top of page

Italian Operas


The Soul of Italy

Before I address some interesting opera facts that will absolutely test your knowledge, I have a second shortcoming to confess. Not only am I missing a sweet tooth, as I mentioned in a previous blog, but I am also an abysmal singer. All attempts to sing are strictly limited to my shower when I’m home alone. I am convinced that this talent was left out of my DNA. However, when I listen to a gifted tenor like Luciano Pavarotti hitting a bevy of high Cs, my Italian genes get emotional. Just listen to the opera aria Nessun dorma from Turandot and you’ll know what I mean. Just go too YouTube and type in PAVAROTTI NESSUM DORA. My advice: have a handkerchief ready and I’ll understand if you don’t come back until tomorrow.

Now this might be a bit of a stretch, but when it comes to music or singing, I proudly mention my connection to a distant relative, Sir Francesco Paolo Tosti. Who the heck is that? My answer is that he was an esteemed Italian composer, singer, and teacher of the rich and famous. It took me years to discover the information I gleaned about him, but it was well worth the time.

Tosti was born in Ortona a Mare, Chieti province of Abruzzo, where my father’s family lived. Tosti was just 11 when he began his music education at the Neapolitan Royal College of San Pietro a Mejella. He studied violin and composition, and impressed his professors so much that he was appointed a student teacher. He became friends with Italian pianist and composer Giovanni Sgambati in Rome, who later was able to introduce Tosti to Princess Margherita of Savoy, the future queen of Italy. She later appointed him curator of the Musical Archives of Italy at the Italian Court.

Tosti traveled to London in 1875 where he met influential friends who, in turn, introduced him to the highest levels of English society. In 1880, he was made singing master to the royal family. His reputation as a composer of songs spread across England where one of his songs, For Ever and For Ever, became an instant hit. When 1885 rolled around, he found himself the most popular composer in England. In 1894, Francesco Paolo Tosti joined the Royal Academy of Music as a professor. By 1906, he became a UK citizen, and in 1908, Tosti’s friend King Edward VII of England and the British Empire, knighted Tosti. In 1913, Sir Tosti returned to his beloved Italy where he died in Rome on December 2, 1916.

For those of you who have no interest in genealogy, my guess is that you are really here for my Opera Knowledge Quiz. Therefore, here is my quiz followed by the answers. Following the quiz is the rest of my genealogy research.

Italian OPERA QUIZ (Answers at end of quiz)

1] Composer born in Catania, Sicily in 1801, whose masterpiece Norma, was first performed at La Scala on December 26, 1831. Other notable works include La Sonnambula (1831) and his last opera, I Puritani, composed for the Theatre Italien in Paris.

2] Identify the three-act opera by Gaspare Luigi Spontini that opens at the forum in Rome near the temple of Vesta. This opera first premiered at the Paris Opera on December 16, 1807.

3] Composer Ruggiero Leoncavallo is best known for his masterpiece, I Pagliacci. His four-act opera, Zaza, premiered at the Teatro Lirico in Milan on 11/10/1900. In what country does Zaza take place?

4] Giacomo Puccini wrote the music for what opera that takes place during California’s 1849 Gold Rush? It premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on December 10, 1910. The opera is based on a story by American author Davis Belasco.

5] Name Lucchese Alfredo Catalani’s last and most famous opera that premiered at La Scala on January 20, 1892, one year before his death.

6] Identify the composer who wrote eleven of his best loved operas between 1830 and 1843. They include: Anna Bolena, Elisir d’Amore, La Figlia Del Reggimento, La Favorita, Don Pasquale, and his most popular work, Lucia di Lammermoor. In all, he composed 65 operas and operettas.

7] L’Amore dei Tre Re, a three-act tragic opera first performed at the Teatro alla Scala in 1913, established what writer among the leading operatic composers of his day?

8] Identify the four-act opera drammatica written by Amilcare Ponchielli with libretto by Arrigo Boito. The story begins in the courtyard of the Venetian Ducal Palace, where a beautiful young traveling singer refuses the proposal of Barnaba, a spy. Title of the opera and its heroine are identical.

9] What composer is best remembered today for his libretti, especially those for Giuseppe Verdi's last three monumental operas Otello, Falstaff and Mefistofele?

10] Whose opera, Marina, lost out to Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana for the coveted Sonzogno prize in 1889? In 1896, his Andrea Chenier was a tremendous success and soon established itself in the international repertory.

11] Whose La Bohème (less popular than Puccini’s version) was first seen on May 6, 1897 at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice.

12] What gifted and brilliant composer, designated as the heir to Giuseppe Verdi, was born in Lucca in 1858? His opera, Manon Lescaut, which premiered in Turin in 1893, transformed him into a worldwide success literally overnight.

13] This four-act opera by Gioacchino Rossini is based on the play by Friedrich Schiller about the legend of the famous Swiss hero. Name the opera that first premiered at the Paris Opera on August 3, 1829.

14] What crossword puzzle writer’s favorite tenor was famous for singing the aria Nassun Dorma from Puccini’s opera Turandot (Libretto: Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni)—perhaps the greatest tenor ever.

