Gabriele D'Annunzio, Prince of Montenevoso, Duke of Gallese: 12 March 1863 – 1 March 1938), sometimes spelled D'Annunzio, was an Italian writer, poet, journalist, playwright and soldier during World War I. He occupied a prominent place in Italian literature from 1889 to 1910 and later political life from 1914 to 1924. He was often referred to under the epithets Il Vate ("the Poet") or Il Profeta ("the Prophet").
D'Annunzio was associated with the Decadent movement in his literary works, which interplayed closely with French Symbolism and British Aestheticism. Such works represented a turn against the naturalism of the preceding romantics and were both sensuous and mystical. He came under the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche which would find outlets in his literary and later political contributions. His affairs with several women, including Eleonora Duse and Luisa Casati, received public attention.
During the First World War, the perception of D'Annunzio in Italy transformed from a literary figure into a national war hero. He was associated with the elite Arditi storm troops of the Italian Army and took part in actions such as the Flight over Vienna. As part of an Italian nationalist reaction against the Paris Peace Conference, he set up the short-lived Italian Regency of Carnaro in Fiume with himself as Duce. The constitution made "music" the fundamental principle of the state and was corporatist in nature. Some of the ideas and aesthetics influenced Italian fascism and the style of Benito Mussolini and, thereby, Adolf Hitler.
Birthplace of Gabriele D'Annunzio Museum in Pescara
D'Annunzio was born in the township of Pescara, in the province of Abruzzo, the son of a wealthy landowner and mayor of the town Francesco Paolo Rapagnetta D'Annunzio (1831–1893). His father had originally been born plain Rapagnetta (the name of his single mother), but at the age of 13 had been adopted by a childless rich uncle Antonio d'Annunzio. Legend has it that he was initially baptized Gaetano and given the name of Gabriele later in childhood, because of his angelic looks. However, there is wide documentation to disprove this story.
His precocious talent was recognized early in life, and he was sent to school at the Liceo Cicognini in Prato, Tuscany. He published his first poetry while still at school at the age of sixteen with a small volume of verses called Primo Vere(1879), influenced by Giosue Carducci's Odi barbare, in which, side by side with some almost brutal imitations of Lorenzo Stecchetti, the fashionable poet of Postuma, were some translations from the Latin, distinguished by such agile grace that Giuseppe Chiarini on reading them brought the unknown youth before the public in an enthusiastic article. In 1881 D'Annunzio entered the University of Rome La Sapienza, where he became a member of various literary groups, including Cronaca Bizantina and wrote articles and criticism for local newspapers. In those university years, he started to promote Italian irredentism.
D'Annunzio in 1889
He published Canto novo (1882), Terra vergine (1882), L'intermezzo di rime (1883), Il libro delle vergini (1884) and the greater part of the short stories that were afterward collected under the general title of San Pantaleone (1886). Canto novo contains poems full of pulsating youth and the promise of power, some descriptive of the sea and some of the Abruzzese landscape, commented on and completed in prose by Terra vergine, the latter a collection of short stories dealing in a radiant language with the peasant life of the author's native province. Intermezzo di rime is the beginning of D'Annunzio's second and characteristic manner. His conception of style was new, and he chose to express all the most subtle vibrations of voluptuous life. Both style and contents began to startle his critics; some who had greeted him as an enfant prodige rejected him as a perverter of public morals, whilst others hailed him as one bringing a breath of fresh air and an impulse of new vitality into the somewhat prim, lifeless work hitherto produced.
Meanwhile, the review of Angelo Sommaruga perished in the midst of scandal, and his group of young authors found itself dispersed. Some entered the teaching career and were lost to literature, others threw themselves into journalism.
Gabriele D'Annunzio took this latter course and joined the staff of the Tribuna. For this paper, under the pseudonym of "Duca Minimo", he did some of his most brilliant work. To this period of greater maturity and deeper culture belongs Il libro d'Isotta (1886), a love poem, in which for the first time he drew inspiration adapted to modern sentiments and passions from the rich colors of the Renaissance.
Il libro d'Isotta is interesting also, because in it one can find most of the germs of his future work, just as in Intermezzo melico and in certain ballads and sonnets one can find descriptions and emotions which later went to form the aesthetic contents of Il piacere, Il trionfo della morte and Elegie romane (1892).
D'Annunzio's first novel Il piacere (1889, translated into English as The Child of Pleasure) was followed in 1891 by Giovanni Episcopo, and in 1892 by L'innocente (The Intruder). These three novels made a profound impression. L'innocente, admirably translated into French by Georges Herelle, brought its author the notice and applause of foreign critics. His next work, Il trionfo della morte (The Triumph of Death) (1894), was followed soon by Le vergini delle rocce (1896) and Il fuoco (1900); the latter is in its descriptions of Venice perhaps the most ardent glorification of a city existing in any language.
D'Annunzio's poetic work of this period, in most respects his finest, is represented by Il Poema Paradisiaco (1893), the Odi navali (1893), a superb attempt at civic poetry, and Laudi (1900).
A later phase of D'Annunzio's work is his dramatic production, represented by Il sogno di un mattino di primavera (1897), a lyrical fantasia in one act; his Città Morta (1898), written for Sarah Bernhardt. In 1898 he wrote his Sogno di un pomeriggio d'autunno and La Gioconda; in the succeeding year La gloria, an attempt at contemporary political tragedy which met with no success, probably because of the audacity of the personal and political allusions in some of its scenes; and then Francesca da Rimini (1901), a perfect reconstruction of medieval atmosphere and emotion, magnificent in style, and declared by an authoritative Italian critic – Edoardo Boutet – to be the first real, if imperfect, tragedy ever given to the Italian theatre.
In 1883, D'Annunzio married Maria Hardouin di Gallese, and had three sons, but the marriage ended in 1891. In 1894, he began a love affair with the actress Eleonora Duse which became a cause célèbre. He provided leading roles for her in his plays of the time such as La città morta(The Dead City) (1898) and Francesca da Rimini (1901), but the tempestuous relationship finally ended in 1910. After meeting the Marchesa Luisa Casati in 1903, he began a lifelong turbulent on again off again affair with Luisa, that lasted until a few years before his death.
In 1897, D'Annunzio was elected to the Chamber of Deputies for a three-year term, where he sat as an independent. By 1910, his daredevil lifestyle had forced him into debt, and he fled to France to escape his creditors. There he collaborated with composer Claude Debussy on a musical play Le martyre de Saint Sébastien (The Martyrdom of St Sebastian), 1911, written for Ida Rubinstein. The Vatican reacted by placing all of his works in the Index of Forbidden Books. The work was not successful as a play, but it has been recorded in adapted versions several times, notably by Pierre Monteux (in French), Leonard Bernstein (sung in French, acted in English), and Michael Tilson Thomas (in French). In 1912 and 1913, D'Annunzio worked with opera composer Pietro Mascagni on his opera Parisina, staying sometimes in a house rented by the composer in Bellevue, near Paris.
D'Annunzio's life and work are commemorated in a museum, Il Vittoriale degli Italiani. He planned and developed it himself, adjacent to his villa at Gardone Riviera on the southwest bank of Lake Garda, between 1923 and his death. Now a national monument, it is a complex of military museum, library, literary and historical archive, theatre, war memorial and mausoleum. The museum preserves his torpedo boat MAS 96 and the SVA-5 aircraft he flew over Vienna.
His birthplace is also open to the public as a museum, Birthplace of Gabriele D'Annunzio Museum in Pescara.