Remembering Francesco Cilea’s Rare Operas

By David Salazar

Francesco Cilea, born on July 23, 1866, is perhaps best known for one opera – “Adriana Lecouvreur.” And while some might see that as a small feat consider this. Renata Tebaldi, Montserrat Caballé, Renata Scotto, Mirella Freni, Joan Sutherland, Anna Netrebko, Angela Gheorghiu. That is but a small list of the many great divas to take on the title role. And we haven’t even mentioned the great tenors or even baritones that have sung Cilea’s lush melodies.

So to put it concretely, Cilea’s most and perhaps, only famous opera, is highly regarded around the world.

But he is not a man of one work. Cilea didn’t have a massive operatic output, but he did write his fair share of works. Here is a look at the other operas by this Italian maestro.


The composer’s first opera premiered in February 1889 at the Teatro Conservatorio S. Pietro alla Majella in Naples.  The opera was essentially his thesis project, but it never quite managed to obtain popularity. The opera features rather straightforward melodic style and the opening, with a few solo strings is quite idiosyncratic.  You can actually listen to opera here.

La Tilda 

Cilea’s second opera premiered just three years after his first opera at the Teatro Pagliano in Florence.


Most people know of this opera, but few actually know it fully. One piece, Federico’s famous lament, has become a tenor showcase at recitals and concerts, but the rest of the opera is often overlooked. It premiered in late 1897 and Cilea made three separate revisions to the work throughout his life. Tenor Giuseppe Filianotti has been a major proponent of the composer and recently discovered a part of the work from the first version of the libretto. The opera has had its fair share of recordings, though far from the number given to “Adriana.”


Cilea’s final opera premiered in 1907 at La Scala in Milan, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. The opera was a massive failure and was withdrawn after just two performances. He revised the score in 1932 but it failed just as badly.


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