Music in Bologna, musicians in Bologna.
Ottorino Respighi’s tomb at the Certosa of Bologna, in “Il Carrobbio”, XXVII, pp.187-193

Ottorino Respighi
Great Bolognese composer Ottorino Respighi, the author of  “Fontane di Roma” and of “ I Pini di Roma”, two among today’s most frequently performed symphonic operas all over the world, died in Rome on 18 April 1936. The Commune of Bologna insisted repeatedly on having the possibility to honour its renowned citizen’s corpse in the “solitary and solemn Certosa”; his wife Elsa Olivieri-Sangiacomo would have liked to put up the Maestro’s tomb in the woods of “I Pini”, the villa in Roma where the composer had lived. Claudio Guastalla, Respighi’s librettist, recollects as follows in his Notebooks:

“Perhaps I would not have been able to dissuade her if any authoritative other had not helped me to. The Commune of Bologna was making very considerable offers: a funeral monument next to Carducci’s one and solemn honours. President of the Senate Federzoni, one of Respighi’s childhood friends who was also Bolognese, came to plead the cause of the city. He said that the Head of the Government would be willing to sign the decree which was necessary for the Maestro’s burial in the villa “I Pini”, if Donna Elsa had liked him to, but that he himself would not recommend it: it would be important not to forget that maybe in a few years via della Camilluccia would become one of the city roads, full of inhabited small houses, and that one tomb there would lose its meaning and beauty. After long hesitation (maybe inspired by the fact that Bologna had always shown little affection to Respighi when he was alive – once again “nemo propheta in patria” – Elsa gave her assent, under many conditions which the Commune accepted and observed with great liberality: they would submit Elsa the drawing of the monument, they wanted Elsa to designate the city street to be named after Respighi’s name. She agreed upon the fact that the tomb would have to be for two people, in order to host the Maestro’s incomparable life companion in a remote future. And she indicated that stretch of road running along the Teatro Comunale, in the heart of Bologna, adjoining the “Bentivoglios’ guasto”: it was a stretch of via Castagnoli, where still today  stands the small house which once belonged to the Resphighi family at no. 2 , the house of the Maestro’s youth, where he used to live when in the nearby theatre his opera Semirama was being performed. As to the funeral monument, it was thought to have to be of Byzantinian style: I  know neither how such an idea was born nor whom it was born out of,  and I never thought that  Respighi’s frequent dream of the Byzantinian splendour and his composing a opera set in Ravenna would be sufficient reasons for it. If it had not been a monument to erect in Bologna, I would have suggested copying Rolandino dei Passeggeri’s tomb, which is the most beautiful in the world to me, with its aspiration to detaching from Earth and rising to Heaven ; but where the originals can be admired , a copy is meaningless. I thought that one of those ancient and rough graves which can be seen in the churchsquare of Santo Stefano could be simpler, as Bolognese as the other but less showy and most of all more suited , let’s say, to Ottorino’s  square and stout build: a granite sarcophagus bearing only the musician’s name, date of birth and death: below, when the time came, another short word would be engraved: Elsa. But it would be the descendants who would think about it , not me. My idea was appreciated: the Byzantinian sketches sent by the Commune were rejected and next to Carducci’s there rose a sarcophagus which was not unlike the one where the Poet’s mortal remains are kept, but more primitive, in granite and not in shining marble. And since the Bolognese Musician had found inspiration and fame in Rome, I had the idea of providing the Bolognese aarcophagus with a Roman floor. I persuaded Elsa  to ask the Roman Governor to be presented with some square metres of consular road, one of the roads which used to be trodden by the  Roman legions recalled and irresistibly re-echoing in the final tempo of “I Pini di Roma”.

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Look for Respighi's Grave in Findagrave

See also the link of Respighi Society


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