Via Sforza Caolzio, 47
A small museum dedicated to the renowned librettist Luigi Illica (1857-1919) – who was also a playwright, journalist, writer, and poet – is located as one climbs towards the main square in Castell’Arquato, just before the house where Illica was born, now a hotel. The proximity of these locations to one another – they all overlook the valley and surrounding hills – means they can easily be considered as a single whole.
Illica’s private, public, and artistic life is described in the museum’s rooms, which display, among other things, his annotated theatre scripts, librettos – mostly in their original editions – with their sheet music, letters, photographs, stage costumes, and Illica’s piano and typewriter. Visitors can also consult books, sheet music, audio-visual material, engravings, and CDs.
The unruly Illica led an adventuresome youth, during which he travelled widely. He then moved to Milan, where he was part of Arrigo Boito’s circle and befriended many of the leading literary and theatre icons of the time. During a sojourn in Bologna he met Giosue Carducci and founded a republican-leaning literary magazine.
He quite enjoyed his job as an opera librettist, which became his main activity starting in 1892; he wrote over 40 librettos. In his work, he managed to draw together and harmonize, in an innovative manner and with a strong sense of theatricality, different components from the literary culture of his day. Illica wrote the texts to the main post-Verdi melodramas in Italy, and also wrote for many of the most renowned composers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Pietro Mascagni, Umberto Giordano, Franco Alfano and Giacomo Puccini, for whom, in collaboration with the playwright Giuseppe Giacosa, he wrote the librettos for La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly.