3 December 2015

Nino Rota – composer

Musician and teacher composed soundtrack for The Godfather 

Giovanni ‘Nino’ Rota, composer, conductor and pianist, was born on this day in 1911 in Milan.

Part of a musical family, he started composing with an oratorio based on a religious subject at the age of 11, but he was to go on to produce some of the best-known and iconic music for the cinema of the 20th century.

Nino Rota's score for The Godfather won him an Oscar
The Godfather, Don Corleone, played
by Marlon Brando

Rota studied at the Milan Conservatory and then in Rome before he was encouraged by the conductor, Arturo Toscanini, to move to America, where he studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.

When he returned to Milan he took a degree in Literature and then began a teaching career. He became a director of the Liceo Musicale in Bari in 1950 and kept this post until his death. Orchestra conductor Riccardo Muti was one of his students.

Rota wrote film scores from the 1940s onwards for all the noted directors of the time, including Zeffirelli, Visconti and de Filippo. He wrote the music for all Federico Fellini’s films from The White Sheik in 1952 to Orchestral Rehearsal in 1978. He composed the score for Francis Ford Coppola’s film The Godfather and won an Oscar for best original score for the Godfather Part II in 1974.

Listen to Nino Rota's Godfather theme 

At Fellini’s funeral, the director’s widow asked for Rota’s Improviso dell’Angelo  to be played in the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri in Rome.

Rota was also a prolific writer of operas, ballets and orchestral and choral music. He died in Rome in 1979.
The Basilica of St Mary of the
Angels and the Martyrs
Photo: Peter Clarke (CC SY-BA 3.0)

Travel tip:

Bari  the capital of Puglia on the Adriatic Sea, is both a port and a university city. It is home to one of the most important opera houses in Italy, the Petruzzelli Theatre. The Liceo Musicale where Rota taught for so many years is now named the Niccolo Picinni Conservatory.

Travel tip:

The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs (Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri) where Fellini’s funeral was held, is built inside the former baths of Diocletian in Piazza della Repubblica in Rome . It was built on the orders of Pope Pius IV in 1561 to be dedicated to all Christian martyrs, known and unknown. Michelangelo and Vanvitelli both contributed to the design of the church.


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