Showing posts with label Rita Pavone. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rita Pavone. Show all posts

20 August 2018

Stelvio Cipriani – composer

Musician wrote some of Italy’s most famous film soundtracks


One of Stelvio Cipriani's first jobs was as piano accompanist for the singer Rita Pavone
One of Stelvio Cipriani's first jobs was as
piano accompanist for the singer Rita Pavone
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.

Cipriani with actress Antonella Lualdi at the Giffoni film festival in 1975
Cipriani with actress Antonella Lualdi
at the Giffoni film festival in 1975
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. He wrote for other films starring Anthony, as well as for many poliziotteschi - Italian crime films - a type of film popular in the 1970s.

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.

In an interview in 2007 Cipriani revealed that he had composed music for Pope John Paul II and was working at the time with Pope Benedict XVI.

Cipriani wrote Il Tema di Karol, a piano solo dedicated to Karol Wojtyla, who became Pope John Paul II, which was released on CD in 2013.

The composer will celebrate his 81st birthday today.

The Via della Conciliazione, looking towards the basilica of St Peter, was conceived by Mussolini
The Via della Conciliazione, looking towards the basilica
of St Peter, was conceived by Mussolini
Travel tip:

The Rome Cipriani was born into in 1937 had been radically changed by the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini after he became Prime Minister in 1922. The classical city had been built between the first century BC and the fourth century AD, the Christian city between the fourth and the 18th centuries and Mussolini wanted to build la Terza Roma, the third Rome, which would be an Empire for modern times. One of the major changes ordered by him was the building of the Via della Conciliazione, the wide avenue along which today’s visitors approach Saint Peter’s Basilica from Castel Sant’Angelo. It was commissioned by Mussolini to be a symbol of reconciliation between the Holy See and the Italian state after the Lateran Treaty was signed. Roughly 500 metres long, the vast colonnaded street designed by the architect Marcello Piacentini was intended to link the Vatican to the heart of Rome. At the time it had the opposite effect as local people were upset by the many buildings and houses that had to be demolished causing residents to be displaced.

The new headquarters of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia were designed by the architect Renzo Piano
The new headquarters of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia
were designed by the architect Renzo Piano
Travel tip:

The St Cecilia Academy, Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, where Cipriani studied music in the 1950s, is one of the oldest musical academies in the world. It was founded in Rome by Pope Sixtus V in 1585 at the Church of Santa Maria ad Martires, better known as the Pantheon. Over the centuries, many famous composers and musicians have been members of the Academy, which lists opera singers Beniamino Gigli and Cecilia Bartoli among its alumni. Since 2005 the Academy’s headquarters have been at the Parco della Musica in Rome, which was designed by the architect Renzo Piano.

More reading:

The composer who created the sounds of The Godfather

The brilliant film music of Ennio Morricone 

Rita Pavone - the precocious star who conquered America

Also on this day:

1561: The birth of Jacopo Peri, composer of the first opera

1799: The poet and revolutionary Eleonora Fonseca Pimentel is hanged

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10 November 2016

Ennio Morricone - film music maestro

Composer who scored some of cinema's greatest soundtracks


Ennio Morricone, pictured in 2012
Ennio Morricone, pictured in 2012
Ennio Morricone, who composed some of the most memorable soundtracks in the history of the cinema, was born on this day in 1928 in Rome.

Still working even as he enters his 89th year, Morricone has written more than 500 film and television scores, winning countless awards.

Best known for his associations with the Italian directors Sergio Leone, Giuseppe Tornatore and Giuliano Montaldo, he has also worked among others with Pier Paolo Pasolini, Brian de Palma, Roland Joffé, Franco Zeffirelli and Quentin Tarantino, whose 2015 Western The Hateful Eight finally won Morricone an Oscar that many considered long overdue.

Among his finest soundtracks are those he wrote for Leone's 'Dollars' trilogy in the 1960s, for the Leone gangster epic Once Upon a Time in America two decades later, for Joffé's The Mission and De Palma's The Untouchables.

He composed the score for Tornatore's hauntingly poignant Cinema Paradiso and for Maddalena, a somewhat obscure 1971 film by the Polish director Jerzy Kawalerowicz that included the acclaimed Come Maddalena and Chi Mai, which later reached number two in the British singles chart after being used for the 1981 TV series The Life and Times of David Lloyd George.

Much of Morricone's film music, as well as his more than 100 classical compositions and numerous jazz and pop songs from the 1960s and 70s, has been recorded and his commercial sales have topped 70 million records worldwide.

Listen to Morricone's beautiful Gabriel's Oboe from The Mission



Morricone, whose parents moved to Rome from Arpino, an ancient hill town near Frosinone in southern Lazio, was brought up in the Trastevere district of the capital, one of five children raised by his father, Mario, a professional musician who played the trumpet, and mother Libera, who ran a small textile business.

He learned the fundamentals of music from his father before entering the National Academy of St Cecilia, where he first met Sergio Leone.

