The Italy Music record History(Rekaman Musik Italia)



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The Italy Music record History(Sejarah rekaman Musik Italia ),

Frame One :

The Italy Music Record Found In Indonesia

1.  Before WWII

1) Enrico Caruso

Enrico Caruso

Enrico Caruso (February 25, 1873 – August 2, 1921) was an Italian tenor. He sang to great acclaim at the major opera houses of Europe and North and South America, appearing in a wide variety of roles from the Italian and French repertoires that ranged from the lyric to the dramatic. Caruso also made approximately 290 commercially released recordings from 1902 to 1920. All of these recordings, which span most of his stage career, are available today on CDs and as digital downloads.




 Historical and musical significance

Caruso’s 25-year career, stretching from 1895 to 1920, included 863 appearances at the New York Metropolitan Opera before he died from an infection at the age of 48. His fame has lasted to the present day despite the limited marketing and promotional vehicles available during Caruso’s era. (He was, nonetheless, a client of Edward Bernays, during the latter’s tenure as a press agent in the United States.)[1] Publicity in Caruso’s time relied on newspapers, particularly wire services, along with magazines, photography and relatively instantaneous communication via the telephone and the telegraph, to spread a message and raise a performer’s profile.

Caruso biographers Pierre Key, Bruno Zirato and Stanley Jackson[2][3] attribute Caruso’s fame not only to his voice and musicianship but also to a keen business sense and an enthusiastic embrace of commercial sound recording, then in its infancy. Many opera singers of Caruso’s time rejected the phonograph (or gramophone) due to the low fidelity of early discs. Others, including Adelina Patti, Francesco Tamagno and Nellie Melba, exploited the new technology once they became aware of the financial returns that Caruso was reaping from his initial recording sessions.[4]

Caruso made more than 260 extant recordings in America for the Victor Talking Machine Company (later RCA Victor) from 1904 to 1920, and he earned millions of dollars in royalties from the retail sales of the resulting 78-rpm discs. (Previously, in Italy in 1902–1903, he had cut five batches of records for the Gramophone & Typewriter Company, the Zonophone label and Pathé Records.) He was also heard live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House in 1910, when he participated in the first public radio broadcast to be transmitted in the United States.

Caruso appeared in newsreels, too, as well as a short experimental film made by Thomas Edison and two commercial motion pictures. For Edison, in 1911, Caruso portrayed the role of Edgardo in a filmed scene from Donizetti‘s opera Lucia di Lammermoor. In 1918, he appeared in a dual role in the American silent film My Cousin for Paramount Pictures. This movie included a sequence of him on stage performing the aria “Vesti la giubba” from Leoncavallo‘s opera Pagliacci. The following year Caruso played a character called Cosimo in another movie, The Splendid Romance. Producer Jesse Lasky paid Caruso $100,000 to appear in these two efforts but they both flopped at the box office.

While Caruso sang at such venues as La Scala in Milan, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London, the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, he was also the leading tenor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City for 18 consecutive seasons. It was at the Met, in 1910, that he created the role of Dick Johnson in Giacomo Puccini‘s La fanciulla del West.

Caruso’s voice extended up to high C in its prime and grew in power and weight as he grew older. He sang a broad spectrum of roles, ranging from lyric, to spinto, to dramatic parts, in the Italian and French repertoires. In the German repertoire, Caruso sang only two roles, Assad (in Karl Goldmark‘s The Queen of Sheba) and Richard Wagner‘s Lohengrin, both of which he performed in Italian in Buenos Aires in 1899 and 1901 respectively.[5]

 Life and career

 Early life

Enrico Caruso in the role of Dick Johnson, 1910/1911

Enrico Caruso came from a poor but not destitute background. Born in Naples in the Via San Giovannello agli Ottocalli 7 on February 25, 1873, he was baptised the next day in the adjacent Roman Catholic Church of San Giovanni e Paolo. Called Errico in accordance with the Neapolitan dialect, Caruso was nicknamed “Erri” by his family and friends; but he would later adopt the formal Italian version of his given name, Enrico (the equivalent of “Henry” in English). This change came at the suggestion of a singing teacher, Guglielmo Vergine, with whom he began lessons at the age of 16.

Caruso was the third of seven children born to the same parents, and one of only three to survive infancy. There is an often repeated story of Caruso having had 17 or 18 siblings who died in infancy. Two of his biographers, Francis Robinson and Pierre Key, mentioned the tale in their books but genealogical research conducted by Caruso family friend Guido D’Onofrio has suggested it is false. According to Caruso’s son Enrico, Jr., Caruso himself and his brother Giovanni may have been the source of the exaggerated number.[6] Caruso’s widow Dorothy also included the story in a memoir that she wrote about her late husband. She quotes the tenor as follows in relation to his mother, Anna Caruso (née Baldini): “She had twenty-one children. Twenty boys and one girl – too many. I am number nineteen boy.”[7]

Caruso’s father, Marcellino, was a mechanic and foundry worker with a steady job. Initially, Marcellino thought that his son should adopt the same trade and at the age of 11, the boy was apprenticed to a mechanical engineer named Palmieri who constructed public water fountains. (Whenever visiting Naples in future years, Caruso liked to point out a fountain that he had helped to install.) Caruso later worked alongside his father at the Meuricoffre factory in Naples. At his mother’s insistence, he also attended school for a time, receiving a basic education under the tutelage of a local priest. He learned to write in a handsome script and studied technical draftsmanship.[8] During this period he sang in his church choir, and his voice showed enough promise for him to contemplate a possible adult career in music.

Caruso was encouraged in his early musical ambitions by his mother, who died in 1888. In order to raise much needed cash for his family, he found supplementary work as a street singer in Naples and performed at cafes and soirees. Aged 18, he used the fees that he had earned by singing at an Italian resort to buy his first pair of new shoes. His progress as a paid entertainer was interrupted, however, by 45 days of compulsory military service. He completed this in 1894, resuming his voice lessons with Vergine upon discharge from the army.

 Early career

At the age of 22, Caruso made his professional stage debut in serious music. The date was March 15, 1895 at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples. The work in which he appeared was a now-forgotten opera, L’Amico Francesco, by the amateur composer Domenico Morelli. A string of further engagements in provincial opera houses followed, and he received instruction from the conductor and voice teacher Vincenzo Lombardi that improved his high notes and polished his style. Three other prominent Neapolitan singers taught by Lombardi were the baritones Antonio Scotti and Pasquale Amato, both of whom would go on to partner Caruso at the Met, and the tenor Fernando De Lucia, who would also appear at the Met and later sing at Caruso’s funeral.

Money continued to be in short supply for the young Caruso. One of his first publicity photographs, taken on a visit to Sicily in 1896, depicts him wearing a bedspread draped like a toga since his sole dress shirt was away being laundered. At a notorious early performance in Naples, he was booed by a section of the audience because he failed to pay a claque to cheer for him. This incident hurt Caruso’s pride. He never appeared again on stage in his native city, stating later that he would return “only to eat spaghetti”.

During the final few years of the 19th century, Caruso performed at a succession of theaters throughout Italy until, in 1900, he was rewarded with a contract to sing at La Scala in Milan, the country’s premier opera house. His La Scala debut occurred on December 26 of that year in the part of Rodolfo in Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème with Arturo Toscanini conducting. Audiences in Monte Carlo, Warsaw and Buenos Aires also heard Caruso sing during this pivotal phase of his career and, in 1899–1900, he appeared before the Tsar and the Russian aristocracy at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as part of a touring company of first-class Italian singers.

The first major operatic role that Caruso was given the responsibility of creating was Loris in Umberto Giordano‘s Fedora, at the Teatro Lirico, Milan, on November 17, 1898. At that same theater, on November 6, 1902, he would create the role of Maurizio in Francesco Cilea‘s Adriana Lecouvreur. (Puccini considered casting the young Caruso in the role of Cavaradossi in Tosca at its premiere in 1900, but ultimately chose the older, more established Emilio De Marchi instead.)

The medal that Enrico Caruso gave to Pasquale Simonelli, his New York City impresario
Obverse: Caruso facing left. Lower right: Salanto, medal maker’s signature.

Reverse: Muse of music with lyre over PER RICORDO (memento). Around the rim:
TIFFANY & Co. 24 CARAT GOLD Y (27 mm).

Caruso took part in a “grand concert” at La Scala in February 1901 that Toscanini organised to mark the recent death of Giuseppe Verdi. Among those appearing with him at the concert were two other leading Italian tenors of the day, Francesco Tamagno (the creator of the protagonist’s role in Verdi’s Otello) and Giuseppe Borgatti (the creator of the protagonist’s role in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier). He embarked on his last series of La Scala performances in March 1902, creating along the way the principal tenor part in Germania by Alberto Franchetti.

A month later, he was engaged by the Gramophone & Typewriter Company to make his first group of acoustic recordings, in a Milan hotel room, for a fee of 100 pounds sterling. These 10 discs swiftly became best-sellers. Among other things, they helped to spread 29-year-old Caruso’s fame throughout the English-speaking world. The management of London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, signed him for a season of appearances in eight different operas ranging from Verdi’s Aida to Don Giovanni by Mozart. His successful debut at Covent Garden occurred on May 14, 1902, as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto. Covent Garden’s highest-paid diva, the Australian soprano Nellie Melba, partnered him as Gilda. They would sing together often during the early 1900s. In her memoirs, Melba praised Caruso’s voice but considered him to be a less sophisticated musician and interpretive artist than Jean de Reszke—the Met’s biggest tenor drawcard prior to Caruso.

 The Metropolitan Opera

The following year, 1903, Caruso traveled to New York City to take up a contract with the Metropolitan Opera. (The gap between his London and New York engagements was filled by a series of performances in Italy, Portugal and South America.) Caruso’s Met contract had been negotiated by his agent, the banker and impresario Pasquale Simonelli. Caruso debuted at the Met in a new production of Rigoletto on November 23, 1903. This time, Marcella Sembrich sang opposite him as Gilda. A few months later, he began a lifelong association with the Victor Talking-Machine Company. He made his first American discs on February 1, 1904, having signed a lucrative financial deal with Victor. Thereafter, his recording career ran in tandem with his Met career, the one bolstering the other, until he died in 1921.

Caruso purchased the Villa Bellosguardo, a palatial country house near Florence, in 1904. The villa became his retreat away from the pressures of the operatic stage and the grind of travel. Caruso’s preferred address in New York City was a suite at Manhattan‘s Knickerbocker Hotel. (The Knickerbocker was erected in 1906 on the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street.) Caruso commissioned the New York jewelers Tiffany & Co. to strike a 24-carat-gold medal adorned with the tenor’s profile. He presented the medal in gratitude to Simonelli as a souvenir of his many well remunerated performances at the Met (see illustration, above).

In addition to his regular New York engagements, Caruso gave recitals and operatic performances in a large number of cities across the United States and sang in Canada. He also continued to sing widely in Europe, appearing again at Covent Garden in 1904–07 and 1913–14. Audiences in France, Belgium, Monaco, Austria, Hungary and Germany heard him, too, prior to the outbreak of World War I. In 1909, Melba asked him to participate in her forthcoming tour of Australia; but he declined the invitation because of the significant amount of travel time such a trip would entail.

