The theater history

Theater history in Foggia: an old passion

Foggia has an illustrious and glorious theatric history, with its roots in the Middle Ages, when Emperor Frederico II chose it as “regalis sedes inclita imperialis” of the Kingdom of Sicily, in 1223.

Since then, Swabians, Angevins and Aragonese Governors realized more and more performances with musicians, singers, acrobats and magicians in their Courts of Foggia.

The reform centralizing the Royal Customs of sheep in Foggia, in 1468, and the strengthening of the May Fair, determined the establishment of temporary theatres in private palaces and public squares.

In the first half of 1700, Foggia become the Kingdom of Naples’trading and administrative hub. The consequent growing number of city visitors leads some private investors to open the first theaters in Foggia.

During French domination, a local Public Administration (Intendenza di Capitanata) replaced private theatric management. On the return of the Bourbons to the government, the above mentioned Administration got in charge for managing the second most important theatre inthe Kingdom of the Two Sicilies: the current Umberto Giordano Theatre, the eldest working theater in Apulia, together with the FS Mercadante, in Cerignola (in province of Foggia) and G. Curci, in Barletta.

May, 1828

In 1824, the ambitious plan to provide the city with theater magnificent as the San Carlo Theatre in Naples, was at least achieved by the Province Administration’s engineer project: Luigi Oberty.

To realize the structure, Oberty hired highly specialized workers coming from all over the Kingdom.

After three years, the Royal Ferdinand Theatre, majestic with its simple neoclassical style, was opened on May 10, 1828.

The theater season takes place almost continuously for about twenty years, even though some management difficulties, due both to the current red tape and to high costs of maintenance, did not allow fully exploiting the potential of the theater.

The “Dauno Theater”

After a year off, due to the closure ordered by Bourbon officials, in 1860 the theater reopens with the temporary name of "Dauno", a name highlighting the new Italian political scenario, as Italy has just been proclaimed a united nation. However, just after the Italian unification, the Dauno Theatre begins to decay, for its incapability to face the growing demand of the audience. The quality level of performances gets lower and lower and nor artistic works or structural public reforms could actually support it. Therefore, the theatre closed for security reasons, in 1868.

The Umberto Giordano Theater

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the growing interest both in the Belle Époque and in the Neapolitan popular drama, determines the birth of numerous theaters in Italy, and of course in Foggia too. In those years, Umberto Giordano, a musician from Foggia, became one of the most important and popular compositor of his era.

On 23 August 1928, the "DaunoTheater" changes name to “Municipal Umberto Giordano Theatre”.

This gesture, made by local Government for his famous citizen, testifies gratitude and respect of the city of Foggia for Umberto Giordano.

In the early '40s, the presence of several movie theatres, auditorium and a temporary arena built up during the summer season, leads to a crisis of the Theater. The situation got worstwhen the Theater was damaged by bombing in 1943 and did not improve at all in the next period, between the end of the war and 1950.

At the end of the 50s,a post-war governmental planning hypothesized the Theater demolition. Thankfully, this idea was not actually realized as the whole Italy wasresuming.

In the early sixties, Umberto Giordano Theater resumed and started to host prominent artistsagain:starting from the renowned De Filippo family acting company; to celebrities such as Anna Magnani, Nino Taranto, Salvo Randone, Walter Chiari, Paolo Panelli, GinoBramieri, Salvatore Accardo, until the famous RAI (Italian national radio and television) National Symphonic Orchestra.

The feature of the so revived theater is versatility, as it starts hosting not only performances but also art exhibitions, fashion shows, dance essays and concerts, as well as cultural conferences, political conventions and official ceremonies.

In 1982 the theater was completely renovated and the foyer was named “Fedora Hall”, in honor of the great melodrama composed by Umberto Giordano. However, in 2006, for various structural reasons, the theater was closed again.

The Theater remained closed until 2014, when, after eight long years of silence, returns the official center of culture in Foggia. Indeed, on December 10, the Umberto Giordano Municipal Theaterhas openedagain, with the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra concert, conducted by the great maestro Riccardo Muti.

