Italian composer and teacher Francesco Cilea (1866–1950) was a member of the ‘giovane sculoa’ of Italian composers. He is best known today for his opera Adriana Lecouvreur, and for the tenor aria ‘Lamento di Federico’ from the opera L’arlesiana.
Cilea was born in Palmi in Calabria and studied at the Naples Conservatory 1879–89. The student performance of his opera Gina in his final year led to a commission from the publisher Eduardo Sonzogno, and the resulting La tilda found reasonable success at performances in Florence and Vienna. Cilea worked on his following opera, L’arlesiana, for three years; its premiere at the Teatro Lirico in Milan helped launch the international career of tenor Enrico Caruso. The 1902 premiere of Adriana Lecouvreur at the same theatre was another success both for Cilea and Caruso. However, Cilea would write only one further work for the stage: Gloria, which was coolly received at its premiere at La Scala, Milan. His further compositions included the symphonic poem Il canto della vita for tenor, chorus and orchestra for the Verdi centenary in 1913, and a revised version of L’arlesiana.
Cilea was a prominent figure in Italian musical education from when he began teaching in 1890 until his retirement in 1935. Positions held included chair of harmony and composition at the Istituto Reale in Florence and director of the Palermo and Naples conservatories.
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