NEW YORK -- Character singer Charles Anthony, who set the record for most appearances at the Metropolitan Opera – 2,928 – during a career that spanned from 1954 to 2010, died Wednesday. He was 82.
Anthony, a tenor, died at his home in Tampa, Fla., from kidney failure following a long illness, Met spokesman Peter Clark said.
"Your talent, demeanor, joy and heart will be missed," mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer wrote on Twitter. "What a loss."
Beginning his career at the old Met on Broadway and moving uptown with the company to its new home at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in 1966, Anthony was a "comprimario," or supporting singer.
He shared the stage with the greatest classical artists of several eras, performing in the Met debuts of Marian Anderson, Birgit Nilsson, Jon Vickers, Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli, Joan Sutherland, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Jose Carreras.
"It's no exaggeration to say that Charlie Anthony is the soul of the Metropolitan Opera," Joseph Volpe, then the Met's general manager, said when Anthony was honored during an intermission in Puccini's "Tosca" in 2004.
Born Calogero Antonio Caruso in New Orleans in 1929, Anthony entered the Met's Auditions of the Air competition in 1952.
Met general manager Rudolf Bing feared that the public would think he was related to the great tenor Enrico Caruso and that the young singer would be burdened with expectations – so Bing persuaded him to change his name a half-hour before air time.
Milton Cross, the Met's broadcast host, apparently played a role in the decision on what name to take.
"I couldn't think of anything, so we just dropped Caruso, which made grandfather furious," Anthony told The New York Times in 1992.
Anthony made his Met debut as the Simpleton in Mussorsky's "Boris Godunov" on March 6, 1954, with George London in the title role.
"Probably few who saw the performance will forget him," the Times wrote two days later. "Anthony had better be careful. If he does other bit parts so vividly, he'll be stamped as a character singer for life."
Which is exactly what happened.
His most frequent roles were the Innkeeper in Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier" (159), Ruiz in Verdi's "Il Trovatore" (141), Gastone in Verdi's "La Traviata" (136) and Spoletta in "Tosca" (135).
He did have a few appearances in leading roles, including two performances of Ernesto in Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" in 1956, one of Rodolfo in Puccini's "La Boheme" in 1959 and two of Ferrando in Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" in 1962.
On Feb. 17, 1992, singing the role of Borsa the courtier in Verdi's "Rigoletto," Anthony made his 2,396th appearance, breaking the record baritone George Cehanovsky set from 1926-66. Conductor James Levine is now second at 2,442.
Anthony sang his farewell as Emperor Altoum in Puccini's "Turandot" on Jan. 28, 2010.
Survivors include his wife, Eleanor; son, Anthony Caruso; daughters Anna Beth Burgmeier and Barbara Liriano; seven grandchildren; and two great grandchildren. A private funeral is scheduled for Saturday.