Umberto Giordano in Foggia
The series about historical places of opera art & culture. Get to know exciting excursion and travel ideas for opera lovers. This time: Umberto Giordano in Foggia.
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Umberto Giordano in Foggia
Umberto Giordano was one of the many southern Italians who found their professional success in the north. With the great operas “Andrea Chenier” and “Fedora” he became the fourth shining star in the verismo sky, alongside Mascagni, Leoncavallo and Puccini.
Born in 1867 in Foggia in humble circumstances, success did not come naturally to the young man; the genesis of his first successful opera, “Andrea Chénier” was dramatic (see the Excursus below). Giordano seems to have been a temperamental man. While still an unknown 25-year-old man, he was reciting in a club in Foggia from his new opera, “Mala vita”, he noticed that the audience was moving to the tables and playing cards. Giordano was so incensed that he broke with his hometown and only reconciled 30 years later.
In 1962 Foggia dedicated this large square to its famous son. It is dominated by a work of art that shows Giordano in the midst of seven bronze figures from seven of his operas: Andrea Chènier, Fedora, Il Re, Marcella, La cena delle meffe, Siberia, Mese Mariano.
Monumento Piazza Umberto Giordano:
Teatro Umberto Giordano
This beautiful, historic teater was once built by the nobles of Foggia, which in beauty should not lag behind the famous San Carlo in Naples. It was named after Giordano in 1928, during his lifetime.
Musical background: the dramatic genesis of “Andrea Chénier”
As a young composer, Giordano was under contract for several years with the publisher Sonzogno, who chased him away with the words “that he is completely without talent”. The completely penniless Giordano was desperate and asked his friend, the then well-known composer Franchetti, to mediate. Sonzogno, who was also director of La Scala, gave the Giordano another chance. Luigi Illica wrote him a libretto in 1894 for a story about the French poet “Andrea Chénier”. Now Giordano moved to Illica in Milan and began composing under miserable conditions. At times he lived and composed in the storeroom of a funeral parlor, in whose upper floors Illica lived. He worked on the opera during the following two years. When he delivered the finished manuscript to the impresario, Sonzognos musical advisor rejected it. Giordano was devastated and contacted the now famous Pietro Mascagni, the composer of the “Cavalleria rusticana”. He was able to calm Sonzogno down who accepted the work grumbling. At this time Sonzogno was very controversial as the director of La Scala, because he had to suffer many failures with various productions and feared to land another flop with “Andrea Chénier”. Even with the successful opera “Carmen” he had suffered shipwreck. The tensions between Sonzogno and Giordano rose further when the tenor refused to sing his part and a replacement had to be found. So the atmosphere was very tense when the curtain rose in March 1896. Already the first aria had to be repeated and the performance turned out to be a grandiose triumph. Giordano had to step in front of the curtain twenty times and thus saved Sonzogno, who was overjoyed about the surprising turn of events.
If you know the film “Philadelphia”, you might remember how Tom Hanks explains to Denzel Washington the scene from Andrea Chenier “La mamma morta”, sung by Maria Callas.