At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Francesco Cilea – opera composer

Calabrian remembered for beautiful aria Lamento di Federico 


The composer Francesco Cilea
Francesco Cilea
Composer Francesco Cilea was born on this day in 1866 in Palmi near Reggio di Calabria.

He is particularly admired for two of his operas, L’Arlesiana and Adriana Lecouvreur.

Cilea loved music from an early age. It is said that when he was just four years old he heard music from Vincenzo Bellini’s opera, Norma, and was moved by it.

When he became old enough, he was sent to study music in Naples and at the end of his course of study there he submitted an opera he had written, Gina, as part of his final examination. When this was performed for the first time it attracted the attention of a music publisher who arranged for it to be performed again.

Cilea was then commissioned to produce a three-act opera, meant to be along the lines of Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, by the same publisher.

The resulting work, La Tilda, was performed in several Italian theatres, but the orchestral score has been lost, which has prevented it from enjoying a modern revival.

In 1897, Cilea’s third opera, L’Arlesiana was premiered at the Teatro Lirico in Milan.

In the cast was the young Enrico Caruso, who performed, to great acclaim, the famous Lamento di Federico. This beautiful aria - often known by its opening line, È la solita storia del pastore, has kept the name of the opera alive until present day and it has been performed and recorded by many famous tenors over the years, including Luciano Pavarotti.


Enjoy Pavarotti singing Lamento di Federico



In 1902, Cilea’s opera, Adriana Lecouvreur was received enthusiastically at the Teatro Lirico in Milan, again starring Enrico Caruso. Around the same time, Cilea accompanied Caruso on the piano when he made one of his early recordings for the gramophone.

Cilea’s last opera, Gloria, was premiered at La Scala in Milan in 1907 under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, but it was a failure and was withdrawn after only two performances.

After this Cilea turned his attention to teaching and became director of the Conservatorio Vincenzo Bellini in Palermo, although he continued to compose chamber and orchestral music.

The Cilea Mausoleum in Palmi
The Cilea Mausoleum in Palmi
He supported the career of the Italian soprano, Magda Olivero, whose performances, in the title role of Adriana Lecouvreur, he particularly admired.

Cilea spent the last years of his life living in Varazze, near Savona in Liguria, and he died there in 1950.

Travel tip:

Palmi, where Francesco Cilea was born, is a small commune in the province of Reggio di Calabria in southern Iraly. A seaside resort, Palmi has been referred to as ‘the terrace on the strait of Messina.’ A mausoleum decorated with scenes from the myth of Orpheus, was built there in memory of Cilea.

The Teatro Cilea in Reggio di Calabria
The Teatro Cilea in Reggio di Calabria
Travel tip:

Reggio di Calabria, often referred to as Reggio Calabria, or simply Reggio, is the biggest city in the region of Calabria in southern Italy. The theatre in the city was renamed Teatro Comunale Francesco Cilea in the composer’s memory.

More reading:


The genius of Puccini

The dominance of Giuseppe Verdi

Lasting appeal of Enrico Caruso


(Photo of Cilea Mausoleum by Palminellafede CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Teatro Cilea by Franc rc CC BY-SA 3.0)

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