Members of the Met’s roster of artists, including Caruso, had visited San Francisco in April 1906 for a series of performances. Following an appearance as Don Jose in Carmen at the city’s Grand Opera House, a strong jolt awakened Caruso at 5:13 on the morning of the 18th in his suite at the Palace Hotel. He found himself in the middle of the San Francisco Earthquake, which led to a series of fires that destroyed most of the city. The Met lost all the sets and costumes that it had brought on tour but none of the artists was harmed. Holding an autographed photo of President Theodore Roosevelt, Caruso made an ultimately successful effort to flee the city, first by boat and then by train. He vowed never to return to San Francisco and kept his word.[9][10]

In November 1906, Caruso was charged with an indecent act allegedly committed in the monkey house of New York’s Central Park Zoo. The police accused him of pinching the bottom of a married woman. Caruso claimed a monkey did the bottom-pinching. He was found guilty as charged, however, and fined 10 dollars, although suspicions linger that he may have been entrapped by the victim and the arresting officer. The leaders of New York’s opera-going high society were outraged initially by the incident, which received widespread newspaper coverage, but they soon forgot about it and continued to attend Caruso’s Met performances.[11] Caruso’s fan base at the Met was not restricted, however, to the wealthy. Members of America’s middle-classes also paid to hear him sing—or buy copies of his recordings—and he enjoyed a substantial following among New York’s 500,000 Italian immigrants.

Caruso created the role of Dick Johnson in the world premiere of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West on December 10, 1910. The composer conceived the music for the tenor hero with Caruso’s voice specifically in mind. With Caruso appeared two more of the Met’s star singers, the Czech soprano Emmy Destinn and baritone Pasquale Amato. Toscanini, then the Met’s principal conductor, presided in the orchestra pit.

 Later career and personal life

From 1916 onwards, Caruso began adding heroic parts such as Samson, John of Leyden and Eléazar to his repertoire, while he planned to tackle Otello (the most demanding role written by Verdi for the tenor voice) at the Met during 1921.

Caruso toured the South American nations of Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in 1917 and two years later performed in Mexico City. In 1920, he was paid the then enormous sum of 10,000 American dollars a night to sing in Havana, Cuba.[12]

The United States had entered World War I in 1917, sending troops to Europe. Caruso did extensive charity work during the conflict, raising money for war-related patriotic causes by giving concerts and participating enthusiastically in Liberty Bond drives. The tenor had shown himself to be a shrewd businessman since arriving in America. He put a sizable proportion of his earnings from record royalties and singing fees into a range of remunerative investments. Biographer Michael Scott writes that by the end of the war in 1918, Caruso’s annual income tax bill amounted to $154,000.[13]

Prior to World War One, Caruso had been romantically tied to an Italian soprano, Ada Giachetti, who was a few years older than he.[14] Though already married, Giachetti bore Caruso four sons during their liaison, which lasted from 1897 to 1908. Two survived infancy: Rodolfo Caruso (born 1898) and singer/actor Enrico Caruso, Jr. (1904). Ada had left her husband, manufacturer Gino Botti, and an existing son to cohabit with the tenor. Information provided in Scott’s biography of Caruso suggests that she was his vocal coach as well as his lover.[15] Statements by Enrico Caruso, Jr. in his book tend to substantiate this.[16][17] Her relationship with Caruso broke down after 11 years and they separated. Giachetti’s subsequent attempts to sue him for damages were dismissed by the courts.[18]

Towards the end of the war, Caruso met and wooed a 25-year-old socialite, Dorothy Park Benjamin. She was the daughter of a wealthy New York patent lawyer. In spite of the disapproval of Dorothy’s father, the couple wed on August 20, 1918. They had a daughter, Gloria Caruso (1919–1999). Dorothy lived until 1955 and wrote two books about Caruso, whom she had called “Rico” in private life. Published in 1928 and 1945, her books include many of Caruso’s letters to his “Doro”.

A fastidious dresser, Caruso took two baths a day and liked good Italian food and convivial company. He forged a particularly close bond with his Met and Covent Garden colleague Antonio Scotti—an amiable and stylish baritone from Naples. Caruso was superstitious and habitually carried good-luck charms with him when he sang. He played cards for relaxation and sketched friends, other singers and musicians. Dorothy Caruso said that by the time she knew him, her husband’s favorite hobby was compiling scrapbooks. He also amassed a valuable collection of rare postage stamps, coins, watches and antique snuffboxes. Caruso was a heavy smoker of strong Egyptian cigarettes, too. This deleterious habit, combined with a lack of exercise and the punishing schedule of performances that Caruso willingly undertook season after season at the Met, may have contributed to the persistent ill-health which afflicted the last 12 months of his life.

 Illness and death

On September 16, 1920, Caruso attended Victor’s prime recording venue, Trinity Church, at Camden, New Jersey, for the final time. He recorded several discs over three days, including the “Domine Deus” and “Crucifixus” from the Petite Messe Solennelle by Rossini. These discs were to be his last.

Dorothy Caruso noted that her husband’s health began a distinct downward spiral in late 1920 after returning from a lengthy North American tour. A few days before a performance of Pagliacci at the Met, he caught cold and developed a cough and a “dull pain in his side”. It appeared to be a severe episode of bronchitis. Caruso’s physician, Philip Horowitz, who usually treated him for migraine headaches with a kind of primitive TENS unit, diagnosed “intercostal neuralgia” and pronounced him fit to appear on stage, although the pain continued to hinder his voice production and movements. [19]

During a performance of L’elisir d’amore by Donizetti at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on December 11, 1920, he suffered a throat haemorrhage and the performance was canceled at the end of Act 1. Following this incident, a clearly unwell Caruso gave only three more performances at the Met, the final one being as Eléazar in Halévy’s La Juive, on December 21, 1920. (Also appearing that night was the Australian coloratura soprano, Evelyn Scotney, who had sung with Caruso a number of times.[20]) By Christmas Eve, the pain in his side was so excruciating that he was screaming. Dorothy summoned the hotel physician, who gave Caruso some morphine and codeine and called in another doctor, Evan M. Evans. Evans brought in three other doctors and Caruso was finally correctly diagnosed with purulent pleurisy and empyema. [21][22]

Caruso’s health deteriorated further during the new year. He experienced episodes of intense pain because of the infection and underwent seven surgical procedures to drain fluid from his chest and lungs.[23] He returned to Naples to recuperate from the most serious of the operations, during which part of a rib had been removed. According to Dorothy Caruso, he seemed to be recovering, but allowed himself to be examined by an unhygienic local doctor and his condition worsened dramatically after that.[24][25] The Bastianelli brothers, eminent medical practitioners with a clinic in Rome, recommended that his left kidney be removed. He was on his way to Rome to see them but, while staying overnight in the Vesuvio Hotel in Naples, he took an alarming turn for the worse and was given morphine to help him sleep.

Caruso died at the hotel a few minutes after 9:00 a.m. local time, on August 2, 1921. He was 48. The Bastianellis attributed the likely cause of death to peritonitis arising from a burst subrenal abscess.[26][27] The King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III, opened the Royal Basilica of the Church of San Francesco di Paola for Caruso’s funeral, which was attended by thousands of people. His embalmed body was preserved in a glass sarcophagus at Del Pianto Cemetery in Naples for mourners to view.[28] In 1929, Dorothy Caruso had his remains sealed permanently in an ornate stone tomb.


During his lifetime, Caruso received many orders, decorations, testimonials and other kinds of honours from monarchs, governments and miscellaneous cultural bodies of the various nations in which he sang. He was also the recipient of Italian knighthoods. In 1917, he was elected an honorary member of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the national fraternity for men involved in music, by the fraternity’s Alpha chapter of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. One unusual award bestowed on him was that of “Honorary Captain of the New York Police Force”. Caruso was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. On February 27 of that same year, the United States Postal Service issued a 22-cent postage stamp in his honor.[29]


Caruso’s operatic repertoire consisted primarily of Italian works along with a few roles in French. He also performed two German operas, Wagner’s Lohengrin and Goldmark’s Die Königin von Saba, singing in Italian, early in his career. Below are the first performances by Caruso, in chronological order, of each of the operas that he undertook on the stage. World premieres are indicated with **.

Caruso signing his autograph; he was obliging with fans

  • L’amico Francesco (Morelli) – Teatro Nuovo, Napoli, 15 March 1895 (debut)**
  • Faust – Caserta, 28 March 1895
  • Cavalleria rusticana – Caserta, April 1895
  • Camoens (Musoni) – Caserta, May 1895
  • Rigoletto – Napoli, 21 July 1895
  • La traviata – Napoli, 25 August 1895
  • Lucia di Lammermoor – Cairo, 30 October 1895
  • La Gioconda – Cairo, 9 November 1895
  • Manon Lescaut – Cairo, 15 November 1895
  • I Capuleti e i Montecchi – Napoli, 7 December 1895
  • Malia (Frontini) – Trapani, 21 March 1896
  • La sonnambula – Trapani, 24 March 1896
  • Marriedda (Bucceri) – Napoli, 23 June 1896
  • I puritani – Salerno, 10 September 1896
  • La Favorita – Salerno, 22 November 1896
  • A San Francisco (Sebastiani) – Salerno, 23 November 1896
  • Carmen – Salerno, 6 December 1896
  • Un Dramma in vendemmia (Fornari) – Napoli, 1 February 1897
  • Celeste (Marengo) – Napoli, 6 March 1897**
  • Il Profeta Velato (Napolitano) – Salerno, 8 April 1897
  • La bohème – Livorno, 14 August 1897
  • La Navarrese – Milano, 3 November 1897
  • Il Voto (Giordano) – Milano, 10 November 1897**
  • L’arlesiana – Milano, 27 November 1897**
  • Pagliacci – Milano, 31 December 1897
  • La bohème (Leoncavallo) – Genova, 20 January 1898
  • The Pearl Fishers – Genova, 3 February 1898
  • Hedda (Leborne) – Milano, 2 April 1898**
  • Mefistofele – Fiume, 4 March 1898
  • Sapho (Massenet) – Trento, 3? June 1898
  • Fedora – Milano, 17 November 1898**
  • Iris – Buenos Aires, 22 June 1899
  • La regina di Saba (Goldmark) – Buenos Aires, 4 July 1899
  • Yupanki (Berutti)– Buenos Aires, 25 July 1899**
  • Aida – St. Petersburg, 3 January 1900
  • Un ballo in maschera – St. Petersburg, 11 January 1900
  • Maria di Rohan – St. Petersburg, 2 March 1900
  • Manon – Buenos Aires, 28 July 1900
  • Tosca – Treviso, 23 October 1900
  • Le maschere (Mascagni) – Milano, 17 January 1901**
  • L’elisir d’amore – Milano, 17 February 1901

Caruso’s sketch of himself as Don José in Carmen, 1904

Note: At the time of his death, Caruso was preparing to perform the title role in Verdi’s Otello in an intended Met production.[30][31]

Caruso also had a repertory of more than 520 songs. They ranged from classical compositions to traditional Italian melodies and popular tunes of the day, including a few English-language titles such as George M. Cohan‘s “Over There” and Henry Geehl‘s “For You Alone”.


Caruso possessed a phonogenic voice which was “manly and powerful, yet sweet and lyrical”, to quote the singer/author John Potter (see bibliography, below). Not surprisingly, he became one of the first major classical vocalists to make numerous recordings. He and the disc phonograph, known in the United Kingdom as the gramophone, did much to promote each other in the first two decades of the 20th century. His 1907 acoustic recording of “Vesti la giubba” was the first phonograph/gramophone record to sell a million copies.[32] (Caruso’s searing rendition of this aria from Pagliacci would inspire popular singer Freddie Mercury to quote its melody in the first section of Queen‘s hit “It’s a Hard Life”.) Some of Caruso’s recordings have remained continuously available since their original issue around a century ago, and every one of his surviving discs (including unissued takes) has been re-engineered and re-released on CD in recent years. Regrettably, for legal reasons arising from a clash of contracts, he never recorded any of the music written for the character of Dick Johnson in Puccini’s La fanciulla del West, which he created in 1910.

