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Respighi, Ottorino

(July 9, 1879 – April 18, 1936)

Cronology of Life and Works
(by Alberto Cantù with Potito Pedarra)

Born on 9 July in Bologna to Giuseppe, a postal worker and pianist, and Ersilia Putti, descendant of a family of sculptors.

Goes to the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, studies violin and viola with Federico Sarti (obtaining his diploma in 1899) and from 1896 composition with Luigi Torchi.

Receives praise in the Bologna press for a performance of Paganini’s Le streghe.

Composes the Variazioni sinfoniche for the final concert at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna. Joins the orchestra of the Teatro Comunale and is engaged as violinist at the Imperial Theatre in St Petersburg. Meets Rimsky-Korsakov, from whom he is given “advice on the art of orchestration, above all concerning the gradation of sounds, not the poetry of their blends” (Respighi’s words).

Obtains his diploma in composition in Bologna with his Preludio, corale e fuga.

Writes the songs Nebbie, which makes him famous in Italy.

Composes his first opera, Re Enzo, for the students of Bologna University; it has never been published.

Is the violinist of the Quintetto Mugellini.

Is in Berlin as accompanist at Etelka Gester’s school of singing. His transcription of Monteverdi’s Lamento d’Arianna is performed at the Philharmonie, mezzosoprano Julia Culp, conductor Arthur Nikisch.

Semirâma, a tragic poem in three acts with a text by Alessandro Cerè, is performed at the Teatro Comunale in Bologna; the work is praised by Ildebrando Pizzetti.

First performance in Bologna of Aretusa, sung by Chiarina Fino Savio, who becomes a friend of the composer.

On 17 March, at the Augusteo in Rome, Bernardino Molinari conducts the duet from the first act of Semirâma. On 1 December, again at the Augusteo, Rodolfo Ferrari conducts the Notturno for orchestra.

Is appointed to the chair of composition at the Liceo musicale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he settles.

In January the Sinfonia drammatica is first performed at the Augusteo in Rome. As a result of the cuts in publics pending due to Italy’s entry into the war, all the new operas planned at the Teatro Costanzi are cancelled: they include Marie Victoire, first performed only in 2004.

In March the composer’s mother dies in Bologna.

At the Augusteo in Rome, Antonio Guarnieri gives the first performance of the symphonic poem Fontane di Roma in March and Molinari conducts the first suite of Antiche arie e danze in December.

In August he meets Sergei Diaghilev in Viareggio, for whose “Ballets Russes” he composes La boutique fantasque, adapted from music by Rossini. In the autumn Arturo Toscanini conducts the Fontane di Roma in Milan, making it an instant success.

Marries Elsa Olivieri Sangiacomo, pianist, singer and composer, and his former pupil. At the Alhambra Theatre  in London La boutique fantasque is performed with choreography by Léonide Massine.

For Diaghilev he transcribes Le astuzie femminili by Domenico Cimarosa and La serva padrona by Giovanni Paisiello. In April Molinari performs the symphonic poem Ballata delle gnomidi at the Augusteo (later repeated by Toscanini at La Scala in Milan). In November, at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, Ileana Leonidov’s New Company of the “Ballets Russes” performs new works including Scherzo veneziano, Fiabarussa (La pentola magica) and Sèvres de la vieille France.

Tour in Czechoslovakia. First performance in Prague of La sensitiva, conductor Vaclav Talich, soloist Elsa Olivieri Sangiacomo.

In February Molinari conducts the first performance of the Concerto gregoriano for violin and orchestra at the Augusteo. In April, at the Teatro Odescalchi in Rome, the premiere of the musical fairy tale La bella addormentata nel bosco for Vittorio Podrecca’s Teatro dei Piccoli.

In March Fritz Reiner conducts the second suite of Antiche danze e arie per liuto in Cincinnati. In April La Scala performs Belfagor, after Machiavelli’s story, conductor Guarnieri, protagonist Mariano Stabile. Belfagor marks the beginning of Respighi’s collaboration with the librettist Claudio Guastalla. In November the composer’s father dies in Bologna.

He is appointed director of the Liceo di Santa Cecilia, which under his direction is upgraded to become a Conservatorio. In December Molinari conducts the first performance of the symphonic poem Pini di Roma at the Augusteo.

First tour in the United States. First performance at the Carnegie Hall of the Concerto in modo misolidio, with the composer as soloist and Willem Mengelberg conducting, and the Pini di Roma, conducted by Toscanini.

In February Serge Koussevitzky conducts the Vetrate di chiesa at Symphony Hall in Boston. In September the first performance of the Trittico botticelliano is given at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, conducted by the composer. In November La campana sommersa – a four-act opera with a libretto by Guastalla after Gerhart Hauptmann – is premiered at the Municipal Theatre in Hamburg.

Tour of Brazil. Respighi conducts the first performance of the suite for small orchestra, Gli uccelli, at the Municipal Theatre in Rio de Janeiro, followed by the Impressioni brasiliane in Sao Paulo. La campana sommersa is performed at the Metropolitan in New York, conductor Tullio Serafin, with a cast including Elisabeth Rethberg, Giovanni Martinelli, Ezio Pinza and Giuseppe De Luca. Again in November, at the Carnegie Hall, New York, Mengelberg conducts the Toccata for piano and orchestra, with the composer as soloist.

In February Toscanini conducts the first performance of the symphonic poem Feste romane at the Carnegie Hall. In February-March, vocal and instrumental concerts in Barcelona by Respighi and his wife, by the violinist Mario Corti and the Vittoriale Quartet. July-September, first tour in Argentina.

Toscanini conducts Respighi’s transcription of Bach’s Passacaglia at La Scala and at the Augusteo. Lauda per la natività del Signore is performed in the “Micat in Vertice” Hall of the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, conducted by the composer.

In January, at Milan Conservatory, Respighi conducts the first performance of the third suite of Antiche danze e arie per liuto. In the same period the ballet Belkis, regina di Saba has its premiere at La Scala, with choreography by Massine. In March the composer presents a concert version of Maria Egiziaca at the Carnegie Hall. On his return from the US, Respighi is awarded the title Accademico d’Italia.

In May, first performance of the Concerto a cinque in a concert organized at “Pini”, the Respighi residence in Rome.

Respighi presents his new opera La fiamma at Rome Opera. Second tour in Argentina, where, with the composer conducting, La fiamma makes its debut (first at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and then at the Teatro Cervantes in Montevideo) in Claudia Muzio’s unsurpassed interpretation.

Respighi’s free transcription of Monteverdi’s Orfeo is performed at La Scala, with Gino Marinuzzi conducting and a cast including Ebe Stignani and Carlo Galeffi.

Dies on 18 April in Rome.

Posthumous performance at La Scala of the opera Lucrezia, completed by the composer’s wife; Marinuzzi conducts. On the anniversary of Respighi’s death, at the Teatro Adriano in Rome, Molinari conducts the premiere of the composer’s transcription of Benedetto Marcello’s cantata Didone, soloist Maria Caniglia.