Carlo Lombardo was born in Naples on November 28, 1869.
Descended from an old noble family of Lucera that migrated to
Naples, he was the second son of the Baron of San Chirico, Felice
Lombardo and Luigia Malvezzi, of the Bologna nobility. A grand
passion for music impelled young
Carlo to enroll at the prestigious San Pietro Academy of Music
in Majella, where he graduated as Maestro in 1887, at age twenty.
In that same year, his début was simultaneous with that
of his friend Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945). Together, they were
engaged as conductors by the Maresca Company for an extended tour
of South America. Mascagni, however, decided not to accompany
them, and stayed in Italy, soon writing the world-famous opera
“Cavalleria Rusticana,” while Lombardo continued on
the transatlantic tour.
On his return, he traveled to Milan and interviewed there with
the leading music publishers. One day in 1889, while strolling
in one of the city’s boulevards, he met Fracasso, another
student from the Majella Conservatory, who was on his way to America.
Thanks to Fracasso, Carlo Lombardo was introduced to the actor-manager
D’Ormeville, who quickly proposed that Lombardo conduct
three performances of Verdi’s "La Forza del Destino."
One evening during these performances, Lombardo was approached
by the famous theatrical agent Tavernari, who told him that Luigi
Maresca was interested in him again, as he was trying to assemble
a production of the operetta "The
Gypsy Baron" of Johann Strauss, Jr. (1825 - 1899), with an
operatic cast. Lombardo was asked to conduct the première
in Italy, in the presence of Strauss. The operetta was an enormous
success and Lombardo continued to conduct other operettas for
The Maresca Company.
Also from this period, Lombardo’s musical compositions began
to be published. His first was a Neapolitan song "Matina
Matì,” with text by the poet Salvatore di Giacomo.
It was first printed by the "Corriere di Napoli" and
then by Ricordi in 1894.
In 1891 Maresca presented a libretto to Lombardo and asked him
to write the score. They quickly came to an agreement, Lombardo
went to work, and the new operetta, named "Un Viaggio di
Piacere" (A Journey of Pleasure), was soon born, playing
in Turin with unqualified success.
Soon thereafter Maresca sent him a second libretto, and again
Lombardo went to work. Entitled “I Conscritti” (“The
Drafted”), quickly became successful, and was produced by
numerous companies. In March, 1896 it was produced at
the National Arena of Florence; at the Quirino Theatre in Rome
it played 85 performances. Its success was such that Lombardo
bought the property from Maresca, revised the script and score,
and reworked it under the title
"Accade a Mezzanotte" (“It Happened at Midnight”).
From this point on, Lombardo decided to write operetta both under
his own name, as well as the pseudonyms Leblanc and Léon
Bard (his family’s coat of arms was in fact a lion).
In the same year, 1896, he presented
his operetta in three acts titled “La Milizia Territoriale”
(“Territorial Military Service”) with the Calligaris-Gravina
Company. The next year they also successfully produced “Le
Cinque Parti del Mondo” (“Five Parts of the World”),
with Lombardo’s text and music by M. Fernandez. Lombardo continued
with Maresca not only as his conductor, but his managing director
as well, thanks to his creative approach and enthusiastic initiative.
In fact, he ended up founding his own
Publishing Firm, putting his brother Constantino (1882-1960)
in charge of Maresca’s orchestra.
When the First World War began, Lombardo headed for the front, but
after his valor was confirmed in 1917, there appeared his “La
Duchessa del Bal Tabarin.” With a saucy libretto as well as
sweet and elegant music, it had all the elements to make this operetta
a great success.
In 1918 Carlo Lombardo opened his music publishing house in Milan,
and then established branches in Berlin and Paris. He wrote a work
concerning nocturnal Paris lowlife, “Madama di Tebe.”
In search for quality collaborations, he engaged Mascagni to write
music to his libretto for “Sì”,
and Mario Costa to compose “Il Re di Chez Maxime” in
Two original big hits took the stage in 1922: "Scugnizza"
(“The Urchin”)--which used his music together with that
of Mario Costa--and "La danza delle libellule" (“The
Dance of Dragonflies”), with music of Lehàr as well
as some Lombardo melodies.
In 1923 he started a fruitful collaboration with Virgilio Ranzato,
a violinist from Milan’s La Scala: together they created the
music for "Il Paese dei campanelli" (The Land of Bells)
and legends as "Luna- Park" and "Cin-ci-la".
In every case Lombardo wrote the libretti as well.
He collaborated with many prominent composers of the period: Pietri
(Primarosa, L'isola verde, “Green isle”) , Darclée
(Operetta, Zig-Zag), Cuscinà (Miss Italia, Il trillo del
diavolo, “The Devil’s Trill”), Mascheroni (Mille
e un bacio, “A Thousand and One Kisses”) and the poet
Renato Simoni (La casa innamorata, “House in Love”),
another big success. Others followed: "Le tre lune", (Three
Moons) "L'appuntamento nel sogno" (Appointment in a Dream)
and "I mulini di Pit-Lil", (The Windmills of Pit-Lil).
Carlo Lombardo worked indefatigably and became the dominant figure
in the “minor lyric” world of operetta. He left this
world in 1959, but what remains is the legacy of his unforgettable
melodies and stories. Lastly, and most importantly, he has left
us his history, which is no less than the history of Italian Operetta.