Italian composer Nino Rota's first oratorio was performed in 1921, when he was a veteran at age 11. Refining his skills at the Milan Conservatory, the Santa Cecilia Academy of Italy, and the Curtis Institute of the United States, Rota continued turning out symphonies, operas, and ballets throughout his long career, and also spent nearly four decades as director of the Bari Conservatory. His best-known operas include Torquemada (1942), The Florentine Straw Hat (1946), and Alladin and His Magic Lamp (1968), all bearing the influence of his many years as a film composer. Rota's first movie work was for Italy's "white telephone" romances and musicals of the 1930s. In an earthier vein, Rota composed for several of the neorealist directors of the postwar era. His longest professional association (25 years) was with director Federico Fellini, who once described the relationship thusly: "It is a harmonious collaboration that I haven't felt like changing. His music is a kind of drama that is very true for my story and images." Rota's better-known Fellini scores were for La Strada (1954), Il Bidone (1955), Nights of Cabiria (1956), and, perhaps best of all, La Dolce Vita (1961). One of Rota's many stage compositions was for a late-'50s ballet version of La Strada. When director Francis Ford Coppola wanted an authentic Italian "feel" for the music of the Godfather, he knew exactly who to contact: Nino Rota, who won his first-ever Oscar for the now-classic The Godfather score (alas, he was later disqualified because he'd lifted his themes from one of his own earlier film scores). Outside of Godfather, Nino Rota's most popular film composition was the love theme from Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968).