Franco Alfano

Franco Alfano

Franco Alfano (March 8, 1875 – October 27, 1954) was an Italian composer and pianist. Though today best known for completing Puccini's unfinished opera "Turandot" in 1926, he had considerable success with his own works during his lifetime.


He was born in Posillipo, near Naples. Until recent times, musical histories usually gave the year of Alfano's birth, incorrectly, as 1876. He attended piano privately under Alessandro Longo (1864-1946), and harmony and composition respectively under Camillo de Nardis (1857-1951) and Paolo Serrao (1830-1907) at the conservatory San Pietro a Majella in Naples. Later, after graduating, he pursued further composition studies with Hans Sitt (1850-1922) and Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902) in Leipzig. While working there he met his idol, Edvard Grieg, and wrote numerous piano and orchestral pieces. He completed his first opera, "Miranda", still unpublished, for which he also wrote the libretto after a novel by Antonio Fogazzaro, in 1896. His work "La Fonte Di Enschir" (libretto by Luigi Illica) was refused by Ricordi but was shown in Wrocław (then Breslau) as "Die Quelle von Enschir" on 8 November 1898, enjoying some success.

The following three operas are usually considered as his most important:

* "Risurrezione", 1904, based on Tolstoy. It was later also sung by Magda Olivero.

* "Cyrano de Bergerac", after the famous play by Edmond Rostand and composed to the French libretto by Henri Cain. It had its Italian version premiere in Rome in January 1936, and its French version premiere in Paris four months later. It was recently revived by the Kiel Opera (Germany), the Montpellier Radio Festival (France) and the Metropolitan Opera, New York, starring Plácido Domingo in the title role.

* "La leggenda di Sakùntala", 1921, presented revised in 1952 as "Sakùntala", after "Abhijñānaśākuntalam" ("The Recognition of Sakuntala"), the Sanskrit play by Kalidasa.

From 1918 he was Director of the Conservatory of Bologna, and he directed the Turin Conservatory from 1923. Alfano died in San Remo. [Konrad Dryden, cpo recoding of "Cirano di Bergerac" gives this information.]

Jennifer Alfano is his great granddaughter.

Historical perspectives

"Fanfare" Sept/Oct 98-99 gives the following information: Alfano's reputation suffers because (a) he should not be judged as a composer on the basis of the task he was given in completing "Turandot" (La Scala, April 25, 1926), (b) "we almost never hear everything he wrote for "Turandot"--the standard ending heavily edits Alfano's work." [In the cpo opera set of "Cyrano de Bergerac", Andreas K.W. Meyer, translated into English by Susan Marie Praeder, pp. 29-30.] (c)" is not his conclusion that is performed in productions of "Turandot" but only what the premiere conductor Arturo Toscanini included from it...Puccini had worked for nine months on the following concluding duet and at his death had left behind a whole ream of sketches....Alfano had to reconstruct ...according to his best assessment...and with his imagination and magnifying glass" since Puccini's material "had not really been legible."

[Konrad Dryden, cited supra, p. 33, adds that the project, reluctantly undertaken, resulted in "near blindness in his right eye, requiring three months spent in darkened rooms."]

Fogel: "Alfano's reputation has also suffered [IC:along with Mascagni] , understandably, because of his willingness to associate himself closely with Mussolini's Fascist government."

Alex Ross, in an article in The New Yorker, February 27, 2006, pp. 84-85 notes a new ending composed by Luciano Berio premiered in 2002 [] - this is preferred by some critics, for making a more satisfactory resolution of Turandot's change of heart, and of being more in keeping with Puccini's evolving technique.

List of works

*1896 "Miranda" Opera
*1898 "La Fonte di Enschir" Opera
*1899 "Four Romanian Dances" for piano
*1901 "Napoli" Ballet
*1901 "Lorenza" - Ballet
*1904 "Risurrezione" Opera "
*1909 "Suite Romantica" for orchestra (became "Eliana") "
*1909 "Il principe di Zilah" - Opera"
*1910 "Symphony n. 1" "
*1910 "I Cavalieri e la Bella" Opera (never completed) "
*1914 "L"ombra di Don Giovanni" Opera (later Don Juan de Manara) "
*1918 "Tre poemi" by Tagore for voice and piano "
*1918 "Quartet n. 1" for strings "
*1919 "Six songs" for voice and piano "
*1921 "La Leggenda di Sakùntala" Opera "
*1923 "Eliana" Ballet from "Suite Romantica" "
*1923 "Sonata" for violin and piano "
*1925 "Sonata" for cello and piano "
*1926 "Turandot" finale Opera "
*1926 "Quartet n. 2" for strings "
*1927 "Madonna Imperia" Opera "
*1928 "Tre Liriche" by Tagore for voice and piano "
*1929 "Trio" "
*1930 "L"ultimo Lord" Opera semiseria "
*1930 "Himno al Libertador" dedicated to Simon Bolivar "
*1933 "Vesuvio" Ballet "
*1933 "Symphony n. 2" "
*1935 "Divertimento" for piano and chamber orchestra "
*1936 "Nuove Liriche Tagoriane" for voice and piano "
*1936 "Quintet" for piano and strings "
*1936 "Cyrano de Bergerac" Opera "
*1939 "Tre Nuove Liriche" "
*1941 "Don Juan de Manara" Opera "
*1943 "E" Giunto il Nostro Ultimo Autunno" for voice and piano "
*1945 "Quartet n. 3" for strings "
*1948 "Cinque Nuove Liriche Tagoriane" for voice and piano "
*1949 "Il Dottor Antonio" Opera "
*1950 "Vesuvius" Opera for radio (from "Vesuvius") "
*1952 "Sakùntala" Opera (reconstruction) "
*1953 "Sinfonia Classica" from Symphony n. 1

Other works: "Suite Adriatica"; "Intermezzi for Strings"; "Ninna-Nanna Partenopea".

Symphonies 1 and 2 [reviewed by Barry Brenesal in the same issue of Fanfare, pp. 103-4] .


External links

* [ Franco Alfano discography]
* [ Franco Alfano list of works]
* [ Another page about Franco Alfano]

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