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Ib and Little Christina
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Franco Leoni

Franco Leoni was born born in Milan October 24, 1864. He died in Dover, England, November 11, 1938 [some records indicate his death as 8 February, 1949].

He studied music at the Milan Conservatory, studying under Ponchielli and Dominiceti. He wrote some large-scale sacred choral works, but emigrated to England after the success of his first opera, Raggio di Luna, in 1890. In England he produced some decidedly un-Italian works, such as in 1897, Rip van Winkle from Washington Irving, and Ib and Little Christina from Hans Christian Anderson (1901).

L'Oracolo is accepted as his most popular work. It was produced at Covent Garden in 1905 with Antonio Scotti portraying the opium dealer, Cim-Fen. Scotti made the role his own, and took it to America, where it enjoyed a long run at the Metropolitan Opera starting in 1915. Many reviews cite his performance as being downright evil, certainly rivaling his Scarpia. He chose to perform in it for his 1933 farewell from the Met — but L'Oracolo has not often been heard since although it was recoreded in 1977.

After Leoni returned to Italy in 1917, he composed several other operas about which little is known.


  • Raggio di Luna (5 June 1890, Milan) Libretto by Camillo Zanoni. Opera in 2 acts?
  • Rip Van Winkle (4 Sept 1897, Covent Garden Theatre, London). Opera in 2 acts?
  • Ib and Little Christina (after H. C. Andersen), London, Savoy, 14 Nov 1901. Opera in 2 parts
  • L'Oracolo (28.6.1905 Covent Garden Theatre, London). Tragic Opera in 1 Act,
    words by Camillo Zanoni, after the play, The Cat and the Cherub, by Chester Bailey Fernald.
  • Tzigana (E. Moschini), Genoa, 3 Feb 1910
  • Francesca da Rimini (M. Crawford), Paris, (Favart), 1914
  • Le baruffe chiozzotte (after C. Goldoni), Milan, 2 Jan 1920
  • La terra del sogno (Linati), Milan, 10 Jan 1920
  • Falene (C. Linati), Milan, 1920
  • Massemarello, (Details unknown; unperformed)

Other Works

  • The Gate of Life. Dramatic Cantata. Verse written by Schapcott Wensley. (1897)
  • Golgotha. Words from the text of the New Testament, narrated in music (for soli, chorus and orchestra). (Chappell, 1910).

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