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Franco Alfano

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Franco Alfano (8 March 1875 in Posillipo, Naples – 27 October 1954 in Sanremo) was an Italian composer and pianist, best known today for his opera Risurrezione (1904) and for having completed Puccini's opera Turandot in 1926. He had considerable success with several of his own works during his lifetime.
Alfano was born in Posillipo, Naples. He attended piano lessons given privately by Alessandro Longo, and harmony and composition respectively under Camillo de Nardis (1857–1951) and Paolo Serrao at the conservatory San Pietro a Majella in Naples. Later, after graduating, he pursued further composition studies with Hans Sitt and Salomon Jadassohn in Leipzig. While working there he met his idol, Edvard Grieg, and wrote numerous piano and orchestral pieces.
From 1918 he was Director of the Conservatory of Bologna, from 1923 Director of the Turin Conservatory, and from 1947 to 1950 Director of the Rossini Conservatory in Pesaro. Alfano died in San Remo.
He completed his first opera, Miranda, still unpublished, for which he also wrote the libretto based on a novel by Antonio Fogazzaro in 1896. His work La Fonte Di Enschir (libretto by Luigi Illica) was refused by Ricordi but was presented in Wrocław (then Breslau) as Die Quelle von Enschir on 8 November 1898. It enjoyed some success.
There followed the opera Risurrezione in 1904. It was based on Tolstoy, and was later sung by Magda Olivero.
Cyrano de Bergerac followed. This based on 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 City, starring Plácido Domingo in the title role.
In 1921, La Leggenda di Sakùntala appeared, described by some as his most important stage work, and while it was successful enough to have Arturo Toscanini recommend Alfano for the completion of Puccini's posthumous Turandot, the performance materials were thought destroyed in an air raid during the Second World War. Alfano reconstructed it in 1952 as Sakùntala, after Abhijñānaśākuntalam (The Recognition of Sakuntala), the Sanskrit play by Kālidāsa. Subsequently, the original version was recovered in 2005, with the two versions available for performance today. The second version of Sakùntala was performed in New York City by Teatro Grattacielo in the fall of 2013.
In Fanfare 's issue of September/October 1998-99, it was asserted that Alfano's reputation suffers because of several things. Firstly, that he should not be judged as a composer on the basis of the task he was given in completing Turandot (La Scala, 25 April 1926). Secondly, that we almost never hear everything he wrote for Turandot since the standard ending heavily edits Alfano's work. Thirdly, [...]it 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."
"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 The New Yorker, notes that a new ending of Turandot composed by Luciano Berio premiered in 2002 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.
See also List of operas by Franco Alfano.
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