Carlo Maria Broschi
Johann Adolph Hasse
Gian Francesco de Majo
Giuseppe Saverio Mercadante
Pietro Domenico Paradisi
|Giovanni Battista Pergolesi
Nicola Antonio Porpora
Antonio Maria Gasparo Sacchini
Domenico Natale Sarro
Gaspare Luigi Pacifico Spontini
Tommaso Michele Francesco Saverio Traetta
Biographical data is from The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1980.
(b Martina Franca, Taranto, 28 Oct 1732; d Martina Franca, 11 Jan 1813). Italian soprano castrato and composer. His early musical training from his father, Fortunato (a notary and church singer), was followed when he was 19 by study with Gregorio Sciroli in Naples (thus his nickname). He made his début in Sciroli's Il barone deluso (1752, Rome). Until 1757 he sang in Naples (in the royal chapel, 1752–6, though librettos continue to list him in the service of the court until 1758), Turin and Rome (where in 1754–5 he became primo uomo); during the next few years he travelled, visiting Venice, Madrid and Stuttgart. After returning briefly to Italy, he was appointed primo uomo in Stuttgart for the period 1762–9 (with one Italian interlude), appearing in Jommelli's Didone abbandonata (1763), Demofoonte (1764) and Fetonte (1768), among other works, and enjoying a salary comparable to Jommelli's own. His brother Raffaele, a violinist, was also engaged at court. The depletion of the duke's cappella provoked his departure; he left behind him considerable debts. In 1770 Burney heard him in Naples; Mozart heard him there, in Bologna and Milan, remarking that 'Aprile, first man, sings well and has a beautiful, even voice', which was 'unsurpassed'. In Naples Aprile again collaborated with Jommelli on several operas and in 1783 replaced Caffarelli as first soprano in the royal chapel. From 1774 to 1780 his operatic appearances were primarily in Florence, Turin and Rome. His last known performance was in 1785 in Naples, where he was pensioned in 1798. Aprile was well known as a teacher (his students included Michael Kelly, Cimarosa and the younger Manuel García). His 1791 vocal method – published in English, as The Modern Italian Method of Singing – reprints his 36 solfeggi, found in many other contemporary sources. Its prefatory rules and 'progressive examples' are copied from Tenducci's Instruction … to his Scholars (1782), which in turn reflects ideas espoused early in the centry by Tosi. Aprile wrote a great deal of music (though no operas), as did many singers of his day, most very simple duets in thirds, possibly as pedagogical tools. He possessed an agile voice, with a wide range and diversity of expression, and he was a good actor. Schubart, writing in Stuttgart, praised his manner of varying arias and noted his great importance to Jommelli.
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(b Naples, 1723; d Naples, 1753). Italian composer and organist, son of Pietro Auletta. He was active in Naples as a composer of sacred music, but nothing is known of any appointments he may have held. Domenico's three sons were also musicians: Raffaele (b Naples, 1742; d Naples, 18 Feb 1768), composer of a motet Alto Olimpo triumfate (GB-Lbl), of whose life nothing is known; Ferdinando, a singer, who studied at the Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchini, 1759–69, with Fago and Cafaro; and the younger Domenico (d Naples, 16 Nov 1796), who was appointed in November 1779, with Cimarosa, 'supernumerary' organist without salary in the royal chapel in Naples and in 1796 second organist (Cimarosa having been promoted to first). The homonymy between father and son poses problems of attribution, especially as regards undated works.