Sergio Leone, the director behind the 'Dollars' trilogy
Sergio Leone, the director  behind
 the 'Dollars' trilogy
On graduating, he had some success writing for the theatre as well as for radio. After marrying his girlfriend of six years, Maria Travia, in 1956, and becoming a father a year later, he began supporting his family by playing in a jazz band and arranging pop songs for the Italian public broadcaster, RAI.

Over the next few years he composed pop songs for Rita Pavone, Mario Lanza, Paul Anka and Francoise Hardy among many others.

He branched into film music for the first time in the early 1960s, taking the commission that was to change his life when Leone, his friend from St Cecilia's, asked him to write the score for his groundbreaking Western, A Fistful of Dollars.

Starring the 34-year-old American actor, Clint Eastwood, in his first major role, A Fistful of Dollars was a huge success, spawning two more in the genre that became known as 'Spaghetti Westerns'.  For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly each grossed more than $20 million.

A Fistful of Dollars made $14.5 million, which was incredible given that Leone made it on a budget of less than $250,000.  With only limited access to a full orchestra, Morricone had to improvise, incorporating gunshots, cracking whips, a whistle, a jew's harp, trumpets, and a Fender electric guitar into his score, as well as using human, mainly female voices as musical instruments. The result was a highly distinctive score that it became a classic in the history of cinema music, as instantly recognizable today as it was then, and several of Morricone's innovative measures became part of his repertoire.

Listen to Morricone's music for the opening scene of The Hateful Eight




The trilogy began a relationship with Sergio Leone that would last 20 years and opened many doors for Morricone, whose career prospered from then on.

His first nomination for Best Original Score at the Academy Awards came in 1979 for Days of Heaven, directed by the American Terence Malick.  There were two nominations in the 1980s, for Joffé's The Mission in 1986 and De Palma's The Untouchables in 1987, and probably would have been a third had the American distributors of Leone's Once Upon a Time in America (1984) submitted the paperwork on time.

Morricone was particularly disappointed not to win with The Mission, which features the wonderful melody Gabriel's Oboe as its main theme, complaining that jazz musician Herbie Hancock's score for Bertrand Tavernier's Round Midnight, while beautifully done, used existing music.

The Hateful Eight: Morricone's score for Quentin Tarantino's film won an Oscar
The Hateful Eight: Morricone's score for
Quentin Tarantino's film won an Oscar
Further nominations came for Barry Levison's Bugsy (1991) and Tornatore's Malena (2000), and by the second decade of the new millennium Morricone's 50-year movie career had brought him 44 major awards.

It appeared, though, that the award he craved above all would elude him, and an honorary Oscar in 2007 for his overall contribution to film music seemed a slightly hollow consolation prize.

But then, late in 2014, just past his 86th birthday, he was approached by Quentin Tarantino, with whom he had collaborated previously but had had a difficult relationship. Morricone had not scored a complete Western for 35 years and had not worked on a high-profile Hollywood production since 2000 but The Hateful Eight, set just after the American Civil War, appealed to him.

He produced a score that was magnificent, one that would sit comfortably alongside anything he had done previously, from the sweeping L'Ultima Diligenza per Red Rock that accompanies the chillingly atmospheric opening scenes, to Regan's Theme, a melody of gathering pace with echoes of what he did for Leone half a century previously.

It earned Morricone his third Golden Globe, to go with The Mission and the ragtime-jazz score he wrote for Tornatore's Legend of 1900 and then, at the 87th Academy Awards night of February 22, 2016, the one he thought would never come and which made him, at 87 years, the oldest winner of a competitive Oscar.

Morricone, who has never left Italy despite being offered a villa in Hollywood by one of the studios he worked with, remains an active composer.  He and Maria had four children - Marco, Alessandra, Andrea, who himself became a film music composer, and Giovanni, who is a film director and producer in New York.

UPDATE: Morricone died in July 2020, aged 91, as a result of injuries sustained in a fall. Following a private funeral, he was entombed in Cimitero Laurentino in Rome.

The unspoilt hill town of Arpino
The unspoilt hill town of Arpino
Travel tip:

Arpino, home of Morricone's parents, is a hill town situated about 120km south-east of Rome, 46km north-west of Frosinone in Lazio. Clinging to a ridge on top of a hill, it is relatively accessible from a nearby station on one of the Rome-Naples railway lines, yet attracts few tourists and therefore has the unspoilt feel of a traditional southern Italian community.

Travel tip:

The Trastevere district of Rome, which sits alongside the River Tiber, is regarded as one of the city's most charming neighbourhoods, full of winding, cobbled streets and well preserved medieval houses.  Increasingly fashionable with Rome's young professional class as a place to live, it has an abundance of restaurants and bars and a lively student music scene.

More reading:

How Shakespeare adaptations made Franco Zeffirelli a household name

Sergio Leone - distinctive style of 'Spaghetti Western' creator

How Nino Rota found fame for The Godfather theme

Also on this day: 


1816: Lord Byron, the English poet and aristocrat, sets foot in Venice for the first time.

