Italy in California Sheet Music

Italian opera was popular all over the world in the nineteenth century and California was no exception. Printed editions include operatic works of Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945), and Eugenio Bellini. There is a song from a set of five songs by Luigi Giordigiani (1806-1860).

An important California music figure was the Italian immigrant Domenico Speranza, noted San Francisco music composer and teacher who was the director of the Istituto Italiana (Italian Musical Institute). He was called upon to write a piece upon the visit of the "Jefe Nacion Mexicana, Senor Licenciado Don Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada"; the work, entitled "Himno a Mexico," was sung by Senora Speranza. For his visiting countryman, baritone G. G. Tagliapietra (photograph on cover), Speranza wrote "E partita (She has departed)." For the visit of Gen. Grant to the city, Speranza wrote "Grant Military March." Another stirring march was written "for the young Italians of the Green Mountain Band, Crescent Mills, Cal." entitled "March of the Green Mountain Miners." On the lithographed cover is a portrait of Bandmaster Antonio Arrighini. The names of band members appear in the lithograph and in type on the back cover with the vignette above. Arrighini's great-granddaughter tells us that he married in the 1890s and was left a widower with four children in 1898. Three of the children were put in an orphanage until he could afford to support them. For many years he was a clarinetist at a San Rafael hotel.

A picture of the Italian immigrant in California is found in the "Tamale Song" of 1885, a depiction of the Italian newcomer who is forced to sell tamales on the street to make his way.