Born in Milan in 1911 into a family of musicians, Nino Rota was first a student of Orefice and Pizzetti
. Then, still a child, he moved to Rome where he completed his studies at the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in 1929 with Alfredo Casella
In the meantime, he had become an 'enfant prodige', famous both as a composer and as an orchestra conductor. His first oratorio, L'infanzia di San Giovanni Battista, was performed in Milan and Paris as early as 1923 and his lyrical comedy, Il Principe Porcaro, was composed in 1926.
From 1930 to 1932 Nino Rota lived in the U.S.A. He won a scholarship to the Curtis Institute of Philadelphia where he attended classes in composition taught by Rosario Scalero and classes in orchestra taught by Fritz Reiner.
He returned to Italy and earned a degree in literature from the University of Milan. In 1937, he began a teaching career that led to the directorship of the Bari Conservatory, a title he held from 1950 until his death in 1979.
After his 'childhood' compositions, Nino Rota wrote the following operas: Ariodante (Parma 1942), Torquemada (1943), Il cappello di paglia di Firenze (Palermo 1955), I due timidi (RAI 1950, London 1953), La notte di un neurastenico (Premio Italia 1959, La Scala 1960), Lo scoiattolo in gamba (Venezia 1959), Aladino e la lampada magica (Naples 1968), La visita meravigliosa (Palermo 1970), Napoli milionaria (Spoleto Festival 1977).
He also wrote the following ballets: La rappresentazione di Adamo ed Eva (Perugia 1957), La Strada (La Scala 1965), Aci e Galatea (Rome 1971), Le Molière Imaginaire (Paris and Brussels 1976) and Amor di poeta (Brussels 1978) for Maurice Bejart.
In addition, there are countless works for orchestra that have been performed since before World War II and are still performed by orchestras in every part of the world.
His work in film dates back to the early forties. His filmography includes the names of virtually all of the noted directors of his time. First among these is Federico Fellini. He wrote all of the movie scores for Fellini's films from The White Sheik in 1952 to The Orchestra Rehearsal in 1979. Other directors include Renato Castellani, Luchino Visconti, Franco Zeffirelli, Mario Monicelli, Francis Ford Coppola (Oscar for the best original movie score), King Vidor, René Clément, Edward Dmytrik and Eduardo de Filippo.
He also composed the music for many theatre productions by Visconti, Zefirelli and de Filippo.
In February of 1995, the Nino Rota Foundation was established at Fondazione Cini of Venice, Italy. Cini specializes in the works of 20th century Italian composers and includes the estate of Casella.