Pietro Garinei, the popular Italian stage director, dramatist, songwriter and theatrical impresario who, together with creative partner Sandro Giovannini, instilled in Italians a fondness for U.S.-style musicals, died Tuesday in Rome after a brief illness. He was 87.
An enthusiast of Broadway musical comedies when the genre was virtually unknown in Italy, Garinei began producing and co-directing variety shows with Giovannini just after World War II, when Rome was still under U.S. occupation.
What started out as escapist song-and-dance numbers developed into domestic musicals written and directed by the duo until Giovannini’s death in 1977.
Hits include New York-set “Ciao, Rudy,” in which Marcello Mastroianni played Rudolf Valentino; “Rugantino,” the only Italo musical ever to make it to Broadway; and “Aggiungi un Posto a Tavola” (Beyond the Rainbow), which ran in London’s West End.
In 2004 Garinei adapted the William Wyler film “Roman Holiday” into a musical for the Rome stage. At the time of his death, he was working on a stage adaptation of the Frank Capra film “A Pocketful of Miracles” to star Mariangela Melato.
Garinei was also artistic director and part owner of Rome’s Sistina Theater, the capital’s main musicals stage.
“Today, all of Italy is a bit sadder, even though Garinei’s theater and his passion will survive him, along with the characters he created,” said Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni.
The city of Rome has arranged for Garinei’s open casket to be laid in a ceremonial room on the Capitoline Hill, where fans can pay their last respects.
The funeral will be held Thursday in Rome’s Santa Maria del Popolo Church in the Piazza del Popolo.