Umberto Menotti Maria Giordano was an Italian composer, mainly of operas.
He was born in Foggia in Apulia, southern Italy, and studied under Paolo Serrao at the Conservatoire of Naples. His first opera, Marina, was written for a competition promoted by the music publishers Casa Sonzogno for the best one-act opera, remembered today because it marked the beginning of Italian verismo. The winner was Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana. Giordano, the youngest contestant, was placed sixth among seventy-three entries with his Marina, a work which generated enough interest for Sonzogno to commission the staging of an opera based on it in the 1891–92 season.
The result was Mala vita, a gritty verismo opera about a labourer who vows to reform a prostitute if he is cured of his tuberculosis. This work caused something of a scandal when performed at the Teatro Argentina, Rome, in February 1892. It played successfully in Vienna, Prague and Berlin and was re-written as Il Voto a few years later, in an attempt to raise interest in the work again.