Associazione per il musicista Alberto Franchetti

Home » Alberto Franchetti: Life in Brief

Alberto Franchetti: Life in Brief

Associazione per il musicista Alberto Franchetti APS


0522 440891
Codice fiscale 91144660353

Quota associativa

Quota Associativa annuale:
30,00 euro


Cartoline di Germania illustrate da Leopoldo Metlicovitz, pubblicate da Ricordi per la prima esecuzione dell'opera

By Roberto Marcuccio

from Alberto Franchetti (1860-1942): l’uomo, il compositore, l’artista, a cura di Paolo Giorgi e Richard Erkens, Lucca, Libreria Musicale Italiana, 2015, pp. 349-352.

The Franchetti family has roots stretching back many years into the past. In the 19th and 20th centuries it produced numerous illustrious figures who distinguished themselves in the worlds of business, patronage and culture.[1]

Raimondo Franchetti sr.

Raimondo Franchetti Sr (1829-1905), Alberto’s father, invested in horse breeding farms in the Mantua area, land reclamation in Veneto, and wine and oil production in Tuscany. He became the biggest and most important Italian agricultural entrepreneur of his time. Among other things, in 1878 he founded the Cavazzone Estate on the hills near Reggio Emilia, which soon became a leading Italian exponent of cutting-edge agriculture. Raimondo Franchetti Sr also funded the restoration of the Garisenda Tower in Bologna. His son Giorgio lived in the stunning Ca’ d’Oro in Venice, where he built up an impressive art collection. He bequeathed both to the Italian State, which took possession of them after his death in the city in 1922.[2] Moving on to the next generation, Alberto’s son was a famous explorer called Raimondo Franchetti Jr (1889-1935) who left the materials that he had gathered during his travels to the Reggio Emilia City Museums, thus laying the foundations for their ethnographic collections.

The musician Alberto Franchetti’s background was in this world of enlightened entrepreneurs who were sensitive to cultural needs.

Sara Louise Rothschild

Born in Turin on 18 September 1860, Alberto Franchetti was the son of Raimondo Franchetti Sr and Sara Louise Rothschild (1834-1924). Reggio Emilia could be considered his adopted home town because it was at the heart of both his family affairs and his musical career.[3]

Introduced to music by his mother and able to count on his family’s significant wealth, he studied in Venice, Munich and Dresden, where he graduated in composition with top marks in 1885[4]. This all helped to ensure that he had a solid, contemporary composition technique.

Alberto Franchetti first ventured into the world of opera with Asrael, which premiered in Reggio Emilia in 1888. It was in the same city that he wrote his most significant works, both of which featured a libretto by Luigi Illica. The first of the two is Cristoforo Colombo, which was composed to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in America and first performed in Genoa in 1892. The original conductor was Luigi Mancinelli and then Arturo Toscanini took over from the third performance. The second of Franchetti’s two biggest operas is Germania. Enrico Caruso starred and Toscanini conducted once again when it premiered at La Scala in Milan in 1902. Franchetti was commissioned to compose Cristoforo Colombo by the city of Genoa after an aged Verdi turned down the job and recommended him as a worthy alternative.

Alberto Franchetti in the early 20th century

Franchetti’s musical output was broad and varied. It also included La figlia di Iorio (1906), with a libretto by Gabriele D’Annunzio,[5] other works in partnership with Giovacchino Forzano and Umberto Giordano, and a less substantial selection of symphonies and chamber music. During his lifetime, Franchetti enjoyed considerable success – albeit only sporadically – thanks to his solid musical background and the sentimental, evocative power of many of his compositions. Some of his inspiration came from the music scene in Germany, where he had studied and assimilated a great deal with a critical spirit.[6] He tried his hand at comedy with Il Signor di Pourceaugnac (1897), but he was better suited to drama.

Alberto Franchetti with his wife Margherita Levi in Reggio Emilia in 1888

Alberto Franchetti married Margherita Levi in Reggio Emilia in 1888, which was also the year when his first opera premiered. In addition to the above-mentioned explorer Raimondo Franchetti Jr, they had two other children: a daughter called Maria and a son called Guido Franchetti (1895-1917), who died while he was on a mission during the First World War. Alberto Franchetti and Margherita Levi divorced in Munich in 1897.[7]

A still of Erminia Bellati, under her stage name Mina D’Orvella

In 1903, Alberto Franchetti embarked on a relationship with a young woman from Lucca called Erminia Bellati. Nicknamed “The Wild One” by D’Annunzio, she became a famous actress in the years following the First World War and went under the stage name Mina d’Orvella. They had a son together called Arnoldo Franchetti (ca. 1906-1993), who also became a musician and composer like his father.[8]

Clara Marini, the second wife of Alberto Franchetti (1916)

Finally, in 1920 Alberto married one of his piano students, named Clara Marini.[9] They had a daughter called Elena Franchetti (1922-2009), who became one of the great German to Italian translators in the years following the Second World War.

Alberto Franchetti was a pioneering figure in the world of motor racing and he also helped to found the Automobile Club of Milan in 1897, going on to become the President in 1899. He became a member of the Regia Accademia di Santa Cecilia (a prestigious musical institution) in 1914 and served as the director of the Conservatory of Florence from 1926 to 1928. He died on 4 August 1942 in Viareggio, where he had spent his final years out of the limelight.

