Vittorio Giannini – Lucedia, A Legend from Pagan Times (Vocal score by Otto Lindemann)
(b. 19 October 1903, Philadelphia – d. 28 November 1966, New York City)Tragical Opera in a Prelude and three Acts (1931-32)
During his lifetime Vittorio Giannini was highly esteemed by his colleagues as a composer as well as a master-teacher of composition. But in the climate of radical modernism that overtook the United States from the mid-1950s until the mid-1970s, he became marginalized as a conservative outsider by the influential shapers of opinion. He was considered at best a composer of operas and songs, fitting the stereotypical assumptions that Italian composers specialize in Romantic-styled bel canto. Toward the end of his life his most often performed compositions were scored for wind band.
But Vittorio Giannini was a figure of far greater stature than that; indeed, he was one of the most significant American composers of the 20th century, although his name and his music are heard less frequently today. Many Italian-American composers have faced a subtle form of discrimination that resulted in the disregard of their work and the disparagement of their reputations. It is remarkable that this subtle form of discrimination has existed in a country that boasts that all who demonstrate excellence may achieve success.
Few musicians and music lovers are aware that Vittorio Giannini was one of the greatest symphonic composers America has produced, with seven contributions to the genre. In addition to his vocal and symphonic music, he also produced outstanding concertos and chamber music. His music is neither reactionary nor progressive, but timeless.
Vittorio Giannini’s father Ferruccio Giannini (1868-1948) was born in Ponte d’Arnia (Garfagnana), grew up in Lucca and emigrated to the United States, where he studied singing with Eliodoro De Campi (1832-1902) in Boston and made his opera debut in 1891. He quickly developed into one of the finest Italian tenors of his time, and settled in Philadelphia. He was one of the first opera singers to be recorded: his first appeared as early as 1896, for Berliner and subsequently for Victor and Columbia. He married the outstanding violinist Antonietta Briglia (1871-1934) from Marsico Vetere (Basilicata) and founded the Verdi Opera House in Philadelphia. The couple had four children: Eufemia Giannini Gregory (1895-1979), who became a legendary singing teacher in Philadelphia; Dusolina Giannini (1902-86), a world-famous prima donna, and a protégé of her father; Francesco (Francis) Giannini (1908-82), a gifted cellist who chose to pursue a career as a psychiatrist in New Jersey; and Vittorio, who made a rapid ascent as a composer until the Second World War abruptly interrupted a series of sensational European successes. …
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