Francesco Cilea was an Italian opera composer. He lived from 1866 (Palmi, Calabria) to 1950 (Varazze, Savona). Cilea entered the Conservatoire in Naples at the age of 13, studying together with the arguably better known Umberto Giordano. He was a pupil of Paolo Serrao, Beniamino Cesi and Giuseppe Martucci. Already during his studies, some instrumental works by Cilea were issued. His final exam in 1889 consisted of the opera Gina, a melodrama that was successfully staged at the College Theatre.

The success of Gina got him a new assignment thanks to publishing house Sonzogno. He composed La Tilda in 1892, a melodrama in three acts that was staged in Florence and Vienna among other cities. From 1890 to 1892 Cilea was Conservatory teacher in Naples, while doing the same further north in Florence from 1896 to 1904. He became Vincenzo Bellini's, the Palermo Conservatory, director in 1913, but he returned to Naples in 1916, accepting the director's seat at the music school where he once started his own education.

In total Cilea just composed five staged opera's, of which only Adriana Lecouvreur (1902) and some aria's from l'Arlesiana (1897) are still performed occasionally. These belong to the verismo that was popular in Cilea's era. Cilea's composition of l'Arlesiana included Enrico Caruso as one of the leading singers, who became well-known thanks to the famous romanza Il Lamento di Federico.

His opera Il matrimonio selvaggio (1909) stayed on paper and was never performed in an opera house. Cilea was also a composer of vocal and especially chamber music, and according to some critics he was a forerunner of other well-known composers. He was a reputed musical teacher and pianist and was more an all-round musician than most of his contemporary fellow artists, who did hardly more than composing opera.

His last years were spent quietly in declining health and increasing deafness (a terrible thing to happen to a composer) at his villa in Varazze.

Cilea's opera's, including premieres:

Spectrum: Opera van A tot Z