Giordano, Umberto, noted Italian composer; b. Foggia, Aug. 28, 1867; d. Milan, Nov. 12, 1948. He studied with Gaetano Briganti at Foggia and then with Paolo Serrao at the Naples Cons. (1881-90). His first composition performed in public was a symphonic poem, Delizia (1886); he then wrote some instrumental music. In 1888 he submitted a short opera, Marina, for the competition established by the publisher Sonzogno; Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana received 1st prize, but Marina was cited for distinction. Giordano then wrote the opera Mala vita, which was performed in Rome, Feb. 21, 1892; it was only partly successful; it was then revised and presented under the title II voto in Milan (Nov. 10, 1897). There followed the opera Regina Diaz (Rome, Feb. 21, 1894), which obtained a moderate success. Then he set to work on a grand opera, Andrea Chenier; its premiere at La Scala in Milan (March 28, 1896) was a spectacular success and established Giordano as one of the best composers of Italian opera of the day. The dramatic subject gave Giordano a fine opportunity to display his theatrical talent, but the score also revealed his gift for lyric expression. Almost as successful was his next opera, Fedora (Teatro Lirico, Milan, Nov. 17, 1898), but it failed to hold a place in the world repertoire after the initial acclaim; there followed Siberia (La Scala, Dec. 19, 1903; rev. 1921; La Scala, Dec. 5, 1927). Two short operas, Marcella (Milan, Nov. 9, 1907) and Mese Mariano (Palermo, March 17, 1910), were hardly noticed and seemed to mark a decline in Giordano’s dramatic gift; however, he recaptured public attention with Madame Sans- Gene, produced at a gala premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y. on Jan. 25, 1915, conducted by Toscanini, with Geraldine Farrar singing the title role. With Franchetti, he wrote Giove a Pompei (Rome, July 5, 1921); he then produced La cena delle beffe, which was his last signal accomplishment; it was staged at La Scala, Dec. 20, 1924. He wrote one more opera, // Re (La Scala, Jan. 10, 1929). During his lifetime, Giordano received many honors, and was elected a member of the Accademia Luigi Cherubim in Florence and of several other institutions. Although not measuring up to Puccini in musical qualities or to Mascagni in dramatic skill, Giordano was a distinguished figure in the Italian opera field for some four decades.
G. Paribeni, Madame Sans-Gene di U. G. (Milan, 1923); D. Cellamare, U. G.: La vita e le opere (Milan, 1949); R. Giazotto, U. G. (Milan, 1949); G. Confalonieri, U. G. (Milan, 1958); D. Cellamare, U. G. (Rome, 1967); M. Morini, ed., U. G. (Milan, 1968).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire