Caruso in Song
''And what is the great man singing now?'' they used to ask when yet another Caruso record was brought into the house. ''Oh, just a couple of little songs'' you might answer. But of course no songs were just 'little songs' with Caruso. He might begin them with a light heart, gaiety, affection, humour, but sooner or later the power would grow; the passion, the fire, would leap up with a more intense life, and the climax would blaze as in any operatic aria. Santa Lucia, simplest of all, became simply immense—and was not overblown in the process. La danza is as blithe in spirit as ever, but also mighty. Even Vieni sul mar (to the tune of Two lovely black eyes) aspires to a richer, more regal state of being and at least partly attains it.
So there are some momentous trifles here. You wouldn't, I should think, want to play more than three or four of them in succession, and there are some you may not wish to play at all (Campane a sera seems to me a poor little thing, and Tre giorni son che Nina, which might possibly have sounded well if sung by the young lyric tenor of the earliest records, wilts at his touch in 1919). But some have greatness thrust upon them sure enough; the verses of O sole mio become pure poetry, and the appalling joviality of Over there begins to sound positively noble.
Then the question arises: Do you want to listen to them bathed in the controversial benefits of the Nimbus acoustic? The resonances of hall and horn are inescapable here, and other systems will bring the voice closer and provide more 'top'. On the other hand, I came to the disc shortly before reading Joe Pengelly's review of the new book about Caruso, Enrico Caruso My Father and My Family (October, page 695) in which he writes ''Remember, nowhere in any of the Caruso recordings—no matter how revivified— do the 'velvet' and 'sweet' qualities attributed to the voice in this book, as in others, come through in the acoustic process''. Looking over my notes on the Nimbus record, I see under