Showing posts with label Umberto Giordano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Umberto Giordano. Show all posts

19 December 2018

Giulio Ricordi - music publisher

Entrepreneur who ‘discovered’ the great Giacomo Puccini 

Giulio Ricordi took over Casa Ricordi from his father in 1888
Giulio Ricordi took over Casa Ricordi
from his father in 1888
Giulio Ricordi, who ran the Casa Ricordi publishing house during its peak years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and launched the career of the brilliant opera composer Giacomo Puccini, was born on this day in 1840 in Milan.

Casa Ricordi was founded by Giulio’s grandfather Giovanni in 1808 and remained in the family when Giovanni died in 1853 and his son, Tito - Giulio's father - took the helm.

Giulio became involved in 1863 after a distinguished military career in the special infantry corps known as the Bersaglieri. He had enrolled as a volunteer with the outbreak of the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859. He took part in the Siege of Gaeta and, after receiving a medal for military valour, was promoted to lieutenant.

During breaks in military activity, Giulio, a keen composer from an early age under the pseudonym of Jules Burgmein, wrote pieces of music, one of which was intended as a national anthem dedicated to Victor Emmanuel II of Savoy, but which was instead adopted as the anthem of the Bersaglieri.

Ricordi fostered the career of the great composer Puccini
Ricordi fostered the career of
the great composer Puccini
He left military service after his father, who had nurtured the career of the composer Giuseppe Verdi as he became the dominant figure in Italian opera in the 19th century, asked him to help run the expanding Casa Ricordi business.

With Giulio alongside Tito, the firm added branches in Naples, Florence, Rome, Palermo, London and Paris to the headquarters in Milan, which were in a building next door to the city’s famous theatre, Teatro alla Scala.

When Tito died in 1888, Giulio became the head of Casa Ricordi.

Giulio increased the prestige of the company by publishing a number of respected music magazines in addition to the core business of publishing music, and it was down to his encouragement that Verdi came out of retirement in his late 70s, culminating in his two late masterpieces, Otello and Falstaff.

He also enthusiastically promoted younger composers he felt had the potential to make an impact. These included Amilcare Ponchielli, Alfredo Catalani, Carlos Gomes and Umberto Giordano as well as Puccini.

Ricordi had a noted career in the army as a young man
Ricordi had a noted career
in the army as a young man
To Puccini, Giulio became something of a father-figure, the person who would come down hard on the composer, who had a taste for high living, to put in the work necessary to ensure his talent was not wasted, but who became someone he respected and trusted.

Under his stewardship, Casa Ricordi flourished and Giulio invested his wealth in a handsome mansion, the Villa Margherita Ricordi, which he had built on the shore of Lake Como at Cadenabbia di Griante, with a beautiful garden plentifully stocked with rhododendrons and azaleas. Verdi was a regular visitor.

Giulio, who was was appointed Commander of the Order of the Crown of Italy by Umberto I, died in 1912,  handing control of the company to his son, Tito II.

In 2016, a statue of Giulio Ricordi by Luigi Secchi, paid for from a subscription fund started by Puccini and another composer, Arrigo Boito, shortly before his death, and which originally stood in the courtyard of Casa Ricordi’s headquarters, the Casino Ricordi, in Via Berchet, was placed in front of the building in Largo Ghiringhelli.

The shoreline at Cadenabbia di Griante, a village on the western side of the picturesque Lake Como
The shoreline at Cadenabbia di Griante, a village on the
western side of the picturesque Lake Como
Travel tip:

Griante, where Ricordi built his sumptuous villa, is a village on the western shore of Lake Como about 25km (16 miles) northeast of the town of Como between Tremezzo and Menaggio. Situated at the widest part of the lake, just above the point at which it divides into two legs, the other one being Lago di Lecco, Griante is linked by ferry with Bellagio and Varenna on the other side of the lake. Griante sits about 50m (165ft) above lake level, on a wide plateau. The portion of the village at water level is known as Cadenabbia di Griante.

