Franco Leoni

Born: Milan, October 24, 1864
Died: Dover, England, November 11, 1938 [some records indicate his death as 8 February, 1949]

Composer of Italian birth. Studied music at the Milan Conservatory, studying under Ponchielli and Dominiceti. He wrote some large-scale sacred choral works, but emigrated to England after the success of his first opera, Raggio di Luna, in 1890. In England he produced some decidedly un-Italian works, such as in 1897, Rip van Winkle from Washington Irving, and Ib and Little Christina from Hans Christian Anderson (1901).

L'Oracolo is accepted as his most popular work. It was produced at Covent Garden in 1905 with Antonio Scotti portraying the opium dealer, Cim-Fen. Scotti made the role his own, and brought it to America, where it enjoyed a long run at the Metropolitan Opera starting in 1915. Many reviews cite his performance as being downright evil, certainly rivaling his Scarpia. He chose to perform in it for his 1933 farewell from the Met—but L'Oracolo has not often been heard since.

Ah-Joe's First Act soprano solo was recorded in Italian by Dorothy Warenskjold, and in English by Frances Alda, both before 1920. Tito Gobbi made a recording of the work in 1977.

After Leoni returned to Italy in 1917, he composed several other operas, about which little is known.


Other Works

contributed by John Mucci

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23 Sep 2005