Alberto Franchetti in the 1920s

In the period following the Second World War, music critics have often failed to appreciate Franchetti’s work. Nonetheless, along with his universally renowned friends Puccini and Mascagni he can be considered an important exponent of the Giovane Scuola (“Young School”) of musicians who sought to reinvigorate Italian music in the late 19th and early 20th century.[10]

Find out more about the composer…

Franchetti family tree


[1] For details of the eminent Franchetti family and their estates and matrimonial ties, see: Pier Andrea Maccarini, La dinastia dei Franchetti tra Reggio e Venezia, «Reggio Storia», XIII/2, 1990, pp. 18-23; Mirella Scardozzi, Una storia di famiglia: i Franchetti dalle coste del Mediterraneo all’Italia liberale, «Quaderni storici», xxxviii (114), 2003, pp. 697-740; cfr. inoltre Alberto Franchetti jr. La lunga storia della famiglia Franchetti, in Alberto Franchetti (1860-1942): l’uomo il compositore, l’artista, a cura di Paolo Giorgi e Richard Erkens, (LIM, Lucca, 2015); the Franchetti family tree.

[2] For details of the art and history of the Ca’ d’Oro, see: Da Giorgio Franchetti a Giorgio Franchetti: collezionismi alla Ca’ d’Oro, a cura di Claudia Cremonini e Flavio Fergonzi, catalogo della mostra presso la Galleria Giorgio Franchetti alla Ca’ d’Oro – Venezia, 30 maggio-24 novembre 2013, MondoMostre, [s.l.] 2013.

[3] Brief overviews of the life of Franchetti can also be found in: Giorgio Graziosi, sub vocem «Franchetti barone Alberto», in Enciclopedia dello spettacolo, fondata da Silvio D’Amico, Le maschere, Roma 1954-1962, vol. V, col. 589-593; Marcello Conati, sub vocem «Franchetti Alberto», in Dizionario enciclopedico universale della musica e dei musicisti, diretto da Alberto Basso, Le biografie, 3: Fra-Ja, UTET, Torino 1986, p. 5; Renato Badalì, sub vocem «Franchetti Alberto», in Dizionario biografico degli italiani, 50: Francesco I Sforza-Gabbi, Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, Roma 1998, pp. 65-67 (disponibile anche sul Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani online); Jürgen Maehder – Antonio Rostagno, sub vocem «Franchetti, Alberto», in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie, London, Macmillan, 2001, vol. 9, pp. 169-171; Johannes Streicher, sub vocem «Franchetti, Alberto», in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, herausgegeben von Friedrich Blume, 2002, Personenteil 6, coll.1575-1577; Franco Costi, Alberto Franchetti: musicista di Regnano, [Reggio Emilia], s.n., 2009.

For details of the Franchetti family’s ties to Reggio Emilia, see: Alcide Spaggiari, I baroni Franchetti a Reggio, in Il Rotary per la città, Tecnograf, Reggio Emilia [1987], pp. 3-9; Maccarini, La dinastia dei Franchetti tra Reggio e Venezia; Laura Artioli, Presenza e contributo della famiglia Franchetti a Reggio Emilia, «Ricerche storiche», xxvii (73), 1993, pp. 113-123; Scardozzi, Una storia di famiglia, pp. 719-724; Gino Badini, La famiglia Franchetti e Reggio Emilia, in Il barone viaggiante. Raimondo Franchetti e le esplorazioni nel Corno d’Africa, a cura di Silvia Chicchi e Roberto Macellari, Musei Civici, Reggio Emilia 2007, pp. 113-128.

[4] Alessia Ferraresi, Alberto Franchetti: una biografia dalle lettere, «Fonti musicali italiane», III, 1998, pp. 215-232: 217.

[5] For details of Franchetti and D’Annunzio’s work together, see: Silvana Cellucci Marcone, D’Annunzio e la musica, Japadre, L’Aquila 1972, pp. 45-56; Carlo Santoli, Gabriele D’Annunzio. La musica e i musicisti, Bulzoni, Roma 1997, pp. 91-107.

[6] Alessia Ferraresi, La questione wagneriana nella teoria giovanile di Ferdinando Fontana librettista e Alberto Franchetti musicista, «Horizonte. Italianistische Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaft und Gegenwartsliteratur», II, 1997, pp. 77-88.

[7] Rossana Maseroli Bertolotti, Matrimonio e divorzio di un musicista. Alberto Franchetti e Margherita Levi, «Reggio Storia», xxvi/3, 2001, pp. 8-14. Margherita had another child, who was called Maria, or “Mimì” (1893-1943). She was probably the daughter of a man named Masier that Margherita married after she divorced Franchetti.

[8] Gian Franco Fusco, Il gusto di vivere, a cura di Natalia Aspesi, GLF Editori Laterza, Roma-Bari 2006, pp. 85-93.

[9] Alessia Ferraresi, Alberto Franchetti: la biografia, la produzione, la fortuna. Nuove fonti per una ricostruzione biografica e presentazione di Don Bonaparte, tesi di laurea, Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia, Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia, anno accademico 1993-1994, c. 130. See the website of The Marini Franchetti Collection for more information about Clara Marini, who went on to become a painter and join the Poor Clares.

[10] In addition to the contents found herein and the works in the critical bibliography provided, for more information about Franchetti’s role in the opera world in the late 19th and early 20th century, see the monograph by Richard Erkens entitled Alberto Franchetti. Werkstudien zur italienischen Oper der langen Jahrhundertwende, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2011.

Alberto Franchetti, Napoli 3 aprile 1922 (courtesy of Matteo Malagoli)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: