A celebrity marriage of 70 years doesn't happen by accident. Commitment made their love story one for the ages.
The world is mourning the recent death of Ennio Morricone on July 6, 2020, and inevitably the media spotlight has turned towards the people who were close to him.
During his lifetime, the name Morricone evoked familiar and wonderful melodies. With his death, the spontaneous curiosity of the public came to rest on his private life, and what came to light has earned applause. The portrait that emerges is one of a great musical talent, accompanied by a family as simple as it is solid. During the days of mourning, the name we have heard most often pronounced next to that of the maestro is that of his wife, Maria Travia.
They married on October 13, 1956 and had four children together: Giovanni, Marco, Alessandra, and Andrea. For 70 years, Ennio Morricone was deeply in love with a wife to whom he was devoted and faithful. For a celebrity in today’s world, this is an extraordinary testimony.
We can really say that she was the soundtrack of his life, because in a film, the music is a column that supports, underlines and enhances the performance of the protagonists. Maria’s companionship was for Ennio a soundtrack of strength and care. In the obituary that he himself wrote, he mentioned her as the one to whom he had entrusted everything: “Lastly (but not last), Maria. To her I renew the extraordinary love that has kept us together and which I hate to leave behind. To her I bid my most painful farewell.”
A wife and true partner
Who is this woman at the side of the great musical master? Maria is not so much a woman who has lived in the shadow of celebrity, but a wife so present that she does not need to make a fuss.
One small story is a perfect reflection of their life as a couple: In the book Inseguendo que suono (“Chasing that sound”), Ennio Morricone confirmed the truth of a popular story about him. It was said that the inspiration for the famous melody of “Se telefonando,” a song Morricone wrote in 1966 that became a huge hit, came to him while he was waiting in line with his wife to pay the gas bill. That’s exactly how it happened, the composer confirmed.
There are simple moments in daily life when the right companionship is able to trigger intuitions that go beyond the ordinary. The eternal peeps out even among the bills we need to pay, if we recognize in a beloved face that Someone is speaking to us and coming towards us.
Perhaps a musical talent as powerful as Morricone’s came from a love that had strong and deep roots. It calls to mind his beautiful family memory in which, as a child, he fell asleep to the sound of his mother praying the Rosary as bombs fell during World War II. In this memory we see the seeds of a predilection for music that accompanies the unfolding of a story. To write a soundtrack you need to be sure of a plot that unravels from beginning to end. This is not so different from the confident gaze with which you promise yourself “forever” to another person before God.
Maria was his inspiring muse; when Morricone received the Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 2007, his thoughts went to her: “I dedicate this Oscar to my wife Maria who loves me very much, and I love her in the same way, and this award is also for her.” When he won the Oscar for the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight in 2016, he once again thanked his wife: “I dedicate it to my wife, Maria Travia, my mentor.”
They are simple words without any rhetoric, and they show a reality opposite to those who may publicly show off their relationship that behind closed doors is not close or intimate. In the reticence that did not reveal their private life to the cameras, there was great love for a woman who allowed him to fully cultivate his talent, both taking care of the family and making a creative contribution to the music that Morricone composed.
Maria Travia, for example, was the author of the lyrics for a song in Cinema Paradiso and she adapted with her husband a part of the soundtrack of Once Upon a Time in the West. If in official circumstances Morricone spoke of her tersely, in an interview with Corriere della Sera he was very clear when asked how he could live with the same woman for 70 years:
“You should ask my wife this question; she has been very good at putting up with me. Living with someone who does my job is not easy. Military focus. Strict schedules. Entire days without seeing anyone. I’m a demanding guy, first of all with myself and then with those around me. Otherwise the results wouldn’t come through. Success certainly comes from talent, but even more so from work, experience and, I repeat, loyalty: to one’s art as well as to one’s wife. I made the rule for myself of giving my best, always. Even if I don’t always succeed.”
Heaven in a hospital room
Ennio Morricone died in a Roman hospital in early July, following a fall that caused his femur to fracture. His whole family was at his side. He remained lucid until the end, managing to talk to his wife.
It’s mysterious and moving that their love actually began in a hospital. They met in 1950 because Maria was a friend of Ennio’s sister. He liked her from the beginning, but what really brought them together was an unfortunate event: She was in a serious car accident with her father and was hospitalized, put in a cast from neck to waist. In that situation, Ennio, who remained close to her, won her heart: “She was in great pain. I stayed close to her. And so, day by day, drop by drop, I made her fall in love,” he told SkyTg24.
Drop by drop, a score written one note at a time. There are those who think it impossible that there could be love stories that last “until death do us part,” perhaps because they give in to disillusionment –- or, more likely, it’s because of our contemporary rejection of commitment (a word we treat as an enemy). The testimony that’s emerging from the portrait of Ennio and Maria is that of a couple who loved each other not only with the passion of lovers but also with the strength of a faithful couple.
In a way, any true promise of love starts “in the hospital” of life, that is, with the mutual recognition that both spouses are fragile and weak, and yet eager to walk hand in hand through life. Many websites are quoting what is considered the definition of love according to Maestro Morricone:
“In love as in art, constancy is everything. I do not know whether there is love at first sight or supernatural intuition. I do know that there is constancy, consistency, seriousness, and duration.”
The story of his bond of love with Maria Travia had precisely these dedicated characteristics of long endurance, and it is exemplary in a time like ours, when the enthusiasm of the initial sprint is often followed by an equally speedy retreat. We change course quickly, seeking new excitement.
We learn from this man and woman that it is beautiful to stay with a story from beginning to end, following every twist of the plot without trying to avoid the moments of suspense or drama. That’s how you live out a love worth of Heaven and Earth.