The Casino Ricordi, as it was known, is the building that adjoins Teatro alla Scala in Milan
The Casino Ricordi, as it was known, is the
building that adjoins Teatro alla Scala in Milan
Travel tip:

The Casino Ricordi, as it became known, was originally a venue for receptions and dances associated with the Teatro alla Scala, built by the same architect, Giuseppe Piermarini, who was commissioned to design the theatre in 1776. The building was rented from 1850 by Casa Ricordi and remained the company’s headquarters until 1913. Nowadays it houses La Scala’s museum.

More reading:

Puccini, the musical genius who took the baton from Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi - how Italy mourned the loss of a national symbol

How La Gioconda put Amilcare Ponchielli on the map

Also on this day:

1861: The birth of writer Italo Svevo

1966: The birth of skier Alberto Tomba

1922: The death of journalist Gianni Brera


8 September 2018

Magda Olivero - soprano

Singer who performed into her 80s and lived to 104

Magda Olivero made her debut in an opera broadcast for radio in 1932
Magda Olivero made her debut in an opera
broadcast for radio in 1932
The opera singer Magda Olivero, who became known as the last verismo soprano, died on this day in 2014. She was almost halfway through her 105th year, having been born in 1910.

Olivero became associated with the works among others of Francesco Cilea, Pietro Mascagni, Umberto Giordano and Franco Alfano, all of whom she actually worked with in person, her longevity providing a 21st century link with the world of 19th century Italian opera. She missed the chance to know and work with Giacomo Puccini only narrowly, the composer passing away at the age of 66 when Olivero was 14.

Born in Saluzzo in Piedmont, Olivero made her operatic debut eight years after Puccini’s death in a radio production in Turin in 1932. She gave her last stage performance 49 years later in 1981, although even that was not the end of her career. Her last recording of her signature role - Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur - did not come until 1994, when she was still able to control her pitch and tone at the age of 83.

Born as Maria Maddalena Olivero to a well-to-do family who gave her a good education, she built on her radio debut - singing Nino Cattozzo's oratorio, I misteri dolorosi - to establish a successful career, performing alongside pre-War stars such as Ebe Stignani, Beniamino Gigli and Francesco Merli.

Olivero with Mario del Monaco appearing in Giordano's Fedora in Naples in 1965
Olivero with Mario del Monaco appearing in
Giordano's Fedora in Naples in 1965
In addition to Adriana, her most famous roles included Minnie in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, Mascagni's Iris, Riccardo Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, and Giordano's Fedora. She sang Jules Massenet's Manon at Verona with Giuseppe di Stefano as Des Grieux, and Margherita in Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele to the Faust of Ferruccio Tagliavini.

The conductor Tullio Serafin helped her with her technique, although he was less helpful, she later claimed, after she refused his amorous advances. She said that her relationship with the tenor, Tito Schipa, also became strained after he became similarly enamoured with her.

In fact, in 1940 she decided to retire from the stage at the age of only 30 after she married Aldo Busch, an industrialist, hoping they would raise a large family. One of her last performances was of Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur in Ravenna and it was Cilea, almost a decade later, who would persuade her to make a comeback, telling her that she was the only singer who could do justice to the character.  She performed the role again in Brescia in 1951, shortly before the composer died.

That work was to become her calling card, and she sang it many times, as well as featuring often in leading roles in Puccini’s La Bohème, Madame Butterfly and Manon Lescaut, and in Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata.

Magda Olivero at the age of 95 in 2005
Magda Olivero at the age of 95 in 2005
She made her London debut at the Stoll Theatre, in 1952 and in 1963 she substituted for Renata Tebaldi at the Edinburgh Festival in Adriana Lecouvreur, its first performance in Britain for 60 years.

Her first appearance in the United States came in Dallas in 1967, followed by Kansas and San Francisco. By now her fame as an interpreter of the verismo genre, in which the characters are ordinary people and the singers are adept at bringing dramatic expression to the roles, was established and her New York debut as Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera in 1975 was a much-hyped sensation, even though by then she was 65.

According to the New York Times report, when she made her first entrance, the audience began screaming and cheering, forcing the conductor Jan Behr to stop the music; arias were interrupted by bursts of spontaneous applause and at the end she was given a 20-minute ovation, one of the longest in the theatre's history. She reprised her Tosca for the Met in 1979, opposite Luciano Pavarotti. 

For all her success, though, she never really escaped the shadow of Maria Callas or Renata Tebaldi, who were always seen as more marketable and therefore enjoyed more recording contracts than Olivero, whose only complete opera recordings are Turandot and Fedora (1969), in which she was partnered by Mario del Monaco and Tito Gobbi.

After her second retirement, she settled in Milan, telling visitors to her home that the secret of her long life was yoga and a vegetarian diet. She lived for 31 years following the death of her husband in 1983, her wish for a family having never come to pass.

The early 15th century Cathedral of the Assumption in Piazza Risorgimento in Saluzzo
The early 15th century Cathedral of the Assumption in
Piazza Risorgimento in Saluzzo
Travel tip:

Saluzzo, where Olivero was born, is a hill town about 33km (20 miles) north of Cuneo and 61km (38 miles) south of Turin, in Piedmont. Most of its 15th century old town is intact, with numerous cobbled streets, steep staircases, churches and elegant palaces to explore. In the Piazza Risorgimento is Cathedral of the Assumption, built between 1491 and 1511 in the Lombard-Gothic style. Another attraction is the Castiglia, a castle built at the summit of the town in the 13th century by the Marquis Tommaso I and renovated in 1492 by Ludovico II of Saluzzo, at the time when the town was a powerful city-state.

The Teatro degli Arcimboldi, which was built in a converted Pirelli tyre factory in Milan
The Teatro degli Arcimboldi, which was built in a
converted Pirelli tyre factory in Milan
Travel tip:

Milan’s best-known theatre is the opera house and ballet theatre Teatro alla Scala, inaugurated in 1778, but it is not the only theatre. Other respected venues are Teatro Sala Fontana, set within the beautiful cloisters of the church of Santa Maria alla Fontana in the northern part of the city, the Teatro Manzoni in Via Alessandro Manzoni, not far from Porta Nuova, and the ultra-modern Teatro degli Arcimboldi, which was built in 2001 in anticipation of the closure and renovation of La Scala opera house, in a converted Pirelli tyre factory about 7km (4.5 miles) from the city centre, in an area known as Bicocca.

More reading:

The beautiful work of Francesco Cilea

Giacomo Puccini - the musical genius who took the baton from Verdi

Pietro Mascagni and a career built on one great opera

Also on this day:

1474: The birth of poet Ludovico Ariosto

1504: The unveiling of Michelangelo's David in Florence


13 March 2017

Flavia Cacace - dancer

Star of Strictly Come Dancing famous for Argentine Tango

Flavia Cacace became a well known face through Strictly Come Dancing
Flavia Cacace became a well known
face through Strictly Come Dancing
The dancer Flavia Cacace, who found fame through the British hit television show, Strictly Come Dancing, was born on this day in 1980 in Naples.

She and professional partner Vincent Simone, who is from Puglia, performed on the show for seven seasons from 2006 to 2012.

The show, which has been mimicked in more than 50 countries across the world, including Italy and the United States, pairs celebrities with professional dancers, combining Latin and ballroom dances in a competition lasting several months.

Cacace, who was runner-up in 2007 with British actor Matt d'Angelo, left the show as champion in 2012 after she and the British Olympic gymnast Louis Smith won the final, which was watched by an estimated 13.35 million viewers.

The youngest of six children, Cacace moved to England shortly before her fifth birthday when her father, Roberto, a chef, decided to look for work opportunities in London.

Her family are from the Vomero district of Naples, a smart neighbourhood that occupies an elevated position on a hill overlooking the city, offering spectacular views. Although more than 30 years have passed since she left the area, Cacace has been quoted as saying that she still considers herself Neapolitan.

