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.

20 August 2019

20 August

Jacopo Peri – composer and singer


Court musician produced the first work to be called an opera

The singer and composer Jacopo Peri, also known as Il Zazzerino, was born on this day in 1561 in Rome.  He is often referred to as the ‘inventor of opera’ as he wrote the first work to be called an opera, Dafne, in around 1597.  He followed this with Euridice in 1600, which has survived to the present day although it is rarely performed. It is sometimes staged as an historical curiosity because it is the first opera for which the complete music still exists.  Peri was born in Rome to a noble family but went to Florence to study.  He started to work for the Medici court as a tenor singer and keyboard player and then later as a composer, producing incidental music for plays.  Peri’s work is regarded as bridging the gap between the Renaissance period and the Baroque period and he is remembered for his contribution to the development of dramatic vocal style in early Baroque opera.  Peri began working with Jacopo Corsi, a leading patron of music in Florence, and they decided to try to recreate Greek tragedy in musical form. They brought in a poet, Ottavio Rinuccini, to write a text and produced Dafne as a result. This is now believed to be the first opera.  Read more…


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Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel – poet and revolutionary


Noblewoman who sacrificed her life for the principle of liberty

A writer and leader of the movement that established the Parthenopean Republic in Naples, Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel was hanged on this day in 1799 in a public square near the port.  A noblewoman, she would have expected her execution to be carried out by beheading, but had given up her title of marchioness when she became involved with the Jacobins, founded by supporters of the French Revolution, who were working to overthrow the monarchy.  Pimentel had asked to be beheaded anyway, but the restored Bourbon monarchy showed her no mercy, reputedly because she had written pamphlets denouncing Queen Maria Carolina as a lesbian.  On the day of her execution, Pimentel was reputed to have stepped calmly up to the gallows, quoting Virgil by saying: ‘Perhaps one day this will be worth remembering.’ She was 47 years of age.  Pimentel was born in Rome in 1752 into a noble Portuguese family. As a child she wrote poetry, read Latin and Greek and learnt to speak several languages.  Her family had to move to Naples because of political difficulties between Portugal and the Papal States, of which Rome was the capital.   Read more…


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Stelvio Cipriani – composer


Musician wrote some of Italy’s most famous film soundtracks

Stelvio Cipriani, an award-winning composer of film scores, was born on this day in 1937 in Rome.  One of his most famous soundtracks was for the 1973 film, La polizia sta a guardare (also released as The Great Kidnapping). The main theme was used again by Cipriani in 1977 for the film, Tentacoli, and also featured in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof in 2007.  Although Cipriani did not come from a musical background, he was fascinated with the organ at his church when he was a child.  His priest gave him music lessons and then Cipriani went to study piano and harmony at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome at the age of 14.  His first job was playing in a band on a cruise ship and then he became the accompanist for the popular Italian singer, Rita Pavone.  Stelvio wrote his first movie soundtrack for the 1966 spaghetti western, The Bounty Killer. This was followed by a score for The Stranger Returns in 1967, starring Tony Anthony.   Stelvio was awarded a Nastro d’Argento for Best Score for the 1970 film The Anonymous Venetian.  This is still considered one of the best and most famous Italian film soundtracks.  Read more…

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