A child prodigy from a family of musicians (his grandfather was the acclaimed composer Giovanni Rinaldi), Giovanni Rota composed his first oratorio 'L'infanzia di San Giovanni Battista' before he entered his teens and his first lyrical comedy II Principe Porcaro at thirteen. After studying under composers Giacomo Orefice at the Milan Conservatory and IIdebrando Pizzetti and Alfredo Casella at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome he graduated in 1930. Winning a scholarship to Philadelphia 's Curtis Institute he was taught composition by Rosario Scalero and orchestra by Fritz Reiner before returning to Italy and the University of Milan to take a degree in literature. While pursuing a career as a teacher in 1937 he was also an immensely prolific composer working in several different arenas. He composed a number of operas including: Ariodante (1942), Torquemada (1943), I due timidi (1950), II cappello di paglia di Firenze (1955), La notte di un neurastenico (1959), Lo scoiattolo in gamba (1959), Scuola di guida (1959), Aladino e la lampada magica (1968), La visita meravigliosa (1970) and Napoli milionaria (1977). He wrote the ballets: La rappresentazione di Adamo ed Eva (1957), La Strada (1965), Aci e Galatea (1971), La Molière Imaginaire (1976) and Amor di poeta (1978).
Rota was even more prodigious composing for movies being responsible for more than one hundred and sixty scores and worked closely and repeatedly with a number of directors including Mario Soldati - Le miserie del signor Travet (1945), Daniele Cortis (1947), Fuga in Francia (1948), Quel bandito sono lo (1949), Donne e briganti (1950), I tre corsari (1952), La mano dello straniero (1952), Jolanda, la figlia del corsaro nero (1952), Italia piccola (1957), Viaggio nella valle del Po alla ricerca dei cibi genuini (1957) and Chi legge" Un viaggio lungo il Tirreno (1960), Renato Castellani - Zazà (1944), La donna della montagna (1944), Mio figlio professore (1946), Sotto il sole di Roma (1948), È primavera (1948), Due soldi di speranza (1952), II brigante (1961) and II furto della Gioconda (1977)) while his most famously association was with Frederico Fellini - Lo sceicco bianco (1952), I vitellone (1953), La strada (1954), II bidone (1955), Le notti di Cabiria (1957), La dolce vita (1960), Boccaccio '70' Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio (1962), 8½ (1963), Giulietta degli spiriti (1965), Histoires extraordinaires 'Toby Dammit' (1968), Black-notes di un regista (1969 TV documentary), Satyricon (1969), I clowns (1971 TV film), Roma (1972), Amarcord (1973), Fellini's Casanova (1976) and Prova d'orchestra (1978).
Rota also composed the scores for King Vidor's War And Peace (1957), Franco Zeffirelli's The Taming Of The Shrew (1967) and Romeo And Juliet (1968), John Guillermin's Death On The Nile (1978) although his most famous and celebrated work is Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather (1972) and the sequel The Godfather Part II in 1974. Many of Rota's soundtracks and compilations have become commercially successful soundtrack albums including 8½ (1963), The Godfather (1972), The Godfather Part II (1974), Music To The Films Of Fillini (1985), II Gattopardo (The Leopard) (1963/1994), Nino Rota: Film Music Masterworks (2007) and Giovanni Canta Nino Rota 2009.
Rota's choral, instrumental and orchestral works have also continued to find favour, the most celebrated including Nino Rota: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 (2009), Nino Rota Plays Nino Rota (2002), Nino Rota: Concertos (2002) and Rota: Orchestral Works Vol.2 (2013). As if his compositional endeavours alone were not enough, education remained close to his heart throughout his life and he served as director of the Bari Conservatory in Italy from 1950 until 1978.
Rota died of heart failure in 1979 at the relatively early age of sixty-seven, how he managed to pack so much work into so little time is a mystery. It would be almost impossible to find a composer quite as prolific and quite as proficient in as many different disciplines as Rota. The wealth of recordings still available and as repeatedly re-mastered and re-released pays enormous tribute to his ongoing relevance even more than three decades after his death. There have been many subsequent and contemporary composers who have name-checked him as a profound influence, Danny Elfman (composer of scores for numerous movies including Tim Burton's Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Mission Impossible, Men In Black and The Simpsons theme) refers to him as a huge inspiration while the producer Hal Willner compiled the all-star tribute album Amarcord Nino Rota in 1981 which features homage's from premier jazz artists Carla Bley, Bill Frisell and Wynton and Branford Marsalis among others.
Rota's quotes are numerous but perhaps the one that best sums up his feelings about music is 'When I'm creating at the piano I tend to feel happy, but the eternal dilemma - how can we be happy amid the unhappiness of others" I'd do everything I could to give everyone a moment of happiness. That's what's at the heart of my music.'
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