(Picture credit: First photo of Morricone by Georges Biard via Wikimedia Commons)
(Videos from YouTube)

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23 August 2016

Rita Pavone - teenage singing star

Precocious talent who conquered America


Rita Pavone pictured in 1965
Rita Pavone pictured in 1965
Rita Pavone, who was one of Europe's biggest teenage singing stars in the 1960s and was still performing live concerts as recently as 2014, celebrates her 71st birthday today.

The Turin-born singer had her first hit single when she was just 17 years old and enjoyed success at home and in America during a career that spanned more than five decades, going on to become an accomplished actress on television and in the theatre.

She announced she was quitting show business in 2006 but came out of retirement in 2013 to record two studio albums as a tribute to the stars who had influenced her in throughout her career, then embarking on a series of live concerts in Italy in 2014 and performing in Toronto, Canada exactly 50 years after her first appearance there.

Earlier this year she appeared in Ballando Con le Stelle - the Italian equivalent of the US show Dancing With the Stars and Britain's Strictly Come Dancing - and finished third with partner Simone de Pasquale, reaching the final despite being the oldest competitor.

Pavone was born on August 23, 1945 and spent her early years living in a two-room apartment in Turin.  She was the third of four children yet it was not until 1959 that the family was able to move somewhere bigger, in the Mirafiori district, when a scheme run by the FIAT factory where her father worked enabled employees to obtain a family home at low rent.

Rita Pavone in 1973, after returning to Italy to embark on an acting career
Rita Pavone in 1973, after returning
to Italy to embark on an acting career
Her father, Giovanni, was a fan of American musicals, and it was when she began singing along to his record collection, largely featuring Al Jolson, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, that he realised she had talent.  Rita left school at just 11 years old to take a job as an ironer in a shirt factory but Giovanni encouraged her interest in singing, finding the money to pay for lessons and, on bank holidays, taking her to schools and village halls on the back of his scooter, so she could sing at children's parties and local festivities.

In 1959, Pavone made her public debut as a singer, impersonating Al Jolson in a children's talent contest.  Her big break came in 1962, when she won first prize in La Festa Degli Sconosciuti Festival of the Unknown - a nationwide talent search launched by a record producer and singer from Trieste, born Ferruccio Merk-Ricordi but who went under the professional name of Teddy Reno.

The prize was a management contract with Reno - the man she would later marry - and a record deal with RCA Italiana, Her first single - La Partita di Pallone  -The Football Match - sold more than a million copies, earning Pavone a regular slot on a popular Italian television variety series, Studio One. 

More hits followed yet Reno was not content with success merely in Italy.  After scoring chart hits in Spain and Germany, he set his sights on the United States. In May 1964, Pavone's American debut album, The International Teenage Sensation, was released, and the single Remember Me became a hit.

When Pavone made her first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the most popular variety show on American television, in 1964, it could be acknowledged that she had cracked the US market, a rarity for an Italian performer.  Soon she was appearing alongside Diana Ross and The Supremes, Ella Fitzgerald, Tom Jones, Duke Ellington and Paul Anka, meeting Elvis Presley and recording a duet with Barbra Streisand.

Pavone returned to Italy to develop her interest in acting, appearing in several films and television dramas.

Rita Pavone with dance partner Simone di Pasquale in a publicity shot for the TV show Ballando Con le Stelle
Rita Pavone with dance partner Simone di Pasquale in
a publicity shot for the TV show Ballando Con le Stelle
Her popularity was such that when she was admitted to hospital in 1964, suffering from appendicitis, she received get-well cards from 13 million fans.

Pavone risked her reputation when she and Reno decided to marry in Switzerland in 1968.  Italy at the time did not recognise divorce and Reno had been married previously in Mexico. He was thus regarded as a bigamist. However, Italy's marriage laws changed in 1971 and they renewed their vows.

Teddy Reno turned 90 last July. The couple remain together, living in Ticino, Switzerland. They have two sons, Alessandro and Giorgio, the former a political reporter on Swiss television, the latter a rock singer performing under the name of George Merk.

Travel tip:

Mirafiori, where Rita Pavone's family lived at the start of her musical career, is a district of Turin that owes its identity to the car manufacturer FIAT, where her father worked.  FIAT opened a massive factory there in 1936 when demand for the company's cars exceeded the production capacity of the nearby Lingotto plant. Large numbers of apartment buildings were built to house the workers. A strike there in 1943 that grew to include 100,000 workers, and spread to involve industrial areas all over northern Italy, is said to have marked the beginning of the end for the Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini. Today it is the site of the Mirafiori Motor Village, the largest exhibition centre in Europe devoted to the cars.

The Piazza Unità d'Italia in Trieste
Travel tip:

Trieste, where Teddy Reno was born, is the main city of the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia and lies close to the Slovenian border.  It was once the main seaport of the Austro-Hungarian empire, of which there are still echoes in the coffee houses and restaurants that blend in with the more recognisably Italian.  There is much Austrian influence in the architecture too, dating from the era of Hapsburg domination.

More reading:


The enduring talent of 60s pop star Patty Pravo

Pier Angeli - Hollywood star from Sardinia who dated James Dean



(Photo of Rita Pavone in 1965 by Joop van Bilsen CC BY-SA 3.0)

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