A fabulous new beginning.

Umberto Giordano: life and works

An artist becomes famous when he can impose his flaws(Umberto Giordano)

A Genius from Foggia

Umberto Giordano was born in Foggia on August 28, 1867. From an early age, he went to school for studying classical matters: parents dreamt for his son a future as lawyer or doctor. The boy, however, had a passion for music and theater performances and he often spent time at the Municipal Theater in town. At this respect, there is an anecdote about the renamed, restyled and enlarged“Dauno Theater” reopening period: the young Umberto Giordano "brings baskets and move tables, chairs, furniture, statues cardboard silvered", because he becomefriend of the keeper. The first time, the young Umberto saw the seven musical notes on a staff wasbecause of Eng. Gaetano Briganti, a friend of his father, who is the same person insisting with the boy's father for letting him take composition lessons by Gissi and Signorelli, two Masters from Foggia. The purpose of the lessons was to prepare the boy for the entrance exam at Naples Conservatory.

The beginnings

The first steps in music for the fourteen years old Umberto Giordano do not give good results. The boy does not pass the entrance exam at Naples Conservatory, in 1881. Anyway, despite the bad test result, the boy’s talent impresses Paul Serrao, one of the jury’s members. The words he said about the young candidate from Foggia seems to be forward-looking: "Where did this guy studied? He knows nothing. However, his two compositions have attracted the Commission attention and especially mine. This exam has not given any results today, but it can be repeated in six months. Leave your child in Naples and I will give him lessons for free: in six months he will recur exams and I am sure that this time, he will pass".

Entrusted to the family Midolla in Naples, Giordano follows Master Serrao’s lessons and six months later, he was admitted with honors at the Royal College “S. Pietro a Majella”, gaining free place.

During this period, the family Giordano, in order to sustain the Neapolitan stay of his son, requests a study grant to the provincial government administration of Foggia. The Government denies the grant, despite the public commendation appeared on “Il Nazionale”, a local newspaper in the city, about the young musician.

Giordano entries in the prestigious Naples Conservatory, on November 9, 1882. Between 1886 and 1887, although very young, he already has the opportunity to be, for the first time, at the Viterbo Music Academy alongside Verdi, Donizetti and Saint-Saens. Among the compositions by these famous authors, some of his music for pianohave been published.

During the studies atNaples Conservatory, many journalists stressed the Apulian composer’stalent. Among these we remind Francesco Florido, music historian, friend and biographer of Vincenzo Bellini. Speaking of promising composer, Floridowrites: "He brings the brightest hopes for the Italian art of music, on which this College counts both for its future luster and to keep maintain the glory of its history".

Early work

Only twenty-one years old, Giordano applies the important competition organized by the publisher EdoardoSonzogno that, after launching Mascagni and his CavalleriaRusticana, praises the Apulian musician’s work, who was the youngest artist among the finalists. On that occasion, despite not winning with his work “Marina”, Giordano was offered a new contract by the publisher.

As soon as he graduated and received the honor prize by the Conservatory, Giordano, encouraged by praise, toldSonzognosome of his concerns and apprehensions. The publisher, in a letter dated November 28, replied: "Dear Mr. Giordano, I received your letter and I’m very glad for your success at the final exam of the Conservatory.I’m aware of your sad conditions once left the Conservatory and I can deal with you in order to afford them supporting your composition “Mala Vita”. I will trade 200 lire each mouth for the whole year 1891 for the music copyright, and I’ll give you back 25 percent of the amount received for every rent after the first operaperformance. This will allow you to work safely and the earlier you’ll finish your work, the better it’ll be. If you agree, I’ll send you the contract. Best wishes”.