Caruso’s first recordings, cut on disc in three separate sessions in Milan during April, November and December 1902, were made with piano accompaniments for HMV/EMI‘s forerunner, the Gramophone & Typewriter Company. In April 1903, he made seven further recordings, also in Milan, for the Anglo-Italian Commerce Company (AICC). These were released on discs bearing the Zonophone seal. Three more Milan recordings for AICC followed in October. This time around, they were released by Pathé Records on cylinders as well as on discs. Then on February 1, 1904, Caruso began recording exclusively for the Victor Talking Machine Company in the United States. While most of Caruso’s American recordings would be made in boxy studios in New York and nearby Camden, New Jersey, Victor also recorded him occasionally in Camden’s Trinity Church, which could accommodate a larger band of musicians. (In 1904, however, Victor had elected to use Room 826 at Carnegie Hall, New York, as a makeshift recording venue for its initial bundle of Caruso discs.) Caruso’s final recording session took place at Camden on September 16, 1920. The last classical items that the doomed tenor recorded consisted, fittingly enough, of the sacred pieces “Domine Deus” and “Crucifixus” from Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle.

Caruso’s earliest American records of operatic arias and songs, like their 30 or so Milan-made predecessors, were accompanied by piano. From February 1906, however, so-called ‘orchestral’ accompaniments became the norm. The regular conductors of these instrumental-backed recording sessions were Walter B. Rogers and Joseph Pasternack. After RCA acquired Victor in 1929, it re-issued some of the old discs with the existing accompaniment over-dubbed by a larger, more authentic sounding, electronically recorded orchestra. (Earlier experiments using this re-dubbing technique, carried out in 1927, had been considered unsatisfactory.) In 1950, RCA re-published a number of the fuller-sounding Caruso recordings on 78-rpm discs made of smooth vinyl instead of brittle and gritty shellac, which was the traditional material used for “78s”. Then, as vinyl long-playing discs (LPs) became popular, many of his recordings were electronically enhanced for release on the extended format. Some of these particular recordings, remastered by RCA Victor on the alternative 45-rpm format, were re-released in the early 1950s as companions to the same selections sung in the “Red Seal” series by movie tenor Mario Lanza. In 1951, Lanza had starred in a popular and profitable Hollywood biopic, The Great Caruso, which took numerous liberties with the facts of Caruso’s life.

In the 1970s, Thomas G. Stockham of the University of Utah utilised an early digital reprocessing technique called “Soundstream” to remaster Caruso’s Victor recordings for RCA, but the results were not entirely successful. Nonetheless, these early digitised efforts were issued in part on LP, beginning in 1976. Twice they were issued complete by RCA on Compact Disc (in 1990 and then in 2004). Other complete sets of Caruso’s restored recordings have been issued on CD by the Pearl label and, more recently, in 2000–2004 by Naxos. The 12-disc Naxos set was remastered by the renowned American audio-restoration engineer Ward Marston. Pearl also released in 1993 a CD set devoted to RCA’s electrically over-dubbed versions of Caruso’s original acoustic discs. RCA has similarly issued three CD sets of Caruso material with modern, digitally recorded orchestral accompaniments added. Caruso’s records are now available, too, as digital downloads. His best-selling downloads at iTunes have been the familiar Italian songs “Santa Lucia” and “O Sole Mio”.

Note: Caruso died before the introduction of higher fidelity, electrical recording technology (in 1925). All of his recordings were made using the acoustic process, which required the recording artist to sing into a metal horn or funnel which relayed sound directly to a master disc via a stylus. This process captured only a limited range of the overtones and nuances present in the singing voice. Caruso’s 12-inch acoustic recordings were limited to a maximum duration of about 4:30 minutes. Therefore, some of the arias, duets and ensemble pieces that he recorded had to be edited in order to fit this time constraint.


Caruso alongside his piano


2)Edison Inc Produc. Singer Italian Bariton Thomas Calmers, song Dio Pozente(Faust)

Thomas Hardie Chalmers

Chalmers 4101085078 816b9c5926 o.jpg

Thomas Hardie Chalmers (20 October 1884 – 11 June 1966) was an American opera singer, actor, and filmmaker.





Thomas Chalmers was born on October 20, 1884 in New York City, the son of Thomas Hardie and Sophia Amanda (De Bann) Chalmers. In 1909, he went to Florence to study singing with Vincenzo Lombardi and made his operatic debut in May 1911 in Fossombrone as Marcello in La bohème. His first appearance in the United States was as Jack Rance in The Girl of the Golden West with Henry Wilson Savage‘s English Grand Opera Company. Chalmers toured the United States with the company from 1911 to 12. He then sang as the leading baritone with the Boston National Opera Company and the Century Opera Company[1] before making his Metropolitan Opera debut on November 17, 1917 as Valentin in Faust. He went on to appear regularly at the Met until 1922 and sang in the world premiere of Shanewis, the US premiere of Mârouf, and the first Met performances of La forza del destino and Crispino e la Comare.[2] His recordings were all made for Edison and covered a wide range of repertoire from folk songs to opera; he recorded both on cylinder and the Edison Disc Record formats.

Following a throat operation, Chalmers withdrew from opera and became a stage and film actor.[3] His many stage roles included several Broadway premieres such as Landolfo in Pirandello‘s The Living Mask (Henry IV), 1924; Doctor Schindler in Schnitzler‘s The Call of Life (Der Ruf des Lebens), 1925; Captain Adam Brant in O’Neill‘s Mourning Becomes Electra, 1931; Ben Loman in Miller’s, Death of a Salesman, 1949; and Richard Bravo in Maxwell Anderson‘s The Bad Seed, 1954.[4]

One of Chalmer’s earliest film roles was The Minister in the 1923 silent film Puritan Passions based on a story by Nathaniel Hawthorne. His last film role was The Judge in Martin Ritt‘s The Outrage, released in 1964. Chalmers also produced and directed several short comedy films written by Robert Benchley, including The Sex Life of the Polyp and The Treasurer’s Report, both released in 1928.[5] His voice can be heard as the narrator in two documentary films by Pare Lorentz, The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936) and The River (1938), both with scores by Virgil Thomson.[6]

In the 1950s and 60s, Chalmers appeared on television as an actor in several drama anthology series including Westinghouse Studio One, CBS Television Workshop, Kraft Television Theatre, The DuPont Show of the Month and Play of the Week. He also appeared in single episodes of The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen, The Defenders, Mister Peepers, and several other weekly series.[5]

Chalmers’ wife, Vilma Fiorelli, was originally from Florence. They were married in London on June 24, 1913. One of the couple’s daughters, Vilma Flora Chalmers, married the banker Alfred Hayes in 1937.[7] Thomas Hardie Chalmers died on June 11, 1966 at the Laurelton Nursing Home in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was survived by his wife and his daughter, Vilma Hayes

2.After WW II

1) Mario Lanza

Mario Lanza

MGM still, ca. mid-1950s

Mario Lanza (January 31, 1921 – October 7, 1959) was an American tenor and Hollywood movie star of the late 1940s and the 1950s.The son of Italian immigrants, he began studying to be a professional singer at the age of 15.

After appearing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1947, Lanza signed a seven-year contract with MGM’s head, Louis B. Mayer, who saw his performance and was impressed by his singing. Prior to this, Lanza had made only two appearances on an operatic stage, when in 1948 he sang the role of Pinkerton in Puccini‘s Madama Butterfly in New Orleans.

His movie debut was in That Midnight Kiss, which produced an unlikely hit song in the form of Giuseppe Verdi‘s operatic aria “Celeste Aida.” The following year, in The Toast of New Orleans, his featured popular song “Be My Love” became his first million-selling hit. In 1951, he starred in the role of his tenor idol, Enrico Caruso (1873–1921), in the biopic, The Great Caruso, which produced another million-seller with “The Loveliest Night of the Year.” It was the top-grossing film that year.[1] The title song of his next film, Because You’re Mine, featured his final million-selling hit song. The song went on to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. After recording the soundtrack for his next film, The Student Prince he walked out on the project after an argument with producer Dore Schary over his behavior on the set.

Lanza was known to be “rebellious, tough, and ambitious”,[2] and during most of his film career, he suffered from addictions to overeating and alcohol which had a serious effect on his health and his relationships with directors, producers and sometimes other cast members. Hollywood columnist Hedda Hopper writes that “his smile, which was as big as his voice, was matched with the habits of a tiger cub, impossible to housebreak.” She adds that he was the “last of the great romantic performers”.[3] He made three more films before dying of a heart attack at the age of 38. At the time of his death in 1959 he was still “the most famous tenor in the world”.[4] Author Eleonora Kimmel concludes that Lanza “blazed like a meteor whose light lasts a brief moment in time

2) Robertino Loreti ,song o solo mio,KAPP,japan prod.


// <![CDATA[

Robertino Loreti

Robertino Loreti (born 22 October 1946 in Rome), also known as Roberto, is an Italian singer, known mostly for songs he performed as a teenager.




 Early years

He was born to a large family with eight other children. His family was poor, and when he was 10 his father fell sick and Robertino helped the family deliver bakery products to restaurants. He enjoyed singing folk songs on his way and was noticed by people for his singing voice. After a request to perform at a wedding in a restaurant, Robertino was sought after by other restaurants for the same services.

Robertino sang in Cafe Grand Italia where Neapolitan actor Totò and Danish TV producer Volmer Sørensen noticed him. Sørensen was vacationing in Rome with his wife, singer Grethe Sønck, who noticed the boy. Their interest in him led to performances on Danish TV shows. Robertino recorded an album while in Copenhagen, and later published several albums and appeared in movies.[1]


His voice eventually changed and is different than his child voice which gained him world fame.[2] Loreti still travels through Europe, the US and Russia performing in concerts. He is said to be especially popular in Russia,[who?] where he is friends with Russian singers Muslim Magomayev (died in 2008), Tamara Sinyavskaya and Joseph Kobzon. Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova requested his records played while she was in space. Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko composed a poem entitled “Robertino Loreti”.[3]

 Alleged conspiracy to murder Loreti

Pietro Castelluzzo, 58, was arrested Thursday, February 25, 2010, by members of the Organized Crime Enforcement unit of the Toronto Police Service, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and charged with four counts of counselling to commit three murders, one of whom was to be Robertino Loreti. The suspect had known the singer for decades, and Loreti had stayed at Castelluzo family home in Toronto in the 1980s. It was at this time that Castelluzzo believed Loreti had slept with his wife. The murder was to take place while Loreti had an engagement at the Fallsview Casino, Niagara Falls, Ontario, the following weekend

Frame Two :

The Italian Music Record History

Music of Italy

Music of Italy
Genres: Classical (Opera) – PopRock (Hardcore – New Wave – Progressive rock) – DiscoFolkHip hopJazz
History and Timeline
Awards Italian Music Awards
Charts Federation of the Italian Music Industry
Festivals Sanremo FestivalUmbria Jazz FestivalRavello FestivalFestival dei Due MondiFestivalbar
Media Music media in Italy
National anthem Il Canto degli Italiani
Regional scenes
Aosta ValleyAbruzzoBasilicataCalabriaCampaniaEmilia-RomagnaFlorenceFriuli-Venezia GiuliaGenoaLatiumLiguriaLombardyMarcheMilanMoliseNaplesPiedmontPugliaRomeSardiniaSicilyTrentino-Alto Adige/SüdtirolTuscanyUmbriaVenetoVenice
Related topics
Opera houses – Music conservatories – Terminology

The music of Italy ranges across a broad spectrum of opera and instrumental classical music, the traditional styles of the country’s different regions, and a body of popular music drawn from both native and imported sources. Music has traditionally been one of the cultural markers of Italian national and ethnic identity and holds an important position in society and in politics. Italian innovation in musical scales, harmony, notation, and theatre enabled the development of opera in the late 16th century, and much of modern European classical music, such as the symphony and concerto.

