Famous Family History Enrico Caruso Parents

About the family of famous singer Enrico Caruso, history of his father and mother.

ENRICO CARUSO (1873-1921), Italian singer

His Roots: Caruso's parents, of peasant stock, came to Naples from the Piedmont area of Italy. According to Stanley Jackson, his centennial biographer, they "were among the half million existing in only eight square kilometers of cellars and tenements and vile sewers." The slum surroundings bred rats and mosquitoes, typhoid and malaria.

Seventeenth of the 21 children produced by Anna Caruso (1838-1888), Enrico (christened "Errico") worshiped his mother, whom he remembered mainly as an invalid. The malnourished child "used to dab her forehead and fight an unending battle with the dirt and flies" around her bed. Displaying the desperate piety of the ghetto poor, Anna was devoted to the parish priest and paid her medical fees with gifts of mozzarella cheese, fruit, and olives from her country relatives. She was convinced that Enrico's voice-he sang solo in the church choir-was heaven-sent. With the priest's help, she kept him from the street-crime career that tempted and then destroyed numerous sons of the Neapolitan gutter. During Caruso's later life, his mother's pastel portrait went with him wherever he traveled, and he never walked on stage without first calling upon her for help.

Enrico's father, Marcellino Caruso (1840-1908), was a tough, skilled mechanic who worked as a foreman in a Naples factory. Work-worn and old at 35, he bullied his cronies, buried many of his infants, and enjoyed his wine in the local taverns. After Anna's death at 50, he married Maria Castaldi, a robust, sharp-tongued widow who encouraged Enrico's voice training and treated him like her own son for the rest of her life. Marcellino continued at his factory job long after Enrico was making headlines. Finally retired, he refused to leave his familiar Neapolitan haunts for Enrico's luxurious mountain villa, preferring to boast of his son's spectacular success while playing proud host to his friends. Yet father and son were never emotionally close, and Marcellino could hardly fathom the fact of his "Rico" receiving $1,300 per night in New York. His death in Naples coincided with the desertion of Enrico's longtime mistress, and the emotionally shattered tenor gave some of his most affecting performances during this period.

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