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Italian film composer Nicola Piovani vaulted to international renown via his Academy Award-winning score for the 1998 feature La Vita è Bella, better known to North American audiences as Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful. Born May 26, 1946, in Rome, Piovani received his degree in piano from Milan's Verdi Conservatory, and later studied orchestration under Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis before making his cinematic debut with 1969's N.P. Il Segreto. Not only did Piovani earn his first widespread notice for his contributions to Marco Bellocchio's 1970 effort Nel Nome del Padre, but the project inaugurated an ongoing creative collaboration with the director that included the pictures Salto Nel Vuoto and Matti da Slegare. The composer was also a favorite of the brothers Taviani (La Notte di San Lorenzo), Mario Monicelli (Speriamo Che Sia Femmina), Nanni Moretti (Caro Diario), and the renowned Federico Fellini, a partnership that included the global hits Intervista and Ginger e Fred. Despite his growing renown, rumors circulated that Piovani was in fact little more than an alias for Italian film maestro Ennio Morricone, a misconception Piovani often chooses to exploit during his public appearances. Such gossip largely subsided when 1998's Holocaust fantasy La Vita è Bella earned the composer his first Oscar, although he lost out on a Grammy Award to composer Randy Newman. Piovani also won the Ciak d'Oro in 2001 for his work on Moretti's La Stanza del Figlio.