Instrumental and vocal classical music is an iconic part of Italian identity, spanning experimental art music and international fusions to symphonic music and opera. Opera is integral to Italian musical culture, and has become a major segment of popular music. The Neapolitan song, canzone Napoletana, and the cantautori singer-songwriter traditions are also popular domestic styles that form an important part of the Italian music industry, alongside imported genres like jazz, rock and hip hop. Italian folk music is an important part of the country’s musical heritage, and spans a diverse array of regional styles, instruments and dances.





More than other elements of Italian culture, Italian music is generally eclectic. No parochial protectionist movement has ever attempted to keep Italian music pure and free from foreign influence, except briefly under the Fascist regime of the 1920s and 30s.[1] As a result, Italian music has kept elements of the many peoples that have dominated or influenced the country, including Arabs, Greeks, Slavic Peoples, French and Spanish. The country’s historical contributions to music are also an important part of national pride. The relatively recent history of Italy includes the development of an opera tradition that has spread throughout the world; prior to the development of Italian identity or a unified Italian state, the Italian peninsula contributed to important innovations in music including the development of musical notation and Gregorian chant.

Immigrant populations from around the Mediterranean, especially Greece, the Balkans and North Africa, have established large communities in the southern peninsula over the last thousand years.[2] As a result, folk music on Sicily and the southern Italian mainland display features typical of elsewhere in the Mediterranean. These include an excessive nasality in the voice and an extremely ornamental approach to pitch.[3] Lomax’s description of southern Italian singing is widely cited: “A voice as pinched and strangulated and high-pitched as any in Europe. The singing expression is one of true agony, the throat is distended and flushed with strain, the brow knotted with a painful expression. Many tunes are long and highly ornamented in Oriental style.”[4] Melody has typically been important in most Italian musical forms, even at the expense of lyrics and harmonic complexity. This is true in opera, popular music and even, to some extent, in modern text-centered styles such as Italian hip hop and the music of the cantautori singer-songwriters.[5]

 Social identity

Italy was not unified politically until the 19th century. The drive towards unification led to efforts to create a sense of Italian identity, famously described by the Italian statesman Massimo d’Azeglio: “We have created Italy; now we have to create Italians.”[6] Abroad, Italian culture and society are often stereotyped, associating all Italian music with certain styles. For example, some years ago the Mayor of Venice banned gondoliers from singing Neapolitan songs for the tourists, most of whom requested “‘O sole mio” and other songs typical only of Naples but widely regarded abroad as characteristic of all Italian music.[7]

Allegiance to music is integrally woven into the social identity of Italians but no single style has been considered a characteristic “national style”. Most folk musics are localized, and unique to a small region or city.[8][9] Italy’s classical legacy, however, is an important point of the country’s identity, particularly opera; traditional operatic pieces remain a popular part of music and an integral component of national identity. The musical output of Italy remains characterized by “great diversity and creative independence (with) a rich variety of types of expression”.[9]

With the growing industrialization that accelerated during the 20th century, Italian society gradually moved from an agricultural base to an urban and industrial center. This change weakened traditional culture in many parts of society; a similar process occurred in other European countries, but unlike them, Italy had no major initiative to preserve traditional musics. Immigration from North Africa, Asia, and other European countries led to further diversification of Italian music. Traditional music came to exist only in small pockets, especially as part of dedicated campaigns to retain local musical identities:[8])


Music and politics have been intertwined for centuries in Italy. Just as many works of art in the Italian Renaissance were commissioned by royalty and the Roman Catholic Church, much music was likewise composed on the basis of such commissions—incidental court music, music for coronations, for the birth of a royal heir, royal marches, and other occasions. Composers who strayed ran certain risks. Among the best known of such cases was the Neapolitan composer Domenico Cimarosa, who composed the Republican hymn for the short-lived Neapolitan Republic of 1799. When the republic fell, he was tried for treason along with other revolutionaries. Cimarosa was not executed by the restored monarchy, but he was exiled.[10]

Music also played a role in the unification of the peninsula. During this period, some leaders attempted to use music to forge a unifying cultural identity. One example is the chorus “Va Pensiero” from Giuseppe Verdi‘s opera Nabucco. The opera is about ancient Babylon, but the chorus contains the phrase “O mia Patria“, ostensibly about the struggle of the Israelites, but also a thinly veiled reference to the destiny of a not-yet-united Italy; the entire chorus became the unofficial anthem of the Risorgimento, the drive to unify Italy in the 19th century. Even Verdi’s name was a synonym for Italian unity because “Verdi” could be read as an acronym for Vittorio Emanuele Re d’Italia, Victor Emanuel King of Italy, the Savoy monarch who eventually became Victor Emanuel II, the first king of united Italy. Thus, “Viva Verdi” was a rallying cry for patriots and often appeared in graffiti in Milan and other cities in what was then part of Austro-Hungarian territory. Verdi had problems with censorship before the unification of Italy. His opera Un ballo in maschera was originally entitled Gustavo III and was presented to the San Carlo opera in Naples, the capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, in the late 1850s. The Neapolitan censors objected to the realistic plot about the assassination of Gustav III, King of Sweden, in the 1790s. Even after the plot was changed, the Neapolitan censors still rejected it.[11]

Later, in the Fascist era of the 1920s and 30s, government censorship and interference with music occurred, though not on a systematic basis. Prominent examples include the notorious anti-modernist manifesto of 1932[12] and Mussolini‘s banning of G.F. Malipiero’s opera La favola del figlio cambiato after one performance in 1934.[13] The music media often criticized music that was perceived as either politically radical or insufficiently Italian.[9] General print media, such as the Enciclopedia Moderna Italiana, tended to treat traditionally favored composers such as Giacomo Puccini and Pietro Mascagni with the same brevity as composers and musicians that were not as favored—modernists such as Alfredo Casella and Ferruccio Busoni; that is, encyclopedia entries of the era were mere lists of career milestones such as compositions and teaching positions held. Even the conductor Arturo Toscanini, an avowed opponent of Fascism,[14] gets the same neutral and distant treatment with no mention at all of his “anti-regime” stance.[15] Perhaps the best-known episode of music colliding with politics involves Toscanini. He had been forced out of the musical directorship at La Scala in Milan in 1929 because he refused to begin every performance with the fascist song, Giovinezza. For this insult to the regime, he was attacked and beaten on the street outside the Bologne opera after a performance in 1931.[16] During the Fascist era, political pressure stymied the development of classical music, although censorship was not as systematic as in Nazi Germany. A series of “racial laws” was passed in 1938, thus denying to Jewish composers and musicians membership in professional and artistic associations.[17] Although there was not a massive flight of Italian Jews from Italy during this period (compared to the situation in Germany)[18] composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, an Italian Jew, was one of those who emigrated. Some non-Jewish foes of the regime also emigrated—Toscanini, for one.[1][19]

More recently, in the later part of the 20th century, especially in the 1970s and beyond, music became further enmeshed in Italian politics.[19] A roots revival stimulated interest in folk traditions, led by writers, collectors and traditional performers.[9] The political right in Italy viewed this roots revival with disdain, as a product of the “unprivileged classes”.[20] The revivalist scene thus became associated with the opposition, and became a vehicle for “protest against free-market capitalism”.[9] Similarly, the avant-garde classical music scene has, since the 1970s, been associated with and promoted by the Italian Communist Party, a change that can be traced back to the 1968 student revolts and protests.[8]

Classical music

A 1914 recording by popular Italian opera singers Titta Ruffo and Enrico Caruso of Giuseppe Verdi‘s Otello

A 1907 recording with Enrico Caruso as Rodolfo and Antonio Scotti as Marcello of “O Mimì, tu più non torni” from Act IV of Giacomo Puccini‘s La bohème.

Arcangelo Corelli, Baroque composer and violinist

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Italy has long been a center for European classical music, and by the beginning of the 20th century, Italian classical music had forged a distinct national sound that was decidedly Romantic and melodic. As typified by the operas of Verdi, it was music in which “…The vocal lines always dominate the tonal complex and are never overshadowed by the instrumental accompaniments…”[21] Italian classical music had resisted the “German harmonic juggernaut”[22]—that is, the dense harmonies of Richard Wagner, Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. Italian music also had little in common with the French reaction to that German music—the impressionism of Claude Debussy, for example, in which melodic development is largely abandoned for the creation of mood and atmosphere through the sounds of individual chords.[23]

European classical music changed greatly in the 20th century. New music abandoned much of the historical, nationally developed schools of harmony and melody in favor of experimental music, atonality, minimalism and electronic music, all of which employ features that have become common to European music in general and not Italy specifically.[24] These changes have also made classical music less accessible to many people. Important composers of the period include Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono, Luigi Dallapiccola, Carlo Jachino, Gian Carlo Menotti, Jacopo Napoli, and Goffredo Petrassi.


Main article: Italian opera

Opera originated in Italy in the late 16th century during the time of the Florentine Camerata. Through the centuries that followed, opera traditions developed in Venice and Naples; the operas of Claudio Monteverdi, Alessandro Scarlatti, and, later, of Gioacchino Rossini, Vincenzo Bellini, and Gaetano Donizetti flourished. Opera has remained the musical form most closely linked with Italian music and Italian identity. This was most obvious in the 19th century through the works of Giuseppe Verdi, an icon of Italian culture and pan-Italian unity. Italy retained a Romantic operatic musical tradition in the early 20th century, exemplified by composers of the so-called Giovane Scuola, whose music was anchored in the previous century, including Arrigo Boito, Ruggiero Leoncavallo, Pietro Mascagni, and Francesco Cilea.

After World War I, however, opera declined in comparison to the popular heights of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Causes included the general cultural shift away from Romanticism and the rise of the cinema, which became a major source of entertainment. A third cause is the fact that “internationalism” had brought contemporary Italian opera to a state where it was no longer “Italian”.[8] This was the opinion of at least one prominent Italian musicologist and critic, Fausto Terrefranca, who, in a 1912 pamphlet entitled Giaccomo Puccini and International Opera, accused Puccini of “commercialism” and of having deserted Italian traditions. Traditional Romantic opera remained popular; indeed, the dominant opera publisher in the early 20th century was Casa Ricordi, which focused almost exclusively on popular operas until the 30s, when the company allowed more unusual composers with less mainstream appeal. The rise of relatively new publishers such as Carisch and Suvini Zerboni also helped to fuel the diversification of Italian opera.[8] Opera remains a major part of Italian culture; renewed interest in opera across the sectors of Italian society began in the 1980s. Respected composers from this era include the well-known Aldo Clementi, and younger peers such as Marco Tutino and Lorenzo Ferrero.[8]

Sacred music

Italy, being one of Catholicism’s seminal nations, has a long history of music for the Roman Catholic Church. Until approximately 1800, it was possible to hear Gregorian Chant and Renaissance polyphony, such as the music of Palestrina, Lassus, Anerio, and others. Approximately 1800 to approximately 1900 was a century during which a more popular, operatic, and entertaining type of church music was heard, to the exclusion of the aforementioned chant and polyphony. In the late 19th century, the Cecilian Movement was started by musicians who fought to restore this music. This movement gained impetus not in Italy but in Germany, particularly in Regensburg. The movement reached its apex around 1900 with the ascent of Don Lorenzo Perosi and his supporter (and future saint), Pope Pius X.[25] The advent of Vatican II, however, nearly obliterated all Latin-language music from the Church, once again substituting it with a more popular style.[26]Instrumental music

The dominance of opera in Italian music tends to overshadow the important area of instrumental music.[27] Historically, such music includes the vast array of sacred instrumental music, instrumental concertos, and orchestral music in the works of Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Gabrieli, Tomaso Albinoni, Arcangelo Corelli, Antonio Vivaldi, Luigi Boccherini, Luigi Cherubini and Domenico Scarlatti. (Even opera composers occasionally worked in other forms—Giuseppe Verdi‘s String Quartet in E minor, for example. Even Donizetti, whose name is identified with the beginnings of Italian lyric opera, wrote 18 string quartets.) In the early 20th century, instrumental music began growing in importance, a process that started around 1904 with Giuseppe Martucci‘s Second Symphony, a work that Malipiero called “the starting point of the renascence of non-operatic Italian music.”[28] Several early composers from this era, such as Leone Sinigaglia, used native folk traditions.

The early 20th century is also marked by the presence of a group of composers called the generazione dell’ottanta (generation of 1880), including Franco Alfano, Alfredo Casella, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Ildebrando Pizzetti, and Ottorino Respighi. These composers usually concentrated on writing instrumental works, rather than opera. Members of this generation were the dominant figures in Italian music after Puccini’s death in 1924.[8] New organizations arose to promote Italian music, such as the Venice Festival of Contemporary Music and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Guido Gatti‘s founding of the periodical il Piano and then La rassegna musicale also helped to promote a broader view of music than the political and social climate allowed. Most Italians, however, preferred more traditional pieces and established standards, and only a small audience sought new styles of experimental classical music.[8]


Italian contributions to ballet are less known and appreciated than in other areas of classical music. Italy, particularly Milan, was the European center of court choreography as early as the 15th century in the form of such things as ritual masked balls. Early choreographers and composers of ballet include Fabrizio Caroso and Cesare Negri. The style of ballet known as the “spectacles all’italiana” imported to France from Italy caught on, and the first ballet performed in France (1581), Ballet comique de la Royn, was composed by an Italian, Baltazarini di Belgioioso,[29] better known by the French version of his name, Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx. Early ballet was accompanied by considerable instrumentation, with the playing of horns, trombones, kettle drums, dulcimers, bagpipes, etc. Although the music has not survived, there is speculation that dancers, themselves, may have played instruments onstage.[30] Then, in the wake of the French Revolution, Italy again became a center of ballet, largely through the efforts of Salvatore Viganò, a choreographer who worked with some of the most prominent composers of the day. He was made the balletmaster of La Scala in 1812.[29] The best-known example of Italian ballet from the 19th century is probably Excelsior, with music by Romualdo Marenco and choreography by Luigi Manzotti. It was composed in 1881 and is a lavish tribute to the scientific and industrial progress of the 19th century. It is still performed and was staged as recently as 2002.

Currently, major Italian opera theaters maintain ballet companies. They exist to provide incidental and ceremonial dancing in many operas, such as Aida or La Traviata. These dance companies usually maintain a separate ballet season and perform the standard repertoire of classical ballet, little of which is Italian. The Italian equivalent of the Russian Bolshoi Ballet and similar companies that exist only to perform ballet, independent of a parent opera theater is La Scala Ballet, which is under the direction of Frèdèric Olivieri. Since 1979 there has existed in Italy a modern dance company, the Aterballetto, based in Reggio Emilia. The company performs worldwide under the leadership of choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti.

Experimental music

Experimental music is a broad, loosely-defined field encompassing musics created by abandoning traditional classical concepts of melody and harmony, and by using the new technology of electronics to create hitherto impossible sounds. In Italy, one of the first to devote his attention to experimental music was Ferruccio Busoni, whose 1907 publication, Sketch for a New Aesthetic of Music, discussed the use of electrical and other new sounds in future music. He spoke of his dissatisfaction with the constraints of traditional music:

“We have divided the octave into twelve equidistant degrees…and have constructed our instruments in such as way that we can never get in above or below or between them…our ears are no longer capable of hearing anything else…yet Nature created an infinite gradation—infinite! Who still knows it nowadays?”[31]

Similarly, Luigi Russolo, the Italian Futurist painter and composer, wrote of the possibilities of new music in his 1913 manifestoes The Art of Noises and Musica Futurista. He also invented and built instruments such as the intonarumori, mostly percussion, which were used in a precursor to the style known as musique concrète. One of the most influential events in early 20th century music was the return of Alfredo Casella from France in 1915; Casella founded the Società Italiana di Musica Moderna, which promoted several composers in disparate styles, ranging from experimental to traditional. After a dispute over the value of experimental music in 1923, Casella formed the Corporazione delle Nuove Musiche to promote modern experimental music.[8]

In the 1950s, Luciano Berio experimented with instruments accompanied by electronic sounds on tape. In modern Italy, one important organization that fosters research in avantgarde and electronic music is CEMAT, the Federation of Italian Electroacoustic Music Centers. It was founded in 1996 in Rome and is a member of the CIME, the Confédération Internationale de Musique Electroacoustique. CEMAT promotes the activities of the “Sonora” project, launched jointly by the Department for Performing Arts, Ministry for Cultural Affairs and the Directorate for Cultural Relations, Ministry for Foreign Affairs with the object of promoting and diffusing Italian contemporary music abroad.

Classical music in society

Italian classical music grew gradually more experimental and progressive into the mid-20th century, while popular tastes have tended to stick with well established composers and compositions of the past.[8] The 2004-2005 program at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples is typical of modern Italy: of the eight operas represented, the most recent was Puccini. In symphonic music, of the 26 composers whose music was played, 21 of them were from the 19th century or earlier, composers who use the melodies and harmonies typical of the Romantic era. This focus is common to other European traditions, and is known as postmodernism, a school of thought that draws on earlier harmonic and melodic concepts that pre-date the conceptions of atonality and dissonance.[32] This focus on popular historical composers has helped to maintain a continued presence of classical music across a broad spectrum of Italian society. When music is part of a public display or gathering, it is often chosen from a very eclectic repertoire that is as likely to include well-known classical music as popular music.

A few recent works have become a part of the modern repertoire, including scores and theatrical works by composers such as Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono, Franco Donatoni, and Sylvano Bussotti. These composers are not part of a distinct school or tradition, though they do share certain techniques and influences. By the 1970s, avant-garde classical music had become linked to the Italian Communist Party, while a revival of popular interest continued into the next decade, with foundations, festivals and organization created to promote modern music. Near the end of the 20th century, government sponsorship of musical institutions began to decline, and several RAI choirs and city orchestras were closed. Despite this, a number of composers gained international reputations in the early 21st century.[8]

 Folk music

Main article: Italian folk music
A Bersaglieri marching song, recorded in Northern California

A tarantella, sung in Neapolitan dialect, recorded in Northern California

An unaccompanied Italian-American folk song

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Italian folk music has a deep and complex history.[33] Because national unification came late to the Italian peninsula, the traditional music of its many hundreds of cultures exhibit no homogeneous national character. Rather, each region and community possesses a unique musical tradition that reflects the history, language, and ethnic composition of that particular locale.[34] These traditions reflect Italy’s geographic position in southern Europe and in the centre of the Mediterranean; Arabic, African, Celtic, Persian, Roma, and Slavic influences, as well as rough geography and the historic dominance of small city states, have all combined to allow diverse musical styles to coexist in close proximity.

Italian folk styles are very diverse, and include monophonic, polyphonic, and responsorial song, choral, instrumental and vocal music, and other styles. Choral singing and polyphonic song forms are primarily found in northern Italy, while south of Naples, solo singing is more common, and groups usually use unison singing in two or three parts carried by a single performer. Northern ballad-singing is syllabic, with a strict tempo and intelligible lyrics, while southern styles use a rubato tempo, and a strained, tense vocal style.[35] Folk musicians use the dialect of their own regional tradition; this rejection of the standard Italian language in folk song is nearly universal. There is little perception of a common Italian folk tradition, and the country’s folk music never became a national symbol.[36]

Map of Italy showing the names of a dozen common places.

Some common geographical names used as points of reference in Italy.[37]


Italy’s folk music is sometimes divided into several spheres of geographic influence, a classification system of three regions, southern, central and northern, proposed by Alan Lomax in 1956[38] and often repeated. Additionally, Curt Sachs[39] proposed the existence of two quite distinct kinds of folk music in Europe: continental and Mediterranean, and others[40] have placed the transition zone from the former to the latter roughly in north-central Italy, approximately between Pesaro and La Spezia. The central, northern and southern parts of the peninsula each share certain musical characteristics, and are each distinct from the music of Sardinia.[35]

In the Piedmontese valleys and some Ligurian communities of northwestern Italy, the music preserves the strong influence of ancient Occitania. The lyrics of the Occitanic troubadours are some of the oldest preserved samples of vernacular song, and modern bands like Gai Saber and Lou Dalfin preserve and contemporize Occitan music. The Occitanian culture retains characteristics of the ancient Celtic influence, through the use of six or seven hole flutes (fifre) or the bagpipes (piva). The music of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, in northeastern Italy, shares much more in common with Austria and Slovenia including variants of the waltz and the polka. Much of northern Italy shares with areas of Europe further to the north an interest in ballad singing (called canto epico lirico in Italian) and choral singing. Even ballads—usually thought of as a vehicle for a solo voice—may be sung in choirs. In the province of Trento “folk choirs” are the most common form of music making.[41]

Noticeable musical differences in the southern type include increased use of interval part singing and a greater variety of folk instruments. The Celtic and Slavic influences on the group and open-voice choral works of the north yield to a stronger Arabic, Greek, and African-influenced strident monody of the south. In parts of Apulia (Grecìa Salentina, for example) the Griko dialect is commonly used in song. The Apulian city of Taranto is a home of the tarantella, a rhythmic dance widely performed in southern Italy. Apulian music in general, and Salentine music in particular, has been well researched and documented by ethnomusicologists and by Aramirè.

The music of the island of Sardinia is best known for the polyphonic chanting of the tenores. The sound of the tenores recalls the roots of Gregorian chant, and is similar to but distinctive from the Ligurian trallalero. Typical instruments include the launeddas, a Sardinian triplepipe used in a sophisticated and complex manner. Efisio Melis was a well-known master launeddas player of the 1930s.[42]


Italian folk songs include ballads, lyrical songs, lullabies and children’s songs, seasonal songs based around holidays such as Christmas, life-cycle songs that celebrate weddings, baptisms and other important events, dance songs, cattle calls and occupational songs, tied to professions such as fishermen, shepherds and soldiers. Ballads (canti epico-lirici) and lyric songs (canti lirico-monostrofici) are two important categories. Ballads are most common in northern Italy, while lyric songs prevail further south. Ballads are closely tied to the English form, with some British ballads existing in exact correspondence with an Italian song. Other Italian ballads are more closely based on French models. Lyric songs are a diverse category that consist of lullabies, serenades and work songs, and are frequently improvised though based on a traditional repertoire.[35]

Other Italian folk song traditions are less common than ballads and lyric songs. Strophic, religious laude, sometimes in Latin, are still occasionally performed, and epic songs are also known, especially those of the maggio celebration. Professional female singers perform dirges similar in style to those elsewhere in Europe. Yodeling exists in northern Italy, though it is most commonly associated with the folk musics of other Alpine nations. The Italian Carnival is associated with several song types, especially the Carnival of Bagolino, Brescia. Choirs and brass bands are a part of the mid-Lenten holiday, while the begging song tradition extends through many holidays throughout the year.[35]


A musical instrument about the size of a harpsichord, with keys, buttons and bellows.

