%> Nevada Riches: The Land and People of the Silver State
People & Life Ways
Riches, Ranching & Railroads
(1850-1900)

Myths and Truths

Virginia City hosted many outstanding musical performances, but, contrary to popular myth, the great Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso never sang there.  In the 1930s, to increase the popularity of tours of Piper's Opera House, the tour operator declared that Caruso was among many famous celebrities, including Harry Houdini, who performed in Virginia City, but, in fact, did not.

The tale became part of local folklore describing the glory days of the Comstock.  But the fallacy was revealed by Italo Gavazzi, who had innocently been a part of the conspiracy to boost the popularity of the opera house tours.  As a young man Gavazzi handlettered the sign that put Caruso on the list of people who entertained Virginia City's opera fans, and Gavazzi was the man who set the record straight.  Caruso toured only in San Francisco and Los Angeles during his visits west.  Additionally, Virginia City was in decline, with a population of only 2,500 in 1905 and 1906, when Caruso allegedly visited.  The town could never have attracted such a famous singer at that time.

Many talented and famous people did visit and perform in Virginia City when the Comstock was booming -- but Enrico Caruso did not.
 

Photo Credit:
Library of Congress