15] Name the Italian composer, born in Cremona two years after the Knights of St. John’s heroic victory over the Turks at Malta (1565), and became the dominant figure in the history of early Baroque music with his first opera, Orfeo, considered a landmark in the history of opera. His last opera, L’incoronazione di Poppea, was written when the genre of opera was only a few decades old. The music has been praised for its originality, its melody, and for its reflection of the human attributes of its characters.

16] When this composer died on January 27, 1901, Milan went into official mourning for three days. More than 200,000 people crowded the streets to display their grief. Among the mourners in the official funeral party were all the important Italian composers of the day: Giacomo Puccini, Ruggiero Leoncavallo, Pietro Mascagni, and Umberto Giordano. A month later, when his remains were moved to their final resting place, more than 300,000 people paid their respects. Remember: Rigoletto, La Traviata, Aida, Otello, La Forza Del Destino & Il Trovatore.

17] What Italian dramatic composer succeeded Antonio Salieri (teacher of Beethoven and Schubert) as Court Kapellmeister in Vienna where he wrote Il Maestro di Capella (The Choir-Leader), his most celebrated work?

18] What is the name of the Japanese heroine in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly?

19] An Italian composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher, impresario, and Roman Catholic priest, born in Venice in 1678, is regarded as one of the greatest baroque composers. He makes reference to his "94 operas," but only 50 operas by him have been discovered. His best-known work is a series of violin concertos known as the Four Seasons.


1] Music: Vincenzo Bellini Libretto: Felice Romani

2] La Vestale, Libretto: Etienne De Jouy

3] France, Libretto also by Leoncavallo

4] La Fanciulla Del West (The Girl of the Golden West) Libretto: Carlo Zangarini & Guelfo Civinini

5] La Wally, Libretto: Luigi Illica

6] Gaetano Donizetti, Libretto for Lucia Di Lammermoor Salvatore Cammarano

7] Italo Montemezzi, Libretto: Sem Benelli

8] La Gioconda

9] Arrigo Boito

10] Umberto Giordano, Libretto: Luigi Illica

11] Ruggiero Leoncavallo, also wrote his version’s libretto.

The other La Bohème, opera in four acts by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa) that premiered at the Teatro Regio in Turin, Italy, on February 1, 1896.

12] Giacomo Puccini, set to an “anonymous” libretto that included Leoncavallo, Giacosa, Praga, Oliva, Illica, and Ricordi.

13] William Tell, Libretto: Etienne De Jouy & Hippolyte Bis

14] Luciano Pavarotti Oct 12, 1935 - Sep 06, 2007 (age 71)

15] Claudio Monteverdi, Libretto: Francesco Busenello

16] Giuseppe Verdi

17] Domenico Cimarosa

18] Cio-Cio-San

19] Antonio Vivaldi

At this point, I’m going to review a genealogical chart that verifies my connection to the Tosti family. The connection is not from my paternal Radomile side but from my grandmother’s Ciampoli side.

Before I continue, I’d like to mention a book I discovered entitled The Song of a Life, Francesco Paolo Tosti (1846-1916) being a story about Tosti’s life and work concerning music. Apparently my great grandfather, Giorgio Ciampoli (1873-1966) married Anna Tosti (1887-1969). Anna Tosti was a niece of Francesco Paolo Tosti. Giorgio’s father Pietro Ciampoli was married to Luisa Sirolli, who died in child birth in 1881. My grandmother Lucietta Ciampoli Radomile married Attilio Regolo Radomile in February 1910. In June, Attilio boarded the Duca Degli Abruzzi passenger ship to Philadelphia to work as a salesman for the P.S. Appliance Company, and purchased a home on Moore Street in South Philadelphia. In 1911 Lucietta boarded the S.S. Florida with her sister Amalia for New York and then Philadelphia to join him.

I believe Attilio’s Radomile family immigrated to Villalfonsina, Abruzzi (overlooking Vasto) in 1700 AD. I think the Ciampoli’s came to Ortona as merchants from Tuscany. The Radomile name is not Italian but Bosnian. Directly across from Ortona/Villalfonsina and the Adriatic Sea is Split on the Dalmatian coast, to the northeast is the town of Radomile. In the Slavic language Rado means “Son of” and mile means “soldier”. So that gives us the surname Radomile meaning son of a soldier. The town is located between Bosnia’s two largest cities, Sarajevo and Banja Luka.

In Tosti’s book, there is a photo section featuring Tosti with some personal friends who were involved with opera.

Here’s a listing for photo #1. A group photo (1902 Milan - left to right) with Opera Composer Alberto Franchitti, Sept. 18, 1860 Turin – Aug. 4, 1942.

Gabriele D'Annunzio, March. 12, 1863 – March 1, 1938 (age 74) was an Italian poet, playwright, orator, journalist, and soldier during World War I. Born in Pescara, Abruzzo.

