Born in Palermo, Italy, April 24, 1924;
died in Rome, February 1, 2005
Franco Mannino will always be remembered by Canadians, especially those living in Ottawa, first and foremost as music director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra from 1982 to 1986. Despite an enormous catalogue of nearly 500 works, composer and conductor Mannino programmed very few of his own compositions during his tenure in Ottawa.
Pianist – author – composer
Franco Mannino began his musical career as a pianist, giving his debut recital at sixteen. Following World War II, he was the first Italian pianist invited to perform in the United States. In later years, Mannino was also a published author, with half a dozen books to his credit. But it is as a composer that Mannino has made the greatest and most enduring contribution, with nearly five hundred compositions in his catalogue, many of them written following his Canadian sojourn. This catalogue includes twelve symphonies and over a dozen works for the theater. In addition, Mannino wrote music for or served as music director for over one hundred films, including those directed by John Huston, Leonide Moguy, Mario Soldati and Luchino Visconti.
As a conductor, Mannino led many other orchestras besides the NAC orchestra, especially in Italy and Russia. He also conducted often in Japan and was the first Italian to be invited to conduct orchestras in Beijing and Shanghai. Prior to Ottawa he was artistic director at the San Carlo in Naples, and after Ottawa he was head of the Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna. He also made numerous recordings, including four with the NACO and about two dozen with the Leningrad Philharmonic. During his tenure in Ottawa he led the orchestra on its first tour of Asia in 1985.
Awards and farewell
Over a period of more than half a century, Mannino collected more than two dozen prizes and awards. Among the first was the Diaghilev award, given in France in 1956 for best new composition of the year. This was his ballet score Mario e il mago (Mario and the Magician) his first work for the theater, with a libretto by Luchino Visconti based on the Thomas Mann story. (Canadian composer Harry Somers also set this story as a three-hour opera, which premiered in Toronto in 1992.) Before leaving this country in 1986, the Canadian government organized a Mannino Festival as a tribute in recognition of his contribution to music in Canada. Another important tribute was the gold medal awarded by the President of the Italian Republic.