A hazy view of Mount Vesuvius across Naples from the top of Vomero Hill
A hazy view of Mount Vesuvius across Naples
from the top of Vomero Hill
Cacace attended the St Peter's Roman Catholic School in the town of Guildford in Surrey, about 43km (27 miles) south-west of central London.

She was introduced to dancing at the age of six when her mother, Rosaria, keen to find her an activity outside school, took her and her eldest sister to Hurley's dance school in Guildford, unaware that it had a reputation for Latin and ballroom tuition that attracted dancers from around the world.

Her talent shone through and she began to win medals at an early age.  It was at Hurley's, at the age of 14, that she met Simone, who had arrived in the UK at the age of 17 and was looking for a partner.

The two formed a professional relationship and won a string of titles together, including numerous UK Ballroom, Ten-dance and Showdance championships.  They have been UK Argentine Tango champions and world Argentine Tango Showdance champions.

The Argentine Tango became their trademark and for several years they have been on tour with a series of glitzy stage productions, including Midnight Tango and Dance 'Til Dawn, both of which were sell-outs.  They announced last year, however, that their 2016 tour The Last Tango, would mark the end of their career on the road.

Their professional partnership turned into a romance for several years before they went different ways after Cacace began a relationship with Strictly partner D'Angelo.

Flavia Cacace on Strictly with Jimi Mistry, now her husband
Flavia Cacace on Strictly with Jimi Mistry, now her husband
Simone is now married with two children, having met his future wife, Susan, in the bar after a show during the 2007 Strictly series, when she had been in the audience as a fan.

Cacace is married to Jimi Mistry, a Yorkshire-born actor who was her celebrity partner in the 2010 series of Strictly.  They were married in London in 2013 and live in Jacobs Well, a village just outside Guildford.

She has been approached several times about appearing on the Italian version of Strictly - entitled Ballando con le Stelle (Dancing with the Stars) - but has been unable so far to take up any offers.  Ballando is currently in its 12th series on the Rai Uno channel.

Castel Sant'Elmo (left) and the Certosa San Martino
Castel Sant'Elmo (left) and the Certosa San Martino
Travel tip:

Vomero is a middle class largely residential area of central Naples but has a number of buildings of historic significance. The most dominant, on top of Vomero Hill, is the large medieval fortress, Castel Sant'Elmo, which stands guard over the city. In front of the fortress is the Certosa San Martino, the former Carthusian monastery, now a museum.  Walk along the adjoining street, Largo San Martino, to enjoy extraordinary views over the city towards Vesuvius.  Vomero's other tourist attraction is the Villa Floridiana, once the home of Ferdinand I, the Bourbon King of the Two Sicilies.  Surrounded by extensive gardens, the building now houses the Duke of Martina National Museum of Ceramics.

Naples hotels by

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Icona Vetere in Foggia
The Cathedral of Santa Maria
Icona Vetere in Foggia
Travel tip:

Foggia, where Vincent Simone was born, is a largely modern city, much of it rebuilt following heavy bombardment during the Second World War.  Nonetheless, there are some attractive features, including the 12th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria Icona Vetere, off Piazza del Lago. The present campanile replaced the one destroyed in a major earthquake in 1731. The opera composer Umberto Giordano, born in Foggia, is commemorated with a theatre that bears his name and a square, Piazza Umberto Giordano, that contains several statues representing his most famous works.

25 December 2016

Lina Cavalieri – soprano

Christmas Day baby became singing beauty

Lina Cavalieri was described as 'the world's most beautiful woman'
Lina Cavalieri was described as 'the
world's most beautiful woman'
Singer and actress Lina Cavalieri was born Natalina - meaning 'Little Christmas' - Cavalieri on this day in 1874, in Viterbo in Lazio.

During her career she starred opposite Enrico Caruso in operas and earned the title of ‘the world’s most beautiful woman', while many of her female contemporaries tried to attain her hour-glass figure by using tight-laced corsetry.

Raised as one of five children in humble circumstances, she was expected to work to supplement the family income.  To this end, she sold flowers and sang on the streets of Rome.