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Farinelli (24 January 1705 – 16 September 1782), was the stage name of Carlo Maria Broschi, celebrated Italian castrato singer of the 18th century and one of the greatest singers in the history of opera
In 1740, Farinelli wrote of his birth to Count Pepoli, 'I do not claim I was born from the third rib of Venus, nor that my father was Neptune. I am Neapolitan and the Duke of Andria held me at the baptismal font, which is enough to say that I am a son of a good citizen and of a gentleman'. Farinelli's father, Salvatore Broschi, was a petty official in Andria and later in Barletta. There is evidence that the family moved from Barletta to Naples in 1711, but none for the often-repeated assertion that Farinelli's father was a musician. He may have received some musical training from his brother Riccardo Broschi, seven years his elder. In 1717, the year of his father's death, he began private study in Naples with Nicola Porpora, the teacher of many fine singers. As Giovenale Sacchi, his first biographer, and Padre Martini, who often met him during the years of his retirement, attest, the stage name of Farinelli came from a Neapolitan magistrate, Farina, whose three sons had sung with the Broschi brothers and who later patronized the young singer.
Farinelli made his public début in 1720 in Porpora's Angelica e Medoro, based on the first printed libretto of Pietro Metastasio. This marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship between singer and librettist, who always referred to each other as 'dear twin' ('caro gemello') in reference to their operatic 'twin birth' in this opera, in which Farinelli, aged only 15, sang the small role of the shepherd Tirsi. Two years later his performing career began in earnest. In 1722–4 he sang in Rome and Naples in operas by Porpora, Pollaroli and Vinci, among others, and was quickly promoted into leading roles; at this time he often sang the part of the prima donna, such as the title role in Porpora's Adelaide (1723, Rome). His earliest surviving image, a caricature by Pierleone Ghezzi (1724), 'Farinello Napolitano famoso cantore di Soprano', shows him costumed as a woman.
From 1724 to 1734 Farinelli achieved extraordinary success in many northern Italian cities, including Venice, Milan and Florence. His appearance at Parma in 1726 at the celebrations on the marriage of the duke, Antonio Farnese, marks his first association with the Farnese family, who played a critical role in his later life through Elisabetta Farnese, niece of the duke and wife of Philip V of Spain. From 1727 to 1734 he lived in Bologna, where both he and his brother were enlisted in the Accademia Filarmonica in 1730. In 1732 he was granted rights of citizenship and purchased a country estate outside the city, where he retired in 1761. In Bologna he met Count Sicinio Pepoli, with whom he began to correspond in 1731; his 67 letters to Pepoli, recently discovered, provide rich new detail of the singer and the period (Vitali, 1992; Vitali and Boris, 2000). In Turin, he met the English ambassador, Lord Essex, who in 1734 played a critical role in negotiating for his performances in London (Taylor, 1991), and may have been responsible for commissioning the formal portrait of 1734 by Bartolomeo Nazari, the first of many imposing depictions that serve to transform Farinelli's image from the caricatures of Ghezzi, Marco Ricci and Antonio Maria Zanetti (all before 1730).
Attempts had been made to lure Farinelli to London since 1729. Handel failed to secure him for his company, but Farinelli signed a contract in 1734 with the competing company, where Porpora was the leading composer. From 1734 to 1737 he performed in operas by Porpora, J.A. Hasse and his brother, and his singing took the city by storm. The extensive commentary, public and private, is rarely less than ecstatic. When, in 1737, he decided to break his contract and go to Madrid at the command of 'Their Catholic Majesties' (as described by Benjamin Keene, British ambassador to Spain), the resentment was equally strong. The Daily Post reported on 7 July 1737 (Lindgren, 1991):
Farinello, what with his Salary, his Benefit Night, and the Presents made him by some of the wise People of this Nation, gets at least 5000 l. a Year in England, and yet he is not asham'd to run about like a Stroller from Kingdom to Kingdom, as if we did not give him sufficient Encouragement, which we hope the Noble Lords of the Haymarket will look upon as a great Affront done to them and their Country.
Farinelli had been called to Madrid by the queen in the hope that his singing would help cure the debilitating depression of Philip V. It became his responsibility to serenade the king every night (the exact number of arias differs in reports between three and nine), an obligation he apparently maintained until the king's death in 1746. Appointed 'royal servant' to the king in a royal patent of 1737, his remuneration was 1500 guineas in 'English money', as well as a coach with two mules for city travel, a team of six mules for trips between cities, 'as also the necessary Carriages for his Servants and Equipage, and a decent and suitable Lodging for his person and family as well in all my Royal Seats as in any other place where he may be ordered to attend on my Person' (McGeary, 1998).
