Italian composer. His one-act opera Cavalleria rusticana/Rustic Chivalry was first produced in Rome in 1890 in the new verismo or realistic style.
He was born at Livorno; his father, a baker, wished him to study law, but he managed to take lessons in secret at the Istituto Cherubini. On being discovered, he was adopted by an uncle, and soon reconciled with his father by having two works performed at the Istituto. Later, Count Florestano de Larderel paid for his further musical education at the Milan Conservatory, where Ponchielli was among his masters. Not wishing to apply himself to solid study, he ran away with a travelling opera company. After many wanderings and a marriage that forced him to settle at Cerignola near Foggia to make a precarious living by teaching the piano and conducting the local band, he won the first prize in an operatic competition with Cavalleria rusticana in 1889, and after its production in Rome the following year, he began to accumulate a great fortune, though his many later operas never repeated its success. Besides operas, he wrote some occasional works, cantatas, and the incidental music for Hall Caine's The Eternal City, produced in London in 1902. He became a member of the Italian Academy in 1929.
WorksOperaCavalleria rusticana (1890), L'amico Fritz (1891), I Rantzau (both based on Erckmann-Chatrian), Guglielmo Ratcliff (after Heine, 1895), Silvano, Zanetto (1896), Iris, Le maschere, Amica (1905), Isabeau (1911), Parisina (d'Annunzio), Lodoletta (1917), Il piccolo Marat (1921), Pinotta, Nerone (1935); operetta Si.
Other incidental music for Hall Caine's The Eternal City; Kyrie, Requiem in memory of King Humbert; cantata for Leopardi centenary (1898), setting of Italian translation of Schiller's ‘Ode to Joy’ for chorus and orchestra, cantata In Filanda; symphony in C minor, symphonic poem for a film Rapsodia satanica (1917).