Composer Nino Rota was born into a family of musicians in Milan in 1911. He was initially a student of Giacomo Orefice and Ildebrando Pizzetti until he moved to Rome while still a child, and completed his studies under Alfredo Casella at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in 1929. In the meantime, he became an enfant prodigy, famous as both a composer and a conductor. His first oratorio, L’infanzia di San Giovanni Battista, was performed in Milan and Paris as early as 1923, and his lyrical comedy, Il Principe Porcaro, was composed in 1926.

From 1930 to 1932, Rota lived in the U.S.A. He won a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Philadelphia and studied composition under Rosario Scalero and conducting under Fritz Reiner. When Rota returned to Italy, he earned a degree in literature from the University of Milan. In 1937, he began a teaching career that led to his directorship of the Bari Conservatory, a title he held from 1950 until his death in 1979.

During his long career Rota was an extraordinarily prolific composer, especially of music for the cinema. He wrote more than 150 scores for Italian and international productions from the 1930s until his death in 1979—an average of three scores each year over a 46-year period, and in his most productive period from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s he wrote as many as ten scores every year, and sometimes more, with a remarkable thirteen film scores to his credit in 1954.

Rota’s work in film dates back to the early forties and his filmography includes virtually all of the noted directors of his time.

The first of these is Federico Fellini. Rota wrote the scores for all of Fellini’s films from The White Sheik in 1952 toThe Orchestra 
Rehearsal in 1979. Rota also collaborated with other directors, including Renato Castellani, Luchino Visconti, Franco Zeffirelli, Mario Monicelli, Francis Ford Coppola, King Vidor, René Clément, Edward Dmytrik and Eduardo de Filippo. Rota composed the music for the first two films of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy, receiving the Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Godfather Part II in 1974. The American Film Institute ranked Rota’s score for The Godfather #5 on their list of the greatest film scores.

Alongside this great body of film work, he composed operas such as Ariodante (Parma 1942), I due timidi (RAI 1950, London 1953), Aladino e la lampada magica (Naples 1968), La visita meravigliosa (Palermo 1970), and Napoli milionaria (Spoleto Festival 1977), five ballets including La rappresentazione di Adamo ed Eva (Perugia 1957), Le Molière Imaginaire (Paris and Brussels 1976) and Amor di poeta (Brussels 1978) for Maurice Bejart and dozens of other orchestral, choral and chamber works, the best known being his string concerto. Additionally, he composed the music for many theatre productions by Visconti, Zefirelli and de Filippo, as well as maintaining a long teaching career at the Liceo Musicale in Bari, Italy, where he was the director for almost 30 years.

In February of 1995, the Nino Rota Foundation was established at Fondazione Cini of Venice, Italy. Cini specializes in the works of 20th-century Italian composers and includes the estate of Alfredo Casella.