“Give Me Vesuvius!”

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Enrico Caruso managed to sing one performance of Carmen before the 1906 earthquake cut short the San Francisco opera season. The tenor was in the St. Francis Hotel when the first shock hit, and he ran terrified into Union Square with a towel around his neck for protection while drawing spiritual sustenance from a signed portrait of Theodore Roosevelt that he cradled in his arms. “Give me Vesuvius!” he cried, and on checking out of the hotel Caruso vowed never to return to San Francisco. He never did.