Riccardo Zandonai was born in Borgo Sacco, Rovereto, then part of Austria–Hungary. As a young man, he showed such an aptitude for music that he entered the Pesaro Conservatorio in 1899 and completed his studies in 1902; he completed the nine-year curriculum in only three years. Among his teachers was Pietro Mascagni, who regarded him highly. In 1935 Zandonai became the director of the Rossini Conservatory in his beloved Pesaro. There he revived some works of Rossini, such as Il viaggio a Reims and the overture for Maometto secondo. In 1941 he re-orchestrated —and reduced to three acts— La gazza ladra.
Three years later, he died in Trebbiantico, Pesaro, after undergoing gallstone surgery. His last words were for the priest who announced to him that the day before,Rome had been liberated. The dying composer said, in his native dialect: "Good! Viva l'Italia; the sound part".