Biography of Franco Alfano (1876-1954)

Italian composer born in Posillipo (Napoli) on March 8, 1875 and died in San Remo (Italy) on October 27, 1954. It is one of the great Italian composers of his generation, along with Casella, Malipiero , Pizzettiand Respighi.

After studying piano with Alessandro Longo, harmony with Camillo de Nardis and composition with Paolo Serrao at the Conservatoire of Naples, he/she moved to the German city of Leipzig in 1895. There he/she completed his studies in composition with Jadassohn and Sitt. In 1896 he/she traveled to Berlin, where he/she began a short career as a pianist and composed his first opera, Miranda. In 1899 he/she settled in Paris, where he/she remained until 1905. Then he/she returned definitively to Italy to settle in Milan and later in San Remo, city in which perish.

As a teacher began in 1916, when he/she began to teach composition at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna, institution that led from 1918. In 1923 he/she dealt with the direction of the Liceo Musicale of Turin, in which it would remain until 1939, and the of the Conservatory Rossini of Pesaro (1947-1950). Previously, between 1940 and 1942, Alfano was also Superintendent of the Teatro Massimo of Palermo, and then director of the section of opera at the Academy of Santa Cecilia in Rome (1942-1947).


Alfano was in charge of writing the end of Turandot by Puccini, but was also a prolific composer of operas. He/She earned fame with his Risurrezione opera. This stage drama, written in Moscow and based on a Tolstoyplay, reached the thousand representations in Italy and is a clear exponent of the genre called realism that developed in Italy and whose leading exponents were Mascagniand Leoncavallo . Realism was intended to show the reality without idealizations, presenting it as if it were a chronicle of events through a vocal technique characterized by the insistence in the phrasing and, occasionally, by diction to the limit.

Further operatic successes of Alfano were I cavalieri e beautiful, Cyrano de Bergerac, Il dottor Antonio or Il principe Zilah. He/She also composed operas of more risky style and who therefore obtained worse reception among the public, such as L´ombra di Don Giovanni, which in its new version renamed Don Juan de Mañara, was first performed by the mezzo-soprano Fedora Barbieri. The same thing happened with La leggenda di Sakùntala, premiered in Bologna on 10 December 1921. This last opera is set in the India and has some influence of the music of Debussy and a complex but consistent melodic structure. The original score was destroyed during the second world war, Alfano decided to rebuild it in 1952 and renamed it only Sakùntala. The new version was premiered in Rome on January 9, 1952, under the direction of G. Gavazzeni. Other incursions of the Italian composer in scenic music were the two ballets written for the Folies-Bergere in Paris: Napoli and Lorenza, released both in 1901.

As a composer of songs also presents a profound influence of the French, but with personal touches impressionism. In the field of orchestral music, Alfano became famous with its romantic Suite and his first Symphony before 1914. In the Decade of the 1920s created a large number of Chamber works, such as the violin Sonata and the Cello Sonata, both from the creative roots of Sakùntala. In the 1930s he/she returned to compose orchestral music, which showed a neoclassical tendency. This aspect can be seen clearly in his second Symphony both his Divertimento.