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Italian composer Nino Rota (1911 – 1979) was born into a musical family and was a child prodigy, beginning composing at age 8. He studied at several schools, including the Milan Conservatory. When he was 20, he came to the U.S. and studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. He then returned to Italy and earned a degree in literature from the University of Milan. In 1937, he began teaching and subsequently became the director of the Italian Bari Conservatory, a position he held from 1950 until his death in 1979.
Rota (1911-1979) is best known for his film scores for “The Godfather” series, for Federico Fellini (including “La Strada,” “La Dolce Vita,” and “8 ½”), and for Franco Zefirelli (“Romeo and Juliet”  and “The Taming of the Shrew”).
Rota won an Oscar for Best Music for the second of the three Godfather films, and previous musical themes from those first two films were used posthumously in the third. The “love theme” from “Romeo and Juliet” (probably best known as “A Time for Us”) became popular world-wide. The most successful version released in the U.S. was Henry Mancini’s instrumental rendition, which became a number one hit in 1969.
Rota also composed concert works and works for the stage, ballet, and opera. His 1977 opera, “The Italian Straw Hat,” was presented by the Santa Fe Opera.