Composer Profile: Umberto Giordano, The Genius Behind ‘Andrea Chénier’

By David Salazar

Born on August 28 1867 in Foggia, Umberto Giordano would go on to become one of the most renowned Italian composers of the verismo era.

He wrote his first opera “Marina” for a competition that would mark the beginning of the Verismo era. For years the composer experimented with differing works, including “Mala Vita” and “Regina Diaz,” though he found little success.

It eventually came in 1896 with “Andrea Chénier,” the opera for which he is known today. He would follow it up with “Fedora.”

From there he would continue writing operas, though none would ever attain the status of “Chénier” or “Fedora.” That said, some operas, such as “Siberia,” “Madama Sans-Gêne,” and “La Cena Delle Beffe” have been given some attention in recent years.

He died on Nov. 12, 1948 in Milan. He was 81.

Major Works 

Today Giordano is remembered for one work – “Andrea Chénier.” It remains one of the major verismo works of all time, known for its lush melodies for its soloists. The opera is one of the most complex vocal challenges for any spinto tenor, pitting the soloist with four arias/monologues and two love duets. That said, the opera may be most famous for the soprano’s aria “La Mamma Morta,” which was popularized in the film “Philadelphia.”

“Fedora” is also recognized, especially for the tenor aria, “Amor ti vieta.”

Read More on Giordano

Read more one “Andrea Chénier”

A Look at his Other Works

How La Mamma Morta Is Utilized in “Philadelphia”

Watch and Listen

Here is a look at Jonas Kaufmann in the title role alongside Anja Harteros.


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