After a music teacher heard her singing, she was offered some music lessons.  Subsequently, she found work as a café singer and then in theatres in Rome.

Increasingly popular both for her voice and her physical beauty, she made her way from Rome first to Vienna and then Paris where she performed in music halls including the Folies-Bergère and worked with singing coaches to develop her voice.

The progression to opera came in 1900, when she made her debut in Lisbon as Nedda in Pagliacci, by Ruggero Leoncavallo. It was in the same year that she married her first husband, the Russian Prince, Alexandre Bariatinsky, whom she had met in Paris and who had encouraged her to believe she should not be content with working in mere music halls.

The Lisbon audience gave her a difficult time, however, and the production was abandoned after only a few nights, at which point Bariatinsky left her.  Cavalieri returned to Paris and might have given up her operatic ambitions without the encouragement of her sister, Ada, who helped her rebuild her confidence.

Cavalieri starred opposite Enrico Caruso in Paris and New York
Cavalieri starred opposite Enrico Caruso
in Paris and New York
After successes at Teatro San Carlo in Naples, in Warsaw, Ravenna, Palermo and St Petersburg, a breakthrough moment came when in 1905 she starred opposite Caruso in Umberto Giordano’s opera, Fedora, at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris.

The performance was so successful they took the production to the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Cavalieri stayed with the Met for two seasons, performing again with Caruso in 1907 in Giacomo Puccini’s opera Manon Lescaut. She became one of the most photographed stars of the time and women everywhere tried to copy her figure.

She had a brief, second marriage to Robert Winthrop Chanler, an American artist and a member of the Astor and Dudley-Winthrop families.  Married in 1910, the had separated within weeks and were divorced in 1912.

During her career she sang with many famous singers, including the French tenor Lucien Muratore, who became her third husband in 1913.

After retiring from the stage, Cavalieri ran a beauty salon in Paris and wrote an advice column on make-up for a magazine. She also launched her own range of beauty products and perfumes.

A poster for the film 'The World's Most  Beautiful Woman' with Gina Lollobrigida
A poster for the film 'The World's Most
 Beautiful Woman' with Gina Lollobrigida
In 1915 she returned to Italy to make films and then went back to America, where she starred in silent movies, many of which have since been lost.

She moved to Italy again after marrying her fourth husband, the writer Paolo d’Arvanni.

Despite being in her sixties when the Second World War began, she became a volunteer nurse.

Tragically, Cavalieri and her husband were both killed in 1944 after an Allied bombing raid destroyed their home near Florence.

After her death, Cavalieri was painted repeatedly by the Italian artist Piero Fornasetti, who found her face in an old magazine and became obsessed with her, creating hundreds of versions of her image.

In 1955 she was portrayed by Gina Lollobrigida in the film Beautiful but Dangerous, which was alternatively called The World’s Most Beautiful Woman, a French-Italian production directed by Robert Z Leonard.

Travel tip:

Viterbo, where Lina Cavalieri was born, is the largest town in northern Lazio, situated about 80km (50 miles) north of Rome. In the 12th and 13th centuries, with Rome often chaotic as rival families engaged in feuds, Viterbo became a favourite refuge for embattled popes. Much of its most notable architecture, such as the Papal Palace, has echoes of that period. It was bombed heavily during the Second World War but much of its historical centre remained intact and nowadays it is a somewhat overlooked city.

The Villa del Poggio Imperiale outside Florence
The Villa del Poggio Imperiale outside Florence
(picture by Sailko via Wikimedia Commons)
Travel tip:

Lina Cavalieri was killed at her home just outside Florence at Poggio Imperiale, near the imposing neoclassical Villa del Poggio Imperiale, which was once the home of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. It was seized from the Salviati family by the Medici and was then later given to Napoleon’s sister before becoming a girl’s school. Some of the frescoed state rooms are open to the public by appointment.

