ITALO MONTEMEZZI was born at Vigasio, in the province of Verona, on May 31, 1875. His father planned for him a career as engineer and since, in his early study of the piano, Italo revealed very little aptitude for music, it seemed for many years that engineering would be his life-work. It was only after he had been sent to Milan to complete his technical studies that he decided to abandon engineering for the sake of musical composition which, for all his ineptitude, had fascinated him for a long time. His elementary training in music had been so spasmodic and incomplete, however, that it was not easy for him to gain admission into the Conservatory of Milan. Perseverance finally conquered: after two fruitless attempts to gain admission he was finally accepted.
Studying under Saladino in counterpoint and Ferroni in composition Montemezzi applied himself with such enthusiasm and diligence to his studies that it was not long before he made adequate progress in the art. The gaps in his musical education were rapidly filled in; before long he was among the best pupils of the Conservatory. In 1900, he obtained the diploma of the Conservatory--fully equipped now in his technique, to launch himself upon a career of composition.
For several years he lived in quiet and solitude working with an industry that would know no discouragement. One of the operas which he composed during this period was finally performed in Turin in 1905. It was Giovanni Gallurese, and it bore such a stamp of individuality that critics called him one of the ablest of the younger Italian composers. His second opera Héllera passed unnoticed. But with his next work--L'Amore dei Tre Rè (on the famous play of Sam Benelli)--Montemezzi approached fame. L'Amore dei Tre Rè remains, to date, Montemezzi's most successful work, and its continued success in the leading opera-houses of the world assured its composer a glowing fame.
"Let it be admitted at once"--writes Lawrence Gilman--"that Montemezzi is
a musician who commands respect. He is a composer of evident scholarship, of indubitable feeling, of deep seriousness and sincerity. . . . He has given us a score in which, from beginning to end, there is not a measure which can justly be called meretricious; a score that makes no ad captandum appeal at all. He has applied himself with undivided earnestness and devotion to the task of setting forth his dramatic theme with all the enhancing power of which he is capable. There is no defection of intention, but defection of capacity. . . . Montemezzi's ideas lack distinction; but what is worse, they lack character. His music is wanting in profile; it has no marked personality. It has feeling, it is rhetorically impressive; but of true imagination it has little."
L'Amore dei Tre Rè is a product of Montemezzi's musical credo which consists in the fervent belief that music without melody is impossible. Its greatest strength is that its melodic flow is continuous, fluent and fresh. It is definitely in the traditions of Italian opera, and as such its existence may not be a permanent one, but it will be richly successful.
Feruccio Bonavia explains Montemezzi's musical ideal. "Neither scholasticism nor realism appeal to him. His main aim is to create the musical atmosphere in which the characters of