It is the seventh century since, at the age of 56, on the night of the 13th of September 1321, the brightest star of Italian literature died in his exile at Ravenna: Dante Alighieri.
The father of the Italian language was born in Florence into a minor noble family and had grown up around the white Guelphs, a Florentine political faction. Exiled as a result of political unrest, Dante wrote his “Commedia, which deservedly earned the title of Divina” (Benedict XV, In preclara summorum, April 30, 1921). Its three parts make it the literary summa of Christian civilization, as well as one of the masterpieces of universal literature. “The Divine Comedy is a poem of peace: the Inferno a dirge for peace forever lost, the Purgatorio a wistful hymn of hope for peace, and the Paradiso a triumphant anthem of peace fully and eternally possessed” (Paul VI, Altissimi cantus, December 7, 1965).
Many composers have set Dante’s verses to music or have been inspired by reading the poem. Here are some examples in chronological order: Il conte Ugolino (Inferno 33,1-84) and Pia de’ Tolomei by Gaetano Donizetti (1828 and 1837, respectively), Lamento del conte Ugolino by Francesco Morlacchi (1832), La Francesca (Inferno 5.127-138) by Gioachino Rossini (1848), Après une lecture du Dante and the Dante-Symphony by Franz Liszt (1849 and 1857, respectively), the Sinfonia Dante in re minore by Giovanni Pacini (1864), Francesca da Rimini by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1876), the Inferno Symphonic Fantasy by Max Reger (1901), Francesca da Rimini by Riccardo Zandonai (1914), Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini (1918).