Palmi is a middle-sized town on the Calabrian coast, on the toe of the boot of Italy; it is about 450 km south of Naples, about 50 north of Reggio Calabria. It is the native town of Francesco Cilea, born on 23 July 1866, one of the leading composers of the giovane scuola, the ‘young school’ of opera composers that included Puccini. Like most of them, excepting of course Puccini himself, he is now remembered by just one or two operas – his L’arlesiana (1897) is still occasionally heard, his Adriana Lecouvreur (1902), beloved of aging prima donnas, rather more often.
His native town still takes pride in him. He spent most of his working life in Naples, and he died in the north, in Varazze, not far from Genoa, in 1950; his villa was for a time used for arts conferences. But Palmi held a Celebrazione Maestro Francesco Cilea on the 25th anniversary of his death, holds a music competition in his name, has a monument to him in the Piazza Pentimalli (with a frieze depicting the story of Orpheus), and also maintains a room to him in the Casa di Cultura of the Museo Civico. The house of his birth was destroyed in the 1940s.
CILEA MUSEUM Photo Gallery
A wide range of Cilea exhibits are housed in a single room. There are photographs of his family, his teachers, his colleagues (Puccini and Toscanini among them) and his early interpreters, many in particular associated with Adriana Lecouvreur, including Caruso (whose career L’arlesiana helped launch). Busts show an affable face; there is also a death mask. Certificates, diplomas, medallions and ribbons testify to his reputation. The collection also holds his very comprehensive cuttings books, more than 2000 of his letters (and those of his widow), and his own music library, which includes many of his music manuscripts.
Palmi was also the native town of Nicola Antonio Manfroce (1791-1813), a composer of great talent and unfulfilled promise: his first opera was given in Rome when he was 19, his second and last in Naples two years later. One showcase in the museum is devoted to his memory.
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