Giovanni “Nino” Rota, commonly referred to as Nino Rota, was an Italian composer and pianist, born on 3rd December 1911. In a career that spanned close to 46 years, Rota was known mostly for his tremendous capacity to produce large number of film scores in a relatively short period of time. Rota’s most notable works were for films of Italian directors Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti. Averaging around 3 film scores per year, Rota is also said to have worked most ferociously in the period of 1949-54, where he would produce close to 10 film scores per year. Apart from his efforts in the film industry, Rota managed to work on around ten operas, five ballets and several other orchestral, choral and chamber works.
Rota spent much of his early years familiarizing himself with basic techniques of composition, and devoted much of his energy to maneuvering his skills to set in well with the traditional trajectories of classical music. Until the late 1930s, he had been teaching composition and harmony in the Taranto Music School and the Bari Conservatory, continuing his term in the latter till 1950. In 1944, Rota worked on his first film score for director Renato Castellani’s Zaza. Resulting in significant success after this endeavor, Rota worked again with Castellani in the 1946 classic Father, My Son. Until 1952, he had worked with several other directors in the industry, creating some classic works in films such as Flesh Will Surrender (1947), Hey Boy(1948), Her Favorite Husband (1949), A Dog’s Life (1950) and The Wonderful Adventures of Guerrin Meschino (1951). Roto officially began his relationship with renowned director Federico Fellini in 1952, producing a brilliant and syncretic sound score for the movie The White Sheik (1952), following this up with two successive works, I vitelloni (1953) and La Strada (1954). Roto described this collaboration as one that was always meant to exist, and that when they worked together, everything fell in place in a perfect semblance. They continued to work together for decades, producing close to 70 scores until Rota’s death in 1979.
In the next few years, Rota worked together with several other directors, but the collaborations with Fellini would always stand out as some of his best works. Some of the examples include Rota’s scores for Nights of Cabiria (1957) and La Dolce Vita (1960). The immense contributions of his works for Fellini are quite evident in the 1963 classic 8½. While the film itself may have appeared to be in disorder, Rota’s tracks helped synchronize the entire production, thereby making it seem flawless. Another important work for Fellini was on the film Juliet of the Spirits (1965), in which Rota composed some popular songs with Eugene Walter. Some of these compositions, such as “Go Milk the Moon” and “What Is a Youth?” became quite celebrated as a film contribution, with the latter appearing in Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Apart from his works on films, Rota was also known to have produced a lot of concertos, chamber works and ballets. Operas such as Il cappello di paglia di Firenze (1946) and La visita meravigliosa (1970) were the most successful, with choral works like Mysterium (1962) and La vita di Maria(1970) providing further evidence as to the brilliance of this Italian prodigy.
Nino Rota passed away on 10th April 1979, leaving behind some legendary contributions to classical music.