David Bruce: Opera Anecdotes — Money


• Opera tenor Enrico Caruso became a coin collector through his old friend Mr. Amedeo Canessa. During a conversation, Mr. Canessa showed Mr. Caruso a gold coin on one side of which the head of Queen Arsinoë was engraved. Mr. Canessa said, “That little thing costs 500 francs.” Mr. Caruso replied, “It’s beautiful. I like it. But what is the use of one? I don’t want one coin.” Mr. Canessa said, “There is only this one. It is a very rare specimen.” Mr. Caruso really liked the coin. He said, “Very well, then. It’s mine.” He then began to collect coins — more than 2,000 of them — as well as antique glass, bronzes, enamel, furniture, pottery, and watches. Mr. Caruso was generous with his wealth. A street cleaner — an elderly Italian — once saw him stopped on a street in a car. The old Italian shouted, “Carus!” Then he jumped on the car’s running board. Enrico engaged in conversation with him in the Neapolitan dialect, and he shook his hand. As the old Italian turned to go, Enrico stuffed some money into one of his pockets.

• Walter Damrosch hired Emil Fischer, bass from the Dresden Royal Opera, to sing at the Metropolitan Opera Company. Mr. Fischer made $250 per appearance, but he was not happy in his marriage and requested that his written contract state that he made $200 per appearance and that he receive the other $50 in cash. This was a way for him to hide about $600 per month from his wife so he could have some money of his own. His wife complained to Mr. Damrosch, “I do not know why my Emil is so badly paid while all the others get these enormous salaries. My Emil sings better than any of them, and he has to be content with only two hundred dollars an appearance!” Mr. Damrosch kept Mr. Fischer’s secret.

• Philip Crispano was a friend of the very popular opera tenor Enrico Caruso. Knowing that, an official of a town’s Chamber of Commerce came to him and offered him $2,000 if he could convince Mr. Caruso to sing in the Chamber of Commerce’s town. Mr. Crispano mentioned the offer to Mr. Caruso, who explained that his managers drew up his itinerary, and he had no idea if he would sing in that town. Mr. Caruso then added, “But look — you lose two thousand dollars because of this, don’t you?” Mr. Caruso immediately wrote a check for $2,000 and gave it to Mr. Crispano, who thanked him for it — then tore it up.

• In his student days, basso Luigi Lablache once ran away from the conservatorium, signed a contract to sing at Salerno and received a month’s salary in advance. However, he had a good time in Naples and spent all the money. He owned a portmanteau, but had nothing to fill it with. Aware that he could not appear in Salerno without luggage, he filled his portmanteau with sand and had it taken to Salerno. However, he was forced to return to the conservatorium. To recover the month’s salary he had paid in advance, the impresario took possession of Mr. Lablache’s portmanteau, but was disappointed with its contents.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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