Giacomo Puccini was an Italian composer known primarily for his operas. Regarded as the greatest and most successful proponent of Italian opera after Giuseppe Verdi. Born in Lucca, Tuscany, Dec. 22, 1858 – Nov, 29, 1924. Francesco Paolo Michetti was an Italian painter known especially for his genre works. Born in Tocco da Casauria, Abruzzo, Oct. 2, 1851 – March 5, 1929.

Photo #2 A game of cards with Tosti and tenor Enrico Caruso somewhere in the English countryside, 1907.

Photo #3 Singing lesson with Tosti at Mandeville Place, London. The Spanish queen was born as Princess Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena of Battenberg on October 24, 1887 at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She was the second child and only daughter of Princess Beatrice (also present) of the United Kingdom and Prince Henry of Battenberg. Beatrice was the youngest granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England, 1905.

Photo #4 Tosti in front of Hotel Excelsior, Rome, in Via Veneto in the last years of Tosti’s life, 1916.

Photo #5 Tosti photo’d in London with: Eleonora Giulia Amalia Duse, often known simply as Duse, was an Italian actress, rated by many as the greatest actress of her time. She performed in many countries, notably in the plays of Gabriele D'Annunzio and Henrik Ibsen. Duse, 1858-1924, was born in Vigevano, Lombardy. Matilde Serao was a Greek-born Italian journalist and novelist. She was the first woman hired to edit an Italian newspaper. She received four Nobel Prize nominations. Born in Lombardy in 1856 and died in Pittsburg, PA in 1927.

The Tosti 2004 book, by Francesco Sanvitale has also been helpful in my Ciampoli research. To my delight, I found a listing for Domenico Ciampoli on pages 12 and 216-217. Here's a footnote found at the bottom of page 216.

Domenico Ciampoli (1853-1929) was an Abruzzese intellectual, a well-known university lecturer and director of important national libraries such as 'Marciana' in Venice, and the 'Vittorio Emanuele II' in Rome. He was an expert in Italian and foreign literature and short stories set in the Abruzzi.

Apparently Tosti had composed 15 songs that were included in the Canti Popolari Abruzzesi collection, published by Ricordi in 1880. Those songs were inspired by popular songs of the Abruzzesi region, but the original versions and texts were lost. "The only information available regarding the origin of the songs can only be read in the manuscript in which Domenico Ciampoli gave an account of a visit to the Marquise Silvina Olivieri-DeFelici.” In 1897, Tosti set them to music.

A current day discovery came about when I found that Luisa Sirolli had married Pietro Ciampoli in Abruzzo.

I believe Ernesto Sirolli (born in 1950) is a distant cousin of ours via our grandmother, Lucietta Ciampoli Radomile. I urge you to view Sirolli's TED video. Simply go to YouTube and type in Ernesto Sirolli under search. The following is an email I sent to Mr. Sirolli.

Caro Maestro Ernesto Sirolli: February 10, 2018

I discovered your TEDx lecture and was very much impressed.

I would not have found it had I not googled the Sirolli surname because of my Italian family genealogical research. I am currently focused on my grandmother's Ciampoli/Sirolli family roots. I have enlisted the aid of an Italian genealogist in Abruzzo. In doing so, I have discovered that our great great grandfather, Pietro Ciampoli, was married to Luisa Sirolli, also born in Altina, Chieti. Luisa was born in 1841 and died in the delivery room while delivering her fourth child, Margherita, in 1881. Pietro’s son Giorgio, went on to marry Anna Tosti, niece of Francesco Paolo Tosti, the renowned Abruzzese composer. Tosti, was a voice and music teacher for many years at the English royal court.

By the way, Signor Sirolli, I live perhaps 100 miles from your home in Sacramento. My grandmother, Lucietta, was born in Ortona and my grandfather, Attilio Regolo Radomile was born in Villalfonsina, both in of Chieti province of Abruzzo, and near your birthplace of Altina.

My grandmother, Lucietta, was born in 1885, four years after Luisa died in childbirth. My Italian family research inspired me to write an epic novel concerning the 1571 Battle of Lepanto (The Spear of Lepanto with book trailer) and also a screenplay entitled: The Forgotten Adventures of Miguel de Cervantes. Both can be seen at my book website at:

As a proud Italian American, anyone like Tosti who was friends with such luminaries as Giacomo Puccini, Enrico Caruso, Gabriele D’Annunzio and a King of England, deserved to be mentioned just for its history.

As Richard Somerset-Ward wrote in his book, The Story Of Opera,

“Opera combines many different art forms – Music and Drama, Acting and Singing, Design and Stage Direction. Take away any one of these components and the whole effect can be nullified, or at any rate diminished.”

Become an Italian Cultural Expert

Reading these

Italian Themed Blogs with Quizzes

1] Art book prologue with an Italian twist?

2] Become an instant Italian American Olive Oil expert.

3] Do you know what a Diva is?

4] Falling in love with Giulia.

5] How many Italic singers do you know?

6] In Vino Veritas

7] Man without a Sweet Tooth.

8] Most popular Italian Surname.

9] Operas are the Soul of Italy.

10] So they call us Tomato Lovers?

11] Twenty Italian Regional Cuisines.

12] Where’s the Italian Cheese?

Access Here:


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page