A folk accordion.

Instrumentation is an integral part of all facets of Italian folk music. There are several instruments that retain older forms even while newer models have become widespread elsewhere in Europe. Many Italian instruments are tied to certain rituals or occasions, such as the zampogna bagpipe, typically heard only at Christmas.[43] Italian folk instruments can be divided into string, wind and percussion categories.[44] Common instruments include the organetto, an accordion most closely associated with the saltarello; the diatonic button organetto is most common in central Italy, while chromatic accordions prevail in the north. Many municipalities are home to brass bands, which perform with roots revival groups; these ensembles are based around the clarinet, accordion, violin and small drums, adorned with bells.[35]

Four examples of a primitive wooden flute.

A selection of folk flutes

Italy’s wind instruments include most prominently a variety of folk flutes. These include duct, globular and transverse flutes, as well as various variations of the pan flute. Double flutes are most common in Campania, Calabria and Sicily.[45] A ceramic pitcher called the quartara is also used as a wind instrument, by blowing across an opening in the narrow bottle neck; it is found in eastern Sicily and Campania. Single- (ciaramella) and double-reed (piffero) pipes are commonly played in groups of two or three.[35] Several folk bagpipes are well-known, including central Italy’s zampogna; dialect names for the bagpipe vary throughout Italy– beghet in Bergamo, piva in Lombardy, müsa in Alessandria, Genoa, Pavia and Piacenza, and so forth.

Numerous percussion instruments are a part of Italian folk music, including wood blocks, bells, castanets, drums. Several regions have their own distinct form of rattle, including the raganella cog rattle and the Calabrian conocchie, a spinning or shepherd’s staff with permanently attached seed rattles with ritual fertility significance. The Neapolitan rattle is the triccaballacca, made out of several mallets in a wooden frame. Tambourines (tamburini, tamburello) , as are various kinds of drums, such as the friction drum putipù. The Tamburello, while appearing very similar to the contemporary western tambourine, is actually played with a much more articulate and sophisticated technique (influenced by Middle Eastern playing), giving it a wide range of sounds. The mouth-harp, scacciapensieri or care-chaser, is a distinctive instrument, found only in northern Italy and Sicily.[35]

A simple bagpipe made of cloth with two wooden mouthpieces.

The zampogna, a folk bagpipe.

String instruments vary widely depending on locality, with no nationally prominent representative. Viggiano is home to a harp tradition, which has a historical base in Abruzzi, Lazio and Calabria.

Calabria, alone, has 30 traditional musical instruments, some of which have strongly archaic characteristics and are largely extinct elsewhere in Italy. It is home to the four- or five-stringed guitar called the chitarra battente, and a three-stringed, bowed fiddle called the lira,[46] which is also found in similar forms in the music of Crete and Southeastern Europe. A one-stringed, bowed fiddle called the torototela, is common in the northeast of the country. The largely German-speaking Alto Adige/South Tyrol is known for the zither, and the ghironda (hurdy-gurdy) is found in Emilia, Piedmont and Lombardy.[35] Existing, rooted and widespread traditions confirm the production of ephemeral and toy instruments made of bark, reed (arundo donax), leaves, fibers and stems, as it emerges, for example, from Fabio Lombardi‘s research.


Dance is an integral part of folk traditions in Italy. Some of the dances are ancient and, to a certain extent, persist today. There are magico-ritual dances of propitiation as well as harvest dances, including the “sea-harvest” dances of fishing communities in Calabria and the wine harvest dances in Tuscany. Famous dances include the southern tarantella; perhaps the most iconic of Italian dances, the tarantella is in 6/8 time, and is part of a folk ritual intended to cure the poison caused by tarantula bites. Popular Tuscan dances ritually act out the hunting of the hare, or display blades in weapon dances that simulate or recall the moves of combat, or use the weapons as stylized instruments of the dance itself. For example, in a few villages in northern Italy, swords are replaced by wooden half-hoops embroidered with green, similar to the so-called “garland dances” in northern Europe.[47] There are also dances of love and courting, such as the duru-duru dance in Sardinia.[48]

Many of these dances are group activities, the group setting up in rows or circles; some—the love and courting dances—involve couples, either a single couple or more. The tammuriata (performed to the sound of the tambourine) is a couple dance performed in southern Italy and accompanied by a lyric song called a strambotto. Other couples dances are collectively referred to as saltarello.[35] There are, however, also solo dances; most typical of these are the “flag dances” of various regions of Italy, in which the dancer passes a town flag or pennant around the neck, through the legs, behind the back, often tossing it high in the air and catching it. These dances can also be done in groups of solo dancers acting in unison or by coordinating flag passing between dancers. Northern Italy is also home to the monferrina, an accompanied dance that was incorporated in Western art music by the composer Muzio Clementi.[35]

Academic interest in the study of dance from the perspectives of sociology and anthropology has traditionally been neglected in Italy but is currently showing renewed life at the university and post-graduate level.[49]

Popular music

Main article: Italian popular music
La canzone di Marinella by Fabrizio de Andre

La luce dell’est (1972) by Lucio Battisti

Niente da perdere by Zucchero


The earliest Italian popular music was the opera of the 19th century. Opera has had a lasting effect on Italy’s folk, classical and popular musics. Opera tunes spread through brass bands and itinerant ensembles. Canzone Napoletana, or Neapolitan song, is a distinct tradition that became a part of popular music in the 19th century, and was an iconic image of Italian music abroad by the end of the 20th century.[35]

Imported styles have also become an important part of Italian popular music, beginning with the French Café-chantant in the 1890s and then the arrival of American jazz in the 1910s. Until Italian Fascism became officially “allergic” to foreign influences in the late 1930s, American dance music and musicians were quite popular; jazz great Louis Armstrong toured Italy as late as 1935 to great acclaim.[50] In the 1950s, American styles became more prominent, especially rock. The singer-songwriter cantautori tradition was a major development of the later 1960s, while the Italian rock scene soon diversified into progressive, punk, funk and folk-based styles.[35]

 Early popular song

Italian opera became immensely popular in the 19th century and was known across even the most rural sections of the country. Most villages had occasional opera productions, and the techniques used in opera influenced rural folk musics. Opera spread through itinerant ensembles and brass bands, focused in a local village. These civic bands (banda communale) used instruments to perform operatic arias, with trombones or fluegelhorns for male vocal parts and cornets for female parts.[35]

Regional music in the 19th century also became popular throughout Italy. Notable among these local traditions was the Canzone Napoletana—the Neapolitan Song. Although there are anonymous, documented songs from Naples from many centuries ago,[51] the term, canzone Napoletana now generally refers to a large body of relatively recent, composed popular music—such songs as “‘O sole mio“, “Torna a Surriento”, and “Funiculi Funicula”. In the 18th century, many composers, including Alessandro Scarlatti, Leonardo Vinci, and Giovanni Paisiello, contributed to the Neapolitan tradition by using the local language for the texts of some of their comic operas. Later, others—most famously Gaetano Donizetti—composed Neapolitan songs that garnered great renown in Italy and abroad.[35] The Neapolitan song tradition became formalized in the 1830s through an annual songwriting competition for the yearly Piedigrotta festival,[52] dedicated to the Madonna of Piedigrotta, a well-known church in the Mergellina area of Naples. The music is identified with Naples, but is famous abroad, having been exported on the great waves of emigration from Naples and southern Italy roughly between 1880 and 1920. Language is an extremely important element of Neapolitan song, which is always written and performed in Neapolitan,[53] the regional minority language of Campania. Neapolitan songs typically use simple harmonies, and are structured in two sections, a refrain and narrative verses, often in contrasting relative or parallel major and minor keys.[35] In non-musical terms, this means that many Neapolitan songs can sound joyful one minute and melancholy the next.

The music of Francesco Tosti was popular at the turn of the 20th century, and is remembered for his light, expressive songs. His style became very popular during the Belle Époque and is often known as salon music. His most famous works are Serenata, Addio and the popular Neapolitan song, Marechiaro, the lyrics of which are by the prominent Neapolitan dialect poet, Salvatore di Giacomo.

Recorded popular music began in the late 19th century, with international styles influencing Italian music by the late 1910s; however, the rise of autarchia, the Fascist policy of cultural isolationism in 1922 led to a retreat from international popular music. During this period, popular Italian musicians traveled abroad and learned elements of jazz, Latin American music and other styles. These musics influenced the Italian tradition, which spread around the world and further diversified following liberalization after World War II.[35]

Under the isolationist policies of the fascist regime, which rose to power in 1922, Italy developed an insular musical culture. Foreign musics were suppressed while Mussolini’s government encouraged nationalism and linguistic and ethnic purity. Popular performers, however, travelled abroad, and brought back new styles and techniques.[35] American jazz was an important influence on singers such as Alberto Rabagliati, who became known for a swinging style. Elements of harmony and melody from both jazz and blues were used in many popular songs, while rhythms often came from Latin dances like the tango, rumba and beguine. Italian composers incorporated elements from these styles, while Italian music, especially Neapolitan song, became a part of popular music across Latin America.[35]

Modern pop

Among the best-known Italian pop musicians of the last few decades are Domenico Modugno, Mina, Gianni Morandi, I Pooh, Adriano Celentano and, more recently, Zucchero, Vasco Rossi, Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini, Giorgia Todrani, 883 and international superstar Andrea Bocelli. Musicians who compose and sing their own songs are called cantautori (singer-songwriters). Their compositions typically focus on topics of social relevance and are often protest songs: this wave began in the 1960s with musicians like Fabrizio De André, Giorgio Gaber, Gino Paoli and Luigi Tenco. Social, political, psychological and intellectual themes, mainly in the wake of Gaber and De André’s work, became even more predominant in 1970s through authors such as Pino Daniele, Francesco De Gregori, Francesco Guccini, Antonello Venditti and Roberto Vecchioni. Lucio Battisti, from the late 1960s until mid 1990s, merged the Italian music with the British rock and pop and, lately in his career, with genres like the synthpop, rap, techno and eurodance, while Angelo Branduardi and Franco Battiato pursued careers more oriented to the tradition of Italian pop music.[54] There is some genre cross-over between the cantautori and those who are viewed as singers of “protest music”.[55]

Film scores, although they are secondary to the film, are often critically acclaimed and very popular in their own right. Among early music for Italian films from the 1930s was the work of Riccardo Zandonai with scores for the films La Principessa Tarakanova (1937) and Caravaggio (1941). Post-war examples include Goffredo Petrassi with Non c’e pace tra gli ulivi (1950) and Roman Vlad with Giulietta e Romeo (1954). Another well-known film composer was Nino Rota whose post-war career included the scores for films by Federico Fellini and, later, The Godfather series. Other prominent film score composers include Ennio Morricone, Riz Ortolani and Piero Umiliani.[56]

 Imported styles

See also Italian hip hop, Italian jazz, Italian rock, Italian progressive rock

During the Belle Époque, the French fashion of performing popular music at the café-chantant spread throughout Europe.[57] The tradition had much in common with cabaret, and there is overlap between café-chantant, café-concert, cabaret, music hall, vaudeville and other similar styles, but at least in its Italian manifestation, the tradition remained largely apolitical, focusing on lighter music, often risqué, but not bawdy. The first café-chantant in Italy was the Salone Margherita, which opened in 1890 on the premises of the new Galleria Umberto in Naples.[58] Elsewhere in Italy, the Gran Salone Eden in Milan and the Music Hall Olympia in Rome opened shortly thereafter. Café-chantant was alternately known as the Italianized caffè-concerto. The main performer, usually a woman, was called a chanteuse in French; the Italian term, sciantosa, is a direct coinage from the French. The songs, themselves, were not French, but were lighthearted or slightly sentimental songs composed in Italian. That music went out of fashion with the advent of World War I.

