Composer Amilcare Ponchielli was born in Italy in 1834. He started composing operas while still a student at the Milan Conservatory. After graduating in 1854, he held various positions over the years, including professor of composition at the Conservatory; his pupils included Giacomo Puccini and Pietro Mascagni. His most famous opera is “La Gioconda”, written in 1876. It is mainly remembered for its ballet, Dance of the Hours.
Dance of the Hours stands out as the only operatic ballet from this genre to have established a life of its own both inside the concert hall and in pop culture…Perhaps the most iconic use of this music is in Disney’s 1940 film “Fantasia”, where it underscores the questionable talents of a dance company comprised of hippos, ostriches, and alligators. Later it surfaced again as a number two hit on the pop charts in 1963, this time with words by parodist Alan Sherman. It may be difficult now to listen to this music without remembering the opening words of an alarmist child’s letter to his parents from summer camp: “Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda…”.
Ponchielli’s biography~ http://www.allmusic.com/artist/amilcare-ponchielli-mn0000496351/biography
Synopsis of “La Gioconda“~ http://www.opera-arias.com/ponchielli/la-gioconda/synopsis/