Mary Inez Colosi-Bongiovanni was the wife of Professor Angelo Colosi, and later the wife of Dr Angelo Bongiovanni. She was the mother of Lucia Colosi and M. Anthony S. Bongiovanni. Mary was born in Italy around the mid-1800s. Her hair was red, which is more common in Italians from the north. And she became an opera singer.
Mary’s daughter, Lucia, was born in Gualtieri, Italy, and so was Professor Angelo. So it is very possible that Mary was born there also. I don’t know the story of her life or how and when she became a singer. But on her picture, where she appears to be wearing an opera gown, she is 25 years old. The mid-to-late 19th century was a “golden age” of opera, in Italy. It was led and dominated by Giuseppe Verdi, an Italian romantic period composer.
The Romantic period of Italian opera had begun around 1820 and lasted most of the rest of the century. Toward the last of the 1800s, the Verismo period began. Verismo was a style of Italian opera marked by melodramatic and sometimes violent plots with characters from everyday life. The music included passionate solo voices and emotionally charged melodies.
I know that Mary sang in Rome, but I don’t know if she sang in other places or how many years she was in her opera career. One of the main opera houses in Rome at the time was the Teatro Argentina. It was one of the oldest theaters in Rome.
I don’t know how Mary and Professor Angelo met. It is possible they were cousins, because Professor Angelo’s mother was a Bongiovanni. Also, Lucia’s death certificate listed her mother’s maiden name as Bongiovanni.
Professor Angelo was 21 years old when his daughter was born. Therefore, it is likely that Mary was around that same age, and that Lucia was her first child. And based on her age in the photo, she apparently continued her career as an opera singer even after the birth of her child.
Mary and Professor Angelo did not stay married. At some point they went their separate ways. I’m not sure how this happened since divorce was illegal in Italy, but Mary later married another man by the name of Dr Angelo Bongiovanni. Dr Bongiovanni may have also been a cousin.
In 1886 Mary had a son and named him Mariano Anthony Siro Bongiovanni. This son would be Lucia’s half-brother. Lucia would have been 14 years old when her brother was born. As far as we know, these were Mary’s only two children.
Mary’s son had been born in Messina, Sicily. It was a poor rural area, and I don’t know how Mary ended up there. It’s possible that Dr Bongiovanni went there to help the people. It’s also possible that Dr Bongiovanni was from that area and somehow Mary had met and married him. Perhaps she’d performed at an opera house in Sicily. It’s another family mystery that we’ll likely never solve.
Mary’s son and his father, Dr Bongiovanni, came to America, but I’ve found no evidence that Mary ever came to America. My assumption has been that Mary died in Italy – I have no records for her death and burial. Mary’s son left for America around 1902. Mary was likely about 20 years old when Lucia was born, which would make her 34 when her son was born. She’d have been about 50 years old if she was still living at the time her son immigrated.
Mary apparently meant a great deal to Lucia. And if Mary died prior to her son coming to America, then she would also have been dead long before Lucia came to America in 1907. On Mary’s photo Lucia wrote, “My Dearest Lovely Mother always think her (or thank her) My mother always was good.” She wrote in the corner “My Dear Mother year 25 at Rome Italy” and on the side she wrote “My Sweet Mother, M.I.C.Colosi-Bongiovanni from at Roma Italy”.
I believe Mary had a double middle name of Inez Constance. In 1911, Lucia named her daughter Mary Inez Constance Colosi; apparently she named her after her mother.
All family pages will continue to be updated whenever new information is discovered. (Last update for this page was made March 29, 2012)