The influence of US pop forms has been strong since the end of World War II. Lavish Broadway-show numbers, big bands, rock and roll, and hip hop continue to be popular. Latin music, especially Brazilian bossa nova, is also popular, and the Puerto Rican genre of reggaeton is rapidly becoming a mainstream form of dance music. It is now not uncommon for modern Italian pop artists such as Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti, Zucchero and Andrea Bocelli to release new songs in English or Spanish in addition to, or instead of, Italian. Thus, musical revues, which are standard fare on current Italian television, can easily go, in a single evening, from a big-band number with dancers to an Elvis impersonator to a current pop singer doing a rendition of a Puccini aria.

Jazz found its way into Europe during World War I through the presence of American musicians in military bands playing syncopated music.[59] Yet, even before that, Italy received an inkling of new music from across the Atlantic in the form of Creole singers and dancers who performed at the Eden Theater in Milan in 1904; they billed themselves as the “creators of the cakewalk.” The first real jazz orchestras in Italy, however, were formed during the 1920s by bandleaders such as Arturo Agazzi and enjoyed immediate success.[50] In spite of the anti-American cultural policies of the Fascist regime during the 1930s, American jazz remained popular.

In the immediate post-war years, jazz took off in Italy. All American post-war jazz styles, from bebop to free jazz and fusion have their equivalents in Italy. The universality of Italian culture ensured that jazz clubs would spring up throughout the peninsula, that all radio and then television studios would have jazz-based house bands, that Italian musicians would then start nurturing a home grown kind of jazz, based on European song forms, classical composition techniques and folk music. Currently, all Italian music conservatories have jazz departments, and there are jazz festivals each year in Italy, the best known of which is the Umbria Jazz Festival, and there are prominent publications such as the journal, Musica Jazz.

Italian pop rock has produced major stars like Zucchero, and has resulted in many top hits. The industry media, especially television, are important vehicles for such music; the television show Sabato Sera is characteristic.[60] Italy was at the forefront of the progressive rock movement of the 1970s, a style that primarily developed in Europe but also gained audiences elsewhere in the world. It is sometimes considered a separate genre, Italian progressive rock. Italian bands such as Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM), Banco del Mutuo Soccorso, and Le Orme incorporated a mix of symphonic rock and Italian folk music and were popular throughout Europe and the United States as well. Other progressive bands such as Balletto di Bronzo or Museo Rosenbach remained little known, but their albums are today considered classics by collectors. A few avant-garde rock bands (Area or Picchio dal Pozzo) gained notoriety for their innovative sound. Progressive rock concerts in Italy tended to have a strong political undertone and an energetic atmosphere.

The Italian hip hop scene began in the early 1990s with Articolo 31 from Milan, whose style was mainly influenced by East Coast rap. Other early hip hop crews were typically politically-oriented, like 99 Posse, who later became more influenced by British trip hop. More recent crews include gangster rappers like Sardinia’s La Fossa. Other recently imported styles include techno, trance, and electronica performed by artists including Gabry Ponte, Eiffel 65, and Gigi D`Agostino.[61] Hip hop is especially characteristic of southern Italy, a fact which some observers have contributed to the view of southern culture as more “African” than “European”, as well as the southern concept of rispettu (respect, honor), a form of verbal jousting; both facts have helped identify southern Italian music with the African American hip hop style.[62] Additionally, there are many bands in Italy that play a style called patchanka, which is characterized by a mixture of traditional music, punk, reggae, rock and political lyrics. Modena City Ramblers are one of the more popular bands known for their mix of Irish, Italian, punk, reggae and many other forms of music.[61]

Italy has also become a home for a number of Mediterranean fusion projects. These include Al Darawish, a multicultural band based in Sicily and led by Palestinian Nabil Ben Salaméh. The Luigi Cinque Tarantula Hypertext Orchestra is another example, as is the TaraGnawa project by Phaleg and Nour Eddine. The Neapolitan popular singer, Massimo Ranieri has also released a CD, Oggi o dimane, of traditional canzone Napoletana with North African rhythms and instruments.[61]


An aisle in a store showing rows of CDs for sale.

Inside a music superstore.

A recent economics report says that the music industry in Italy made 2.3 billion € in 2004. That sum refers to the sale of CDs, music electronics, musical instruments, and ticket sales for live performances; it represents a 4.35% growth over 2004. The actual sale of music albums has decreased slightly, but there has been a compensatory increase in paid-for digitally downloaded music from industry-approved sites. By way of comparison, the Italian recording industry ranks eighth in the world; Italians own 0.7 music albums per capita as opposed to the USA, in first-place with 2.7. The report cites a 20% increase in 2004 over 2003 in paid royalties for on-air as well as live music.[63]

Nationwide, there are three state-run and three private TV networks. All provide live music at least some of the time, thus giving work to musicians, singers, and dancers. Many large cities in Italy have local TV stations, as well, which may provide live folk or dialect music often of interest only to the immediate area. Book and CD superstores have entered the Italian market over the last decade. The largest of these chains is Feltrinelli, originally a publishing house in the 1950s. In 2001, it geared up to the level of Multimedia Store and now sells massive quantities of recorded music. There are, as of 2006, 14 such mega-stores in Italy, with more planned. FNAC is another large chain, originally French. It has six large outlets in Italy. These stores also serve as venues for music performance, hosting several concerts a week.

Venues, festivals and holidays

Uniformed band members standing in formation, the band leader in front.

An Italian army military band

An orchestra before a performance on an outdoor stage on a balcony with water in the background.

The annual Festival of Ravello is a popular music venue in Italy. Here, an orchestra starts to set up on a stage overlooking the Amalfi coast.

Venues for music in Italy include concerts at the many music conservatories, symphony halls and opera houses. Italy also has many well-known international music festivals each year, including the Festival of Spoleto, the Festival Puccini and the Wagner Festival in Ravello. Some festivals offer venues to younger composers in classical music by producing and staging winning entries in competitions. The winner, for example, of the “Orpheus” International Competition for New Opera and Chamber music—besides winning considerable prize money—gets to see his or her musical work performed at The Spoleto Festival.[64] There are also dozens of privately sponsored master classes in music each year that put on concerts for the public. Italy is also a common destination for well-known orchestras from abroad; at almost any given time during the busiest season, at least one major orchestra from elsewhere in Europe or North America is playing a concert in Italy. Additionally, public music may be heard at dozens of pop and rock concerts throughout the year. Open-air opera may even be heard, for example, at the ancient Roman amphitheater, the Arena of Verona. Military bands, too, are popular in Italy. At a national level, one of the best-known of these is the concert band of the Guardia di Finanza (Italian Customs/Border Police); it performs many times a year.

Many theaters also routinely stage not just Italian translations of American musicals, but true Italian musical comedy, which are called by the English term musical. In Italian, that term describes a kind of musical drama not native to Italy, a form that employs the American idiom of jazz-pop-and rock-based music and rhythms to move a story along in a combination of songs and dialogue.

Music in religious rituals, especially Roman Catholic, manifests itself in a number of ways. Parish bands, for example, are quite common throughout Italy. They may be as small as four or five members to as many as 20 or 30. They commonly perform at religious festivals specific to a particular town, usually in honor of the town’s patron saint. The historic orchestral/choral masterpieces performed in church by professionals are well-known; these include such works as the Stabat Mater by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and Verdi’s Requiem. The Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965 revolutionized music in the Roman Catholic Church, leading to an increase in the number of amateur choirs that perform regularly for services; the Council also encouraged the congregational singing of hymns, and a vast repertoire of new hymns has been composed in the last 40 years.[65]

There is not a great deal of native Italian Christmas music. The most popular Italian Christmas carol is “Tu scendi dalle stelle”, the modern Italian words to which were written by Pope Pius IX in 1870. The melody is a major-key version of an older, minor-key Neapolitan carol “Quanno Nascette Ninno”. Other than that, Italians largely sing translations of carols that come from the German and English tradition (“Silent Night”, for example). There is no native Italian secular Christmas music, which accounts for the popularity of Italian-language versions of “Jingle Bells” and “White Christmas“.[66]
The Festival of Italian Song (also known as the Sanremo Music Festival) is an important venue for popular music in Italy. It has been held annually since 1951 and is currently staged at the Teatro Ariston in Sanremo. It runs for one week in February, and gives veteran and new performers a chance to present new songs. Winning the contest has often been a springboard to industry success. The festival is televised nationally for three hours a night, is hosted by the best-known Italian TV personalities, and has been a vehicle for such performers as Domenico Modugno, perhaps the best-known Italian pop singer of the last 50 years.

Television variety shows are the widest venue for popular music. They change often, but Buona Domenica, Domenica In, and I raccomandati are popular. The longest running musical broadcast in Italy is La Corrida, a three-hour weekly program of amateurs and would-be musicians.[67] It started on the radio in 1968 and moved to TV in 1988. The studio audience bring cow-bells and sirens and are encouraged to show good-natured disapproval. The city with the highest number of rock concerts (of national and international artists) is Milan, with a number close to the other European music capitals, as Paris, London and Berlin.


Statue of a man sitting on a rock, with an intent look.

Within the courtyard of the Naples Music Conservatory

Many institutes of higher education teach music in Italy. About 75 music conservatories provide advanced training for future professional musicians. There are also dozens of private music schools and workshops for instrument building and repair. Private teaching is also quite common in Italy. Elementary and high school students can expect to have one or two weekly hours of music teaching, generally in choral singing and basic music theory, though extracurricular opportunities are rare.[68] Though most Italian universities have classes in related subjects such as music history, performance is not a common feature of university education.

Italy has a specialized system of high schools; students attend, as they choose, a high school for humanities, science, foreign languages, or art—but not music. Italy does have ambitious, recent programs to expose children to more music. Furthermore with the recent education reform a specific Liceo musicale e coreutico (2nd level secondary school, ages 14–15 to 18-19) is explicitly indicated by the law decrees.[69] Yet this kind of school has not been set up and is not effectively operational. The state-run television network has started a program to use modern satellite technology to broadcast choral music into public schools.[70]


Scholarship in the field of collecting, preserving and cataloguing all varieties of music is vast. In Italy, as elsewhere, these tasks are spread over a number of agencies and organizations. Most large music conservatories maintain departments that oversee the research connected with their own collections. Such research is coordinated on a national and international scale via the internet. One prominent institution in Italy is IBIMUS, the Istituto di Bibliografia Musicale in Rome. It works with other agencies on an international scale through RISM, the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales, an inventory and index of source material. Also, the Discoteca di Stato (National Archives of Recordings) in Rome, founded in 1928, holds the largest public collection of recorded music in Italy with some 230,000 examples of classical music, folk music, jazz, and rock, recorded on everything from antique wax cylinders to modern electronic media.