More reading:

Giuseppina Strepponi - the inspiration for Donizetti and Verdi

How Ruggero Leoncavallo created one of the world's favourite operas

Renata Tebaldi - soprano with the 'voice of an angel'

Also on this day:

Christmas in Italy


31 August 2016

Amilcare Ponchielli - opera composer

Success of La Gioconda put musician on map

Amilcare Ponchielli composed 11 operas
Amilcare Ponchielli composed 11 operas
The opera composer Amilcare Ponchielli was born on this day in 1834 in Paderno Fasolaro, near Cremona, about 100km south-east of Milan in what is now Lombardia.

Ponchielli's works in general enjoyed only modest success, despite the rich musical invention for which he was later applauded.  One that did win acclaim in his lifetime, however, was La Gioconda, which was first produced in 1876 and underwent several revisions but remained unaltered after 1880.

Well known for the tenor aria, Cielo e Mar, and the ballet piece, Dance of the Hours, La Gioconda is the only opera by Ponchielli still performed today and many recordings have been made, featuring some of the biggest stars of recent times.

Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi and Montserrat Caballe are among those to have played the role of Gioconda, written for soprano, while the lead tenor part of Enzo, whose affections are sought both by Gioconda and another major character, Laura, has been taken by Giuseppe Di Stefano, Carlo Bergonzi, Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo among others.

Ponchielli had such a talent for music that he won a scholarship to Milan Conservatory at nine years old and had written his first symphony by the time he was 10.

He left the Conservatory in disappointment after being denied the professorship that was supposed to have been his prize in a competition and for a number of years his main musical occupation was as a bandmaster, at first in Piacenza and then Cremona.  He arranged and wrote more than 200 compositions for wind instruments.

The Milan Conservatory, which Ponchielli attended  from the age of nine years
The Milan Conservatory, which Ponchielli attended
from the age of nine years
His passion for opera was undiminished, however, and he achieved his first breakthrough with I promessi sposi (The Betrothed), an opera based on the novel by Alessandro Manzoni, which he had originally written soon after completing his studies and which earned him his first contract with a music publisher in 1872.

The original premiered at the Teatro Concordia in Cremona in 1856; the revised version was first performed at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan. The leading soprano role was taken by Teresina Brambilla, from Cassano d'Adda, just outside Milan, whom Ponchielli would marry.

Ponchielli wrote 11 operas in total but none won him the acclaim he received for La Gioconda, which was based on Angelo, Tyrant of Padua, a play by Victor Hugo.

Listen to Luciano Pavarotti performing Cielo e Mar from La Gioconda

Nonetheless, works such as Il figliuol prodigo and Marion Delorme, from another play by Victor Hugo, both performed at Teatro alla Scala in Milan, are recognised as having been influences on a new generation of composers from which Giacomo Puccini, Pietro Mascagni and Umberto Giordano emerged.

In 1881, Ponchielli was appointed maestro di cappella of Bergamo Cathedral, and from the same year he was a professor of composition at the Milan Conservatory, where his students included Puccini, Mascagni and Emilio Pizzi.

He died of pneumonia in Milan in 1886 and was buried in the city's Monumental Cemetery.

Travel tip:

Paderno Fasolaro, a small town in the heart of the Po Valley, is now known as Paderno Ponchielli in honour of its most famous native son.  It was given the name after local residents began a petition on the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1934, although it took until 1950 for the President of the Republic, Luigi Einaudi, to issue a decree making the change legal.

The cathedral at Cremona is a fine example of Romanesque style
The cathedral at Cremona is a fine
example of Romanesque style
Travel tip:

The city of Cremona has a strong musical tradition, particularly in the production of violins and other stringed instruments.  It was home to rival violin makers Antonio Stradivari, Giuseppe Guarneri and the Amati family.  Cremona has an exceptional Romanesque cathedral, with an ornate facade including a Renaissance logia with three niches, flanked by two orders of loggette (small logias).


12 November 2015

Umberto Giordano - opera composer

Death of the musician remembered for Andrea Chenier

Umberto Giordano was a contemporary of Mascagni and Puccini, among others
Umberto Giordano was a contemporary
of Mascagni and Puccini, among others
Composer Umberto Giordano died on this day in 1948 in Milan at the age of 81.