Giordano starts working to “Mala Vita”. The opera debuts at the Argentina Theater in Rome in 1892. Criticists and audience agree: a star isborn. At this respect, AmintoreGalli, a famous theatrical criticist, writes: "The success of Giordano spread from the wing of the telegraph all over Italy, in all the capitals of the two hemispheres, announced the advent of a new genius in the Italian musical theater".

The difficult years

The Mala Vitais acclaimed wherever performed. Except in Foggia. Giordano is invited to a tribute for him to be held at the DaunoTheater, with the main local authorities. He performs, acclaimed by the audience,the best Mala Vita ditty on the piano. Nevertheless, something goes wrong.

Indeed, after the execution, Giordano was stunnedby a mortifying silence in the room. Audience gathered in the hall corners playing cards and ignoring him. Humiliated and offended, Giordano left the room. He will return to Foggia thirty-six years later. After that sad episode, the Master faced the most painful period of his life. His new opera “Regina Diaz”is unsuccessfuland his actual talentis put under discussion. Besides, the publisher Sonzognowrites to Giordano with harsh words: "I realize that, despite Mala Vita, you have not the bright of a musical genius. The art is not for you: my commitment is over”.

Andrea Chénier

Immediately after the publisher dismissed him, a lucky meeting changes Giordano’s life. Alberto Franchetti, a famous composer belonging to theso called realist school, on April 20, 1894 says: "I know that Sonzogno is furious with you, and I can’t understand why, as I know your first opera”. Master Franchettifeatures a libretto by Luigi Illica and convinces Sonzogno to step back.

Giordano ends his opera Andrea Chénier on January 27, 1896 and delivers it to his publisher Sonzogno, who devolves his judgment to his musical adviser, Galli. The criticist speaks plainly: "Chénier is not worth: unpresentable opera".

However, a friend of Giordano’s, Pietro Mascagni, who is a famous composer and conductor, has a different opinion about the opera and decides to intercede with Sonzogno and Galli. For Mascagni "The Chéniershoudnot be discussed." The opera appears in the program again, despite any contingencies were going to occur. The tenor Alfonso Garulli, worried by the last critics about the opera, disappears. Giordano is obliged to look for a new singer, someone who has nothing to lose from any possible opera fiasco. Borgatti, tenor with an up and down career, seems to be the right man at the right time. Everything is ready. It is 1896.The opera was an overwhelming success, and performed all over Europe. Numerous telegramswere delivered from Foggia, including the one by Emilio Perrone, who writes him personally. The same year, Umberto Giordano got married with Olga Spatz, completing his youthful passion lasting a lifetime. They will have four children (Mario, Fedora, Eli and Rina) and will remain together until his beloved wife death in 1940. During the honeymoon, the bride and groom tribute to Giuseppe Verdi, familiar with their love story, who at that time lived in Genoa. Indeed, the Master from Busseto unlimitedly trusts Giordano’s talent and uses to give him manyadvices. Verdi explains to his colleague: "Never edit today what you have written yesterday; the most of times you will dislike it andmistakenly destroy it. Write all way an act, then set aside the sheets you have written and begin the second act. Work on the second act the same way you worked for the first one, in order to continue with the composition of the third and fourth ones. Then have a rest: when you have regained your strength, you can review and correct the entire job you have done; just at that time, you can feel confident as you are not going wrong" Success after success It is a golden moment for Giordano, even if, as well asit happens to Mascagni for his operaCavalleriaRusticana,he feels "condemned to the masterpiece", after the success achieved by the Andrea Chénier. Nevertheless, the Apulian musician’s talent has no limits. Giordano composes a masterpieceaftermasterpiece: Fedora, Siberia, Madame Sans-Gêne, la Cena delle Beffe and Il Re. Foggia notices him only in 1900. As a successful opera composer, Master was invited several times to attend the opera season in Foggia,which included some of his works alongside those ones composed by Mascagni, Puccini and Leoncavallo, but henever accepted. Almost thirty years passed before he went back to Foggia, on June 5, 1928,on the occasion of the 1915-18 war memorial opening. The relationship between Giordano and his citizens seems re-established, although there was no way to return living in his hometown anymore. On August 23, 1928, Municipality of Foggia entitled theDauno Theatreto Umberto Giordano. He spent the last years of his life in Milan where, after being proclaimed in 1947 “Senator for music", he died on November 12, 1948.