The scholarly study of traditional Italian music began in about 1850, with a group of early philological ethnographers who studied the impact of music on a pan-Italian national identity. A unified Italian identity only just started to develop after the political integration of the peninsula in 1860. The focus at that time was on the lyrical and literary value of music, rather than the instrumentation; this focus remained until the early 1960s. Two folkloric journals helped to encourage the burgeoning field of study, the Rivista Italiana delle Tradizioni Popolari and Lares, founded in 1894 and 1912, respectively. The earliest major musical studies were on the Sardinian launeddas in 1913-1914 by Mario Giulio Fara; on Sicilian music, published in 1907 and 1921 by Alberto Favara; and studies of the music of Emilia Romagna in 1941 by Francesco Balilla Pratella.[35]

The earliest recordings of Italian traditional music came in the 1920s, but they were rare until the establishment of the Centro Nazionale Studi di Musica Popolare at the National Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome. The Center sponsored numerous song collection trips across the peninsula, especially to southern and central Italy. Giorgio Nataletti was an instrumental figure in the Center, and also made numerous recordings himself. The American scholar Alan Lomax and the Italian, Diego Carpitella, made an exhaustive survey of the peninsula in 1954. By the early 1960s, a roots revival encouraged more study, especially of northern musical cultures, which many scholars had previously assumed maintained little folk culture. The most prominent scholars of this era included Roberto Leydi, Ottavio Tiby and Leo Levi. During the 1970s, Leydi and Carpitella were appointed to the first two chairs of ethnomusicology at universities, with Carpitella at the University of Rome and Leydi at the University of Bologna. In the 1980s, Italian scholars began focusing less on making recordings, and more on studying and synthesizing the information already collected. Others studied Italian music in the United States and Australia, and the folk musics of recent immigrants to Italy.[35]

Italian popular music of the 1950’s
Italian Music of the '50sDomenico Modugno singing “Nel blu dipinto di blu”
// //

At the end of the Second World War, Allied troupes occupied Italy and American and English soldiers stormed through the country bringing all those things Italian people hadn’t been allowed to have for twenty solid years. Italy enjoyed its freedom, and even if money was tight and the war had left terrible scars, people, finally free from twenty long years of dictatorship, wanted to sing, dance, and have fun. And, they wanted to do it to the rhythm of the musical trends from across the Atlantic Ocean.

From 1945 onward, Italian popular music’s history became inextricably intertwined with American and English ones, though it did not completely diverge from its own heritage. Opera and classical regional music, namely the Neapolitan Song, which represented the tradition of melody and bel canto (beautiful singing), still had a very strong impact on Italian popular music of the 1950s and ’60s. Foreign influences and autochthonous styles blended together in a mix that sometimes resulted in some very peculiar and unique musical phenomena. One of these is the development of not only single musicians or bands but also a figure which became, and still is, a distinctive feature of Italian popular music: that of the of Cantautore (singer-songwriter).

One of the most important events in the history of Italian pop is indisputably the creation in 1951 of the Festival della canzone italiana (generally referred to as Festival di San Remo or outside Italy as Sanremo Music Festival). This song contest, held annually from Ariston theater in the town of San Remo (La Spezia), became so famous in Europe that it even inspired the Eurovision Song Contest. Sanremo Music Festival is still running today and, although considered by most critics and young people to be too mainstream and traditional, is still regarded as a very important showcase for Italian musicians. The first Sanremo festivals were broadcast on the Italian national radio channel, and since 1955 have been broadcast live on television.

The rules of the competition have varied quite a bit over the last fifty years, but from 1953 to 1971, in order to stress the fact that the festival was a composer’s competition and not a singer’s, each song was played twice, with two different arrangements sung by two different singers or bands. Usually, one version of the song was performed by an Italian artist and the other by an international guest. This practice brought many great foreign musicians of the time to the attention of Italian audiences, helping a quicker development of national musical tastes.

In more recent years the number of contestants has increased and the festival has become a very popular TV show instead of essentially a song contest; still, it has launched the careers of many Italian singers famous the world over, such as Andrea Bocelli, Eros Ramazzotti, and Laura Pausini.

Mina : Tinatarella di luna 1959

The 1950s for Italy were a decade of reconstruction, economic growth, and opening to the world. These trends naturally reverberated through popular music, which became more syncopated and rhythmic, openly influenced by swing and jazz. While all Italian musicians of the time were extremely open to foreign influences, one prominent and unique Italian tried not only to fuse American musical rhythms with Italian tradition, but also to bring a certain American imagery to Italian audiences, that of gangsters and the mob with “Guys and Dolls” style; that man was Fred Buscaglione.


Ferdinando Buscaglione, later known as Fred, was born in Turin in 1921. His passion for music was evident when he was very young and his parents enrolled him in the Conservatorio (music school) when he was only eleven. He became a violinist, and a very good one, but his real passion was jazz, so he started playing with swing orchestras. During the first post-war years, his name appeared at the top the European jazz charts right after other violinists like Stephane Grappelli and Joe Venuti.

But it was only in the middle of the 1950’s, with the help of his old friend Leo Chiosso who was to write all the very crisp and amusing lyrics of his songs, that he found his own voice, composing his own music and forming his own band. His repertoire was more than a mere set of songs, putting together a delicious hard-boiled set of theatrics and brought to life a musical universe which was an Italian-style parody of Peter Cheyney novels and Eddie Constantine films. Tracks such as “Che bambola!” (1956), “Whisky facile”(1957), “Eri piccola” (1958), all featured unlikely and humorous versions of Chicago or New York gangsters, aping hundreds of “tough guys” of the Hollywood flicks, ruthless with their enemies yet so sensitive to feminine charm.

The success of his music, and above all his character, was immediate and amazing, and he was soon overwhelmed with adverts and movie offers, but tragically he died at the height of his career. Ironically, Fred Buscaglione died just like one of his tough guys would, sending his pink Thunderbird crashing into a truck in a Roman street, drenched in his beloved alcohol and full of regret for his broken marriage.

His musical style was pretty unique but provided a very strong influence for future generations, and many modern Italian musicians claim to owe a lot to his sense of humor, his daring mix of different musical styles, and his brilliant idea of inventing a totally new persona to play on stage, instead of stiffly standing behind the microphone.
Fred Buscaglione:”Che notte”


A musician who perfectly represents the newly born Italian pop music of the 1950’s and who is universally known all around the world for his great hit “Nel blu dipinto di blu” (aka “Volare”), is Domenico Modugno. Modugno’s style was a mix between tradition and innovation, his songs were melodic, usually about love and passion, but also open to new rhythms and full of a contagious energy.

Domenico Modugno left his family home when he was 19, moving first to Turin, where he worked for a factory, then to Rome with a scholarship to attend the Centro sperimentale di cinematografia (a prestigious Italian cinema school). At the debut of his career, he wrote and performed songs based on the Southern Italian music tradition, such as “Lu pisci spada” (the swordfish) and “La donna riccia” (curly woman). In the 1950’s he composed and sang many beautiful songs in various southern Italian dialects, mainly Sicilian and Neapolitan, such as “Lazzarella”, “Strada ‘nfosa” and “Resta cu’mme”.

In 1958 though, after an incredible success at Sanremo Music Festival with “Volare”, he suddenly went from being a regional singer to a major international star. The following year he again won the prestigious Italian music contest with “Piove”. The song, written by Modugno after having seen two sad young lovers saying goodbye on a rainy Autumn morning in a Pittsburgh train station, is one of his most beautiful and intense, and its refrain, “ciao, ciao, bambina, un bacio ancor, e poi per sempre ti perderò…” – “bye bye, my baby, let’s kiss once more/and then I’ll loose you forever more…” has lived on in the memory of generations of Italian people. Modugno, an extremely prolific artist, continued his triumphs through the 1960’s: winning Sanremo once again in ’62 with “Addio, addio”, in ’66 with “Dio, come ti amo”, and also the Naples music contest in ’64 with “Tu si’ ‘na cosa grande”.

In the meantime, tireless as ever, he also went into acting, and among his many successes there are the musical “Rinaldo in Campo” in ’61, the TV series “Scaramouche” in ’68 and, last but not least, the play “Threepenny Opera” by Bertold Brecht from ’73 to ’75. He reached the peak of his singer- songwriter career (the first, in all probability, in the modern sense of the term) in ’68 with “Meraviglioso”, a less internationally known, but probably unmatchable hit. It was a song of timeless charm, so much so, that it has been recently covered by the Italian band Negroamaro with amazing success.

Tragically seized by a stroke in 1984, Modugno had to stop his performing career and decided to go into politics, he joined the Radical Party in 1986 and was elected to parliament. He died of heart failure in his home in 1994.
Domenico Modugno: “Volare Nel Blu dipinto di blu”


Another peculiar musical phenomenon of the 1950’s is the incredible success of a vocal quartet, Quartetto Cetra; part of a tradition, that of vocal ensembles, which unfortunately disappeared almost completely from the Italian music scene in the following years.

The vocal group destined to become popular as Quartetto Cetra, formed by members Tata Giacobetti, Felice Chiusano, Virgilio Savona and Lucia Mannucci, was based on an idea by the Roman musician Giovanni Giacobetti, known as Tata, author of lyrics as well as a passionate jazz lover. Their name Quartetto Cetra, is a matter of debate, some people say it referred to the cither (in Italian cetra) the ancient four stringed musical instrument, others that it was a tribute to the record label the group was recording under at the time of its debut, which took place in Rome at the Teatro delle Arti, in October 1947.

Quartetto Cetra was not just a recording band, they’d also started a theatrical career which saw them in several musical variety shows. Their first great success in the world of musicals was “Gran Baldoria” (1951), a show by Garinei and Giovannini – the two fairy god-fathers of Italian musical and mentors of Quartetto Cetra, together with the conductor Gorni Kramer – which features “Vecchia America” (Old America), one of the vocal group’s greatest hits. This show was followed by “Gran Baraonda” (1952), co-starring two legends of Italian show-business, the famous show-girl Wanda Osiris and one of the greatest Italian actors of all time, Alberto Sordi. Quartetto Cetra’s smash hits from this musical are “In un palco della Scala” (In a box at the Scala theatre), and the best, “Un bacio a mezzanotte” (A midnight kiss). Then came an Italian edition of “Guys and dolls” with Riccardo Billi, where they sang one of their biggest successes, “Un disco dei Platters” (A record by the Platters). This is probably the quartet’s best moment, underlined by a participation in the Festival of Sanremo in 1954, their only appearance in the competition.
Quartetto cetra 1952 Un Palco della Scala – (In a box of the Scala) 1952

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The arrival of television gave them the opportunity to reach larger audiences and they immediately jumped to the occasion, successfully taking part in many important TV shows of the time. Their happiest and probably most innovative contribution to the history of Italian TV is indubitably their role in the seminal TV show, “Studio Uno”, where, with the help of some of the best Italian actors, they made charming and sometimes really brilliant musical parodies of popular films and novels, from “Gone with the Wind” to “The Three Musketeers”.

Quartetto Cetra, with Giacobetti providing the lyrics, Savona the music, and often helped by the above-mentioned Kramer or by Lelio Luttazzi, produced records in series, with impressive selling figures. The light and innocuous humor of their lyrics, as well as their melodic and lively music, were a perfect soundtrack for the Italian economic boom of the 1950’s and 1960’s. But when tough times arrived in the 1970’s, their appeal seemed to fade away and the four singers, already in their fifties, virtually retired.

The 1950s’ Italy was a decade of reconstruction, a rediscovery of the outside world, dawn of an economic boom, and an age of innocence, when Italian people were still very provincial and naïve in their musical and artistic tastes, but the fabulous 1960’s were approaching and teenagers were going to seize control of pop music

the end @ Copyright Dr Iwan Suwandy


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