Nicola Piovani was born on May 26, 1946 in Rome, where he has lived and worked ever since. He is a musician (pianist, conductor, composer of film and theatre scores, songs, chamber music and symphonies).
He received his piano diploma from the “G. Verdi” Conservatory in Milan.
Among those who encouraged him in composition was the greek composer Manos Hadjidakis. Nicola’s father Alberico, used to play in the local band when he was young, in his hometown of Corchiano, near Rome. There was always music in their house: accordions, mandolins, trumpets, guitars, an authentic amateur family passion.
Much of Nicola Piovani’s work has been dedicated to film and to theatre, between which his passion is divided. Initially Film took up most of his time, but, over the years, he conceded himself the luxury (as he defines it) of dedicating his time to performing music in theatres, which now occupies most of his time.
His first soundtrack dates back to 1968. It was written to accompany documentary footage of the student movements connected to the faculty of Philosophy where he was a student.
The footage was made by a students’ collective under the direction of Silvano Agosti. Piovani’s debut in full length soundtrack was to take place the following year with “NP il segreto” by Silvano Agosti.
After NP, Nicola began a career which led him to write scores for more than a hundred and fifty films, and to collaborate with the most important Italian directors. Amongst others Bellocchio, Monicelli, Taviani brothers, Moretti, Loy, Tornatore, Benigni and even Federico Fellini, who engaged the composer for his last three films. Foreign directors with whom he has collaborated include Ben Von Verbong, Pàl Gàbor, Dusan Makavejev, Bigas Luna, Jos Stelling, John Irvin, Sergej Bodrov, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Philippe Lioret, Danièle Thompson, Xavier Durringer.
He won an Oscar for the soundtrack for Roberto Benigni’s “La vita è bella”. He has also received various Italian Awards: three David di Donatello, four Colonna Sonora, three Nastri d’Argento and two Ciak d’oro. In France, he was nominated twice for the Cesar Awards; at the “Musique et Cinema Festival” of Auxerre he received an Award from the Public and a Special Mention by the Judges.
During the Seventies he was active as a song writer. He composed two albums with Fabrizio de Andre’: “Non al denaro, non all’amore nè al cielo” and “Storia di un impiegato”. In 1995 he wrote three songs for Roberto Benigni’s theatrical Tour, including “Quanto ti ho amato”
Initially Piovani worked in film as well as theatre, writing the stage music for Carlo Cecchi’s productions and also for those of Luca De Filippo, Maurizio Scaparro and Vittorio Gassman. In 1989 he created “I sette re di Roma”, a musical staged at the Sistina Theatre in Rome with Luigi Magni and Pietro Garinei.
At the end of the eighties Nicola started to collaborate with Vincenzo Cerami, and together with Lello Arena they founded the “Compagnia della Luna”, with the intention of creating a product that had no place on the Italian stage at that time: a type of theatre where both music and words have ample space, and can interact on an expressive level. The first two creations from this collaboration were “La cantata del Fiore”(1988) and “La cantata del Buffo” (1990). These two works were subsequently combined to become a single piece, and ran for almost two hundred performances all over Italy. “Il signor novecento”(1992) followed, and then “Canti di scena”(1993). In this last production, the authors are on the stage accompanied by a small orchestral ensemble, three singers and the actress Norma Martelli. This toured for six seasons. In “Romanzo musicale”(1998) Cerami and Piovani retell stories from classical mythology, as seen by modern eyes.
In 1998, the first production of “La pietà” took place at the Mancinelli theatre in Orvieto: a “Stabat Mater” for voce recitante, two singers and an orchestra of twenty three musicians. Here Piovani collaborated again with Cerami.
At Easter , on receiving an invitation from the Palestinian National Authority, “La Pietà” was offered to the town of Bethlehem as message of peace to the peoples of the Holy Land. In 2004 the production was performed twice, in both Bethlehem (Palestinian territory) and in Tel Aviv (Israeli territory).
In the year 2000 “Concerto fotogramma” was produced, in which Piovani abridges and adapts film score, taken over a thirty year period of his career, recasting them into a theatrical form. “Isola della luce” is a score for voce recitante: two singers and orchestra, playing music from the Ecclesiast and passages by Homer, Sicilo, Byron, Einstein, Seferis, Mesonmede of Crete, and Vincenzo Cerami. This was cpmmissioned by Greek Government and took place amongst ruins on the Island of Delos, as part of the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games in Athens. Another commission from Chaillot’s National Theatre saw the birth of “Concha Bonita, création musicale”; this production is halfway between opera and musical,
based on the libretto by René de Ceccatty and Alfredo Arias. I was much appreciated during the 2002-03 season by the Parisian public. In 2005, Cerami and Piovani translated the script for the Italian version, which was staged at the Ambra Iovinelli theatre in Rome and then toured Italy for four seasons.
In 2006 Piovani composed and directed “La cantata dei cent’anni”, to commemorate the hundred years since the birth oh the CGIL Trade Union.
In 2007 he composed an orchestral suite entitled Epta, inspired by the number seven.
In 2009 Piovani wrote the symphonic cantata “Padre Cicogna”, for a script by Eduardo de Filippo. This was performed at the San Ferdinando Theatre in Naples, to commemorate the twenty fifth anniversary of his death. On stage was Luca de Filippo (voce recitante) and the orchestra of the San Carlo Theatre, conducted by Piovani himself.
Among the many symphonic performances for film scores, two are particularly memorable: one in Johannesburg in 1994, when for the first time in South African history, Piovani saw an orchestra of all white musicians and one black singer together on stage; the second was at the Cannes Festival in 2002, on the occasion of a “leçon de musique” that Piovani had dedicated to the music of Fellini’s films. The most recent piece of film music written by Piovani, recorded in December 2010, was for a French film called “ La conquete” by Xavier Durringer, which charts the rise to power of Nicolas Sarkozy.
The work was performed for the first time on the 28th August 2011 at the Ravello Festival under the title 'Viaggi di Ulisse'; it is a musical story for orchestra and recorded voices, which recite lines from Joyce, Kavafis, Homer, Saba and Tasso.
In 2008 Piovani was nominated Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture: an honour conferred upon such persons who have distinguished themselves with their artistic and literary creations.