Umberto Giordano

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Umberto Giordano (1896) portrayed by Gaetano Esposito.

Umberto Menotti Maria Giordano (28 August 1867 – 12 November 1948) was an Italian composer, mainly of operas.

He was born in Foggia in Puglia, southern Italy, and studied under Paolo Serrao at the Conservatoire of Naples. His first opera Marina, was written for the competition staged by the music publishers Casa Sonzogno for the best one-act opera, remembered today because it marked the beginning of Italian verismo; the winner was Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana. Giordano, the youngest candidate, placed sixth among seventy-three with Marina, which generated enough interest for Sonzogno to commission an opera to be staged in the 1891–92 season.

The result was Mala Vita, a gritty verismo opera concerning a labourer who vows to reform a prostitute if he is cured of his tuberculosis. This caused something of a scandal when performed at the Teatro Argentina, Rome, in February 1892. It played successfully at Vienna, Prague and Berlin, and was re-written as Il Voto a few years later in an attempt to raise interest in the work again.

Giordano tried a more romantic approach with his next opera, Regina Diaz, to a libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci (1894), but this was also a failure, taken off the stage after just two performances.

Giordano then moved to Milan, and returned to verismo with his best-known work, Andrea Chénier (1896), based on the life of the French poet André Chénier. Fedora (1898), based on Victorien Sardou's play, featured a rising young tenor named Enrico Caruso; it was also a success, and is still performed today. His later works are much less known, but occasionally revived and in the case of La cena delle beffe recognised by musicologists and critics with some respect. He died in Milan at the age of 81.

The most important theater in Foggia has been dedicated to Umberto Giordano. A square in Foggia is also dedicated to him, with many statues representing his most famous works.

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