14 August 1911: The premiere of ‘Biancofiore‘, a melodrama in three acts set in 15th century Florence, is held at the Teatro Nuovo in Spoleto, set to music by the Spoletan composer Alessandro Onofri, after whom our city’s Music and Dance School is named.
Onofri – whose paternal grandfather played a key role in the foundation of the Teatro Nuovo as city gonfalonier – was a young lawyer, born in Spoleto in 1874, whose unconditional love for art led him to musical composition and unregrettingly giving up his legal career. In the biographical notes in “Il Teatro Lirico Sperimentale di Spoleto nel suo primo ventennio“, Luigi Pompili tells us that Onofri was a pupil of Mascagni at the Scuola Nazionale di Musica in Rome where he graduated in 1904, and carried out part of his first activity as a musician in the United States, specifically as an organist in Boston. He returned almost immediately to Italy and began to devote himself seriously to composition.
In the Spoleto fortnightly Il Pensiero Radicale of 15 June 1905, Vincenzo Lucini interviewed Alessandro Onofri, mentioning for the first time that the young composer was working on his most ambitious project, an opera entitled Madonna Biancofiore, explaining its genesis and intentions:
«It is a dramatic action in a fourteenth-century setting – says Onofri – which I liked so much and which impressed me after reading the homonymous novella written by our mutual friend Alfredo Vanni, which Prof. Micacchi of Rieti and Checchino Spada [Spoletan librettist, editor’s note] put into poetry, in verses that I, modestly but with the intention of a very coveted attempt, will offer to the public and critics of god knows which theatre, clothed in music and melody […] The inventive part, including a prelude or an intermezzo, is already finished; I am now working feverishly on the instrumental part and it is a fever that does not tire me, but rather increases my enthusiasm and hope of succeeding.»
However, a five-year period would elapse, before the opera could meet its audience. Before debuting in Spoleto, Onofri’s opera had had its Italian premiere at the prestigious Teatro Rossini in Venice on 3 March 1910.
This is revealed on the frontispiece of the publication of the transcription for voice and piano by Puccio Editore. In addition to the score of Biancofiore, the Carducci library also holds the opera’s libretto, printed in Venice in the same year, enriched by Onofri’s autograph dedication. The Carducci library also holds two typescript versions of the libretto and the musical manuscript of another work by Onofri, Fantasia Pagana.
The soirée in Spoleto at the Teatro Nuovo, on the occasion of the Opera Season, was a triumph. The local press (“Il Pensiero Radicale“, the “Messaggero“, the “Giovane Umbria“) dedicated considerable space and several column to the event, in special pages by the very emphatic tones.
Nine performances ensued until 27 August, as the various posters of the time announced. The pride taken in the genius loci results in high acclaim in the reviews by the Spoletan newspapers, decidedly declamatory and also praising Giulio Falconi’s conduction and the interpretation of the soprano Carmen Toschi in the eponymous role. The opera’s good reception was also confirmed by the positive response of the national specialised press.
Onofri’s later musical production woulds not be met with similar acclaim. The failure of two consecutive operettas apparently pushed him towards different albeit eclectic expressive paths, under the banner of an intellectual curiosity that was never satisfied. He returned to Spoleto in 1924 to conduct Umberto Giordano’s “Andrea Chenier”, but devoted himself less and less to music, first turning to antiques, then the activity of impresario, literature (in 1926 he wrote the novel “Quando sarà vita“) and finally biology and medicine studies.
Onofri was a peculiar figure, whom Luigi Pompili, in the cited volume, remembers fondly, like when he tells us about Onofri’s last years and how his 1932 death in Varese caught him when still young; Onofri died of a heart attack while “working in a nursing home” and “preparing to graduate [in medicine] while at the same time resuming his musical composition“.
Onofri left an unfinished trilogy, for which he only completed “Fantasie Pagane” and “Fantasie Cristiane“.
Il Teatro Lirico Sperimentale di Spoleto nel suo primo ventennio, Spoleto 1966
Dizionario Enciclopedico Universale della Musica e dei Musicisti, Turin, 1988
Un manoscritto inedito di Alessandro Onofri nella biblioteca della Scuola comunale di musica di Spoleto, “Spoletium”, n. 44, December 2003
Il teatro nuovo, Rome, 2003
- The library at Palazzo Mauri | 9 April 2021
- The history of Ponte Garibaldi | 2 April 2021
- Dante in the Lands of the Duchy | 26 March 2021
- The City’s Remembrance Day | 19 March 2021
- The inauguration of the Vallocchia Urban Aqueduct | 12 March 2021
- Annibale della Genga and Porta San Gregorio | 5 March 2021
- Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the Festival Of Two Worlds | 26 February 2021
- August 1904. From a congress in Spoleto, the Federazione Nazionale delle Pubbliche Assistenze is born | 19 February 2021
- The Spoleto Carnival in posters from the 19th and 20th centuries, and in photos from the 1930s | 12 February 2021
- The Vocational School of Arts and Crafts | 8 February 2021
- December 1897: the Teatro Caio Melisso hosts the “Cinematograph” | 29 January 2021
- July 1904: first public phone booth in Spoleto | 15 January 2021
- Roman relics in the gardens of Spoleto | 8 January 2021
- Olive oil exhibition in 1930 | 18 December 2020
- The Town Hall in 1913 | 4 December 2020
- 1865: The third leg of the works on the Traversa Interna begins | 27 November 2020
- The birth of the Cotton Mill | 20 November 2020
- Racewalkers at the Giro della Rocca prepare themselves for the London Olympic Games: June, 1948 | 13 November 2020
- Teatro Nuovo: 10-11 September 1864 | 6 November 2020
- Images, August 1948. Teatro Nuovo, Spoleto, second edition of the competition for young opera singers | 30 October 2020
- The 1948 Mille Miglia in Spoleto. That time when Tazio Nuvolari… | 16 October 2020
- Beniamino Gigli in Spoleto in September, 1932 and August,1939 | 9 October 2020
- The Casina dell’Ippocastano | 2 October 2020
- Catalogue of public posters as documents of city chronicles | 25 September 2020
- 27 May 1948. When Gino Bartali crossed the finish line in Spoleto | 18 September 2020
- The Festival Of Two Worlds’ Yearbooks from 1975 to 1979 | 11 September 2020
- The 1967 Festival Of Two Worlds’ Yearbook | 26 August 2020
- The Festival Of Two Worlds’ Yearbooks #2 | 21 August 2020
- The Festival Of Two Worlds’ Yearbooks | 19 August 2020
- 1947-48: Motorcycling in Spoleto | 14 August 2020
- When the Spoleto soccer team’s name was Virtus | 7 August 2020
- Ads and commercials in 1910 Spoleto | 24 July 2020
- The Spoleto City Museum | 17 July 2020
- Restoration works at the Teatro Caio Melisso | 10 July 2020
- Folk feasts’ posters in early XXth-century Spoleto | 3 July 2020
- “Urban VIII on his way to Rome”: or the odd story of the Spoletan Bernini | 26 June 2020
- The ex Spoleto-Norcia Railway: from the first project to its opening | 19 June 2020
- Spoleto Tourist Guidebooks #3 | 12 June 2020
- Christo’s Art at the Festival of Two Worlds | 5 June 2020
- Raffaele Canè – Pictures | 29 May 2020
- Spoleto Tourist Guidebooks #2 | 22 May 2020
- Spoleto Tourist Guidebooks | 15 May 2020
- Pietro Mascagni: the concert at the Teatro Nuovo | 8 May 2020
- The cable car Spoleto-Monteluco | 1 May 2020
- Two days of aviation in Spoleto | 24 April 2020