A special laboratory

In 1895Giordano lives in Milan, in a large ground level room owned by a funerary items seller. The room is full of coffins, statues, tombstones and marble crosses. The Apulian Master uses that dismal local as laboratory just to live near Luigi Illica, the librettist, and to work closely with him. He brings there a little bed, a table, an oil lamp, some chairs and a piano. In these conditions, Giordano wrote the opera that will change his life forever: the Andrea Chénier. A musician with astrong personality In the middle of his job for the opera “Andrea Chénier”, during a moment of despair, Giordano and Illica furiously discussed. The librettist meant to quit the project, and the composer, in a fit of rage, picks his revolver from his pocket.Illica, terrified, swears to the Master he would haveremained with him and done all the necessary. Giordano reveals to him that the weapon was tin and both burst into loud laughter resounding reconciling. A complicated relationship with his native city In 1911, on thefiftieth anniversary celebration for the Unification of Italy, the citycouncil member,Ricca,schedules in the local lyric opera program the opera “Marcella”. He trusts that Mr. Eugenio Maury, a national level politician who personally knows the Master, can convince the Master to take part to the celebration. The whole city is enthusiast for the Master’s return after twenty years, but in the performance day, in themorning, Giordano sends a telegram on Mr. Maury announcing that for some unspecified reason he will reach Foggia even this time. Mr. Maury, in order to mitigate the discontent, invites the Master Pietro Mascagni to the Theater, who says the audience to be there for replacing the composer for his very willing.


A cura di Maria Isabella Battiante, Foggia, il teatro, la storia. Dalle rappresentazioni di corte al melodramma giordaniano, pubblicato dal Comune di Foggia con il coordinamento editoriale centro di ricerca e documentazione "Nuova Immagine" di Vincenzo Mascitti, 1996

D. Cellamare, Umberto Giordano – La vita e le opere, Garzanti, Milano, 1949

D. Cellamare, Umberto Giordano, Fratelli Palombi Editori, Roma

A cura di M. Moroni, Umberto Giordano, Casa Musicale Sonzogno, Milano, 1968

Intervista a Giordano tratto da Un giornale tra due città, Staderini Editore, 1960

F. Nicolidi, Musica e musicisti nel ventennio fascista, Nuova Italia, 1984

U. Ojetti, Cose viste, 1921-1943, Sansoni, 1960


Published by the Musicalia Foundation owned by Banca del Monte di Foggia

AA. VV. Puglia. L’organizzazione musicale a cura di Pierfranco Moliterni – Quaderni regionali CIDIM – Roma 1986

AA. VV. Strutture teatrali dell’800 in Puglia - Assessorato alla Cultura della Regione Puglia – Accademia di Belle Arti di Bari – Bari 1987

D. Cellamare, Cronistoria degli spettacoli di 140 anni (1828-1968), Fratelli Palombi Editori, Roma 1969

G. De Rosa, Storia moderna, Minerva Italica, Bergamo 1986

M. C. Nardella, La riforma amministrativa, in 12° Convegno Nazionale sulla Preistoria – Protostoria – Storia della Daunia, Tipografia Dotoli, San Severo 1991

M. R. Tritto, La ricerca in Archivi, storia e ricerca, a cura dell’Archivio di Stato di Foggia, Centrografico Francescano, Foggia 1994

F. Villani, La nuova Arpi, Premiato Stab. Tipografico Migliaccio, Salerno 1876

R. Villari, Storia contemporanea, Editori Laterza, Bari 1981

A. Vitulli, I teatri di Foggia nei secoli XVIII e XIX, Daunia Editrice, Foggia 1993

Documenti dell’Archivio del Teatro “U. Giordano” di Foggia

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