He is perhaps best remembered for his opera, Andrea Chenier, a dramatic work about liberty and love during the French revolution, which was based on the real life story of the romantic French poet, André Chenier.

The premiere of the opera was held at Teatro alla Scala in Milan in 1896. At the time, its success propelled Giordano into the front rank of up-and-coming Italian composers alongside Pietro Mascagni, to whom he is often compared, and Giacomo Puccini.

Another of Giordano’s works widely acclaimed by both the public and the critics, is the opera, Fedora.

This had its premiere in 1898 at the Teatro Lirico in Milan. A rising young tenor, Enrico Caruso, played the role of Fedora’s lover, Loris. The opera was a big success and is still performed today.

Some of Giordano’s later works are less well-known but they have achieved the respect of the critics and music experts and are occasionally revived by opera companies.

The Teatro Argentina in Rome, which staged the first production of Giordano's debut opera, Mala vita
The Teatro Argentina in Rome, which staged the first
production of Giordano's debut opera, Mala vita
Giordano was born in Foggia in Puglia in August 1867. He studied under Paolo Serrao at the Conservatoire of Naples.

He wrote his first opera, Marina, for a competition organised by the music publishers Casa Sonzogno for the best one-act opera. It was placed sixth of 73 entries. The competition, which is seen as marking the beginning of verismo movement in Italian opera, was won by Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana. 

There was much interest in Marina, nonetheless, and Sonzogno commissioned Giordano to develop the idea further. The result was Mala vita, a gritty verismo opera about a labourer who vows to reform a prostitute if he is cured of his tuberculosis. 

The audience at the Teatro Argentina in Rome were somewhat scandalised when it played there in February 1892 but it was greeted with acclaim by audiences in Vienna, Prague and Berlin.

Giordano tried a more romantic topic with his next opera, Regina Diaz, but this was a failure and was cancelled after just two performances.

He moved to Milan and it was there he returned to verismo with Andrea Chenier and Fedora.

The theatre in Piazza Cesare Battisti in Foggia, the town where Giordano was born, has been renamed Teatro Giordano in his memory. There is also a large statue of the composer in Piazza Umberto Giordano in Foggia.

Teatro alla Scala opened in 1778, having been built to replace the Teatro Regio Ducale, which had been destroyed in a fire
Teatro alla Scala opened in 1778, having been built to replace
the Teatro Regio Ducale, which had been destroyed in a fire 
Travel tip:

Opera lovers should visit Teatro alla Scala in Milan and go round the theatre’s museum to see the fantastic costumes and memorabilia from the history of opera on display. The museum in Largo Ghiringhelli, just off Piazza Scala, is open every day except the Italian Bank Holidays and certain days in December. Opening hours are from 9.00 to 12.30 and 1.30 to 5.30 pm.  The theatre opened in 1778 as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala, having been commissioned by the Empress Maria Theresa of the House of Hapsburg, of which the Duchy of Milan was at the time a part, as replacement for the Teatro Regio Ducale following a fire in 1776.  It was built on the site of the former church of Santa Maria alla Scala.

The statue of Umberto Giordano in Piazza Umberto Giordano
The statue of Umberto Giordano in
Piazza Umberto Giordano
Travel tip:

Foggia, where Umberto Giordano was born in 1867, is an important city in Puglia in the south of Italy. As well as the Teatro Giordano and Piazza Umberto Giordano, which honour the composer, Foggia has a Cathedral dating back to the 12th century well worth visiting. The city was once known as the ‘granary of Italy’, thanks to its proximity to a large plain, known as the Tavoliere delle Puglie, which enabled the growing of wheat and other grain plants on a large scale. There are many pasta factories, although productivity in the area is not limited to grains, being a significant producer of olives, grapes and cheeses too.  The old centre of the city is a network of narrow streets, at the heart of which is the part-Romanic, part-Baroque cathedral of Santa Maria de Fovea.