The Man Behind “‘O Sole Mio” is Getting His Own Museum in Naples

Wed, 02/22/2023 - 11:38
Palazzo Reale in Naples
Palazzo Reale in Naples, site of the forthcoming Caruso Museum / Photo: Pasquale Senatore via Shutterstock

The first national museum dedicated to Enrico Caruso — the Neapolitan voice behind the best-known version of “‘O Sole Mio” — will open this summer, in the year marking the 150th anniversary of the acclaimed tenor’s birth.

At a press conference for the initiative held late last week in Rome, Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano called Caruso a “sublime example of Italian genius” and suggested Caruso was the first singer in history to understand the power and potential of the recording industry.

“The global popularity of Neapolitan song is intimately linked to his name,” Sangiuliano added.

The Caruso Museum

Slated to open on July 19, 2023, in the Sala Dorica of Naples’ Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace), the museum will explore the life and career of Caruso through memorabilia, including costumes, playbills, posters, photographs, gramophones, reels and original decor and furnishings. Among the most anticipated exhibits in the permanent collection is a costume worn by the tenor for his iconic role as Canio in Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci

Director General of Museums, Prof. Massimo Osanna, called the Caruso Museum an “important milestone” and noted that it would give “well-deserved prominence to a quintessential figure of contemporary artistic culture, a tenor recognized worldwide, who left Naples and returned to Naples after having taken his art all around the world.”

Acknowledging that Caruso had a troubled relationship with his hometown, Sangiuliano added, “Naples, 150 years after his birth, heals this wound by honoring Caruso with a museum that stands in the same complex as his beloved Teatro di San Carlo.”

The man and his voice

Embodying Neapolitan tradition with every operatic note he sang, Caruso was held in high esteem not only by Italians, but audiences all around the world. (In a testament to Caruso’s cross-cultural legacy, and in particular his strong ties to the United States, Mayor of New York City Eric Adams and Director of the Metropolitan Opera House Yannick Nézet-Séguin are both expected to attend the inauguration of the museum in July.)

Born in Naples in 1873, Caruso got his start in a church choir and on street corners, eventually finding fame and fortune as one of the first divos to release commercial discs. He performed at some of the most prestigious opera houses in Europe before making his debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1903. Caruso’s 1916 gramophone recording of “‘O Sole Mio” is widely considered one of the greatest renditions of the song, and made him an international sensation. 

Caruso lived in New York for the peak period of his career between 1903 and 1920, returning to his native Napoli just before his death in 1921 at the age of 48. 

If you go

Caruso Museum at Palazzo Reale (Sala Dorica)
Piazza del Plebiscito 1, Naples
Opening July 19, 2023