It was Giancarlo Menotti who suggested to Rota to put in music Eduardo's play Napoli milionaria. Th opera was successfully greeted by the public but the critics were so blunt while demolishing it that after only two reruns it disappeared from the scenes, included that one expected at Teatro San Carlo of Naples, which still awaits to welcome it. At the first show in Spoleto, conducted by Bruno Bartoletti, took part Giovanna Casolla playing Amalia and the not yet known Mariella Devia, playing Maria Rosaria. The opera was even broadcast worldwide by RAI. However, this wasn't enough to determine its success. Although time has now contributed to it: today that Rota's works are living a “renaissance”, Napoli milionaria, was put on stage again at Teatro del Giglio of Lucca, after the success in Martina Franca.
Synopsis Napoli Milionaria
Naples, 1942. We are at the second year of WW2. In a house on a narrow alley live Gennaro Jovine, unemployed, with the wife Amalia and their sons Amedeo, Maria Rosaria and the little Rituccia. The family survives mainly by doing illicit trade of goods, mostly food, which is organized by the wife with the children's help. Amalia argues with the neighbour because they both sell cups of smuggled coffee but the neighbours competes on the price by asking 2,5 lira instead of the 3 asked by Amalia. When the police come for checks, Gennaro is forced to pretend to be dead to lie on the mattress under which the smuggled goods are hidden.
It is almost the end of the war, the Allies have arrived in Italy. The house of the Jovine's family isn't a dirty wreck anymore but has been renovated. Gennaro has disappeared after a bombing and no one has news from him. Meanwhile, Amalia is courted by Errico Settebellizze, a goods smuggler with whom Amalia is doing business. Amedeo is now a car thief with his friend Peppe 'o Cricco and Maria Rosaria, who's been working on the streets, is now pregnant by an American soldier. The family is about to celebrate Settebellizze's birthday, but all of a sudden, Gennaro arrives, after being a prisoner, so they all hug and kiss and cry for being reunited after a long time. Amalia wears an elegant dress, the table is set and the guests arrive. Gennaro acknowledges the difference between the new reality of his family and his time of prison. He would like to tell them about it but he understands that nobody wants to hear war stories.
The little Rituccia is ill and her life is at danger. The doctor says that the only way to save her is with a particular drug. A man who, some time before, had been treated with scorn by Amalia, when he had come to her begging for food, seems to have the particular drug. When he's asked for help, he shows compassion and he offers it to save the girl, who will be safe if she survives the night.