fells ready to forgive his wife and make his family his number one priority. Unfortunately Ada doesn’t believe him and she informs him of her choice: she’s going to leave with Cesare and will leave Enrico with that feeling of abandonment and ungratefulness he has experienced many times before.
Enrico’s personal life is as unhappy as his life on stage is explosive. Ada lets Cesare convince her to extort money from Enrico. She’s accused of defamation and sentenced to jail. His father dies penniless and alone. His American impresario drops him. The condition of his larynx deteriorates. But Enrico doesn’t give up, he’s going to enjoy his life till the very end.
The same life that took so much away from him is going to give him back an unexpected and beautiful present: Dorothy. The young girl he met on the ship who has turned into a woman. She’s the ray of light Enrico has been waiting for. With her he’s going to enjoy the years he’s got left. She’s the wife who gives him unconditional love, who’s ready to sacrifice her youth to spend her days by his side in happiness and in sadness, she’s ready to give him a son. Caruso abandons himself to that pure love and to his unrelenting illness.
Surrounded by his loved ones – first and foremost Dorothy but also Giovanni, Rina, Ada with who he has a reconciliation before the end – Enrico dies at the age of 49 and will go down in history as one of the world’s most famous and loved tenors.