That Farinelli's activities encompassed more than singing the same arias every night to the ailing king is especially well documented in the period after Philip V's death and the accession of Ferdinand VI (1746–59). In 1747 he was appointed artistic director of the theatres at Buen Retiro (Madrid) and Aranjuez, marking the beginning of a decade of extraordinary productions and extravaganzas in which he collaborated extensively with Metastasio. Only Metastasio's side of this correspondence survives: the 166 letters, beginning on 26 August 1747, detail many of Farinelli's projects, from the importation of Hungarian horses (with which Metastasio was engaged from Vienna for a year and a half) to the redirection of the River Tagus in Aranjuez to enable elaborate 'water music' or embarcadero for the royal family. 17 of the 23 operas and serenatas produced under Farinelli's direction between 1747 and 1756 had texts by Metastasio, many of them revised for the Spanish performances. Metastasio's letters preserve one side of an engaging conversation about all aspects of performance. His new serenata L'isola disabitata was set by Giuseppe Bonno and performed in 1754, the year the Aranjuez theatre was inaugurated; Metastasio wrote to Farinelli after hearing about the production: 'I have been present at Aranjuez all the time I was reading your letter … I have seen the theatre, the ships, the embarkation, the enchanted palace; I have heard the trills of my incomparable Gemello; and have venerated the royal aspect of your divinities'. Farinelli's 'royal aspect' was also captured by the painter and set designer Jacopo Amigoni in two large canvases of 1750–52; in one, the singer is depicted at the centre of a seated group flanked by Metastasio, the soprano Teresa Castellini and a self-portrait of the painter, and in the other he is seated alone in the countryside of Aranjuez with the 'fleet' of ships he created for the embarkations on the Tagus behind him. In both, Farinelli wears the cross of the Order of Calatrava with which he was knighted in 1750. The most imposing portrait, however, is the last, painted about 1755 by Corrado Giaquinto, showing him full length in his chivalric robes with Ferdinand VI and Queen Maria Barbara revealed in an oval behind him by flying putti.
The Giaquinto portrait marks the apogee of Farinelli's career. Metastasio's Nitteti, set by Nicola Conforto, had its première in 1756. After Ferdinand VI's death in 1759, he was asked to leave Spain, and retired to his villa in Bologna where he installed his extensive collections of art, music and musical instruments. He nurtured hopes of returning to Spain or of attaining a position of similar authority elsewhere, but they proved to be vain. He lived out his years corresponding with Metastasio (who died in April 1782) and receiving the homage of musicians and nobility, including Martini, Burney, Gluck, Mozart, the Electress of Saxony and Emperor Joseph II, and died shortly after his 'twin'.
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(b S Pietro in Galatina, nr Lecce, 8 Feb 1715/1716; d Naples, 25 Oct 1787). Italian composer. According to some sources he was born in 1706; however, when he entered the Naples Conservatorio di S Maria della Pietà dei Turchini on 23 December 1735, he declared himself to be 20 (or in his 20th year), which places his birthdate in 1715 or 1716. He was admitted to the conservatory under a five-year contract, studying under primo maestro Nicola Fago, secondo maestro Leonardo Leo and, after 1737, with Leo's successor Lorenzo Fago. He remained in Naples all his life, and between 1745 and 1771 established himself as a respected composer of oratorios, operas, cantatas and church music. On 11 July 1759 he succeeded Girolamo Abos as secondo maestro of his former conservatory and, contrary to some accounts, did not resign from this post in 1785, but retained it until his death. His most notable student was Giacomo Tritto.
Between 1763 and 1766 Cafaro conducted operas by Hasse and Traetta, among others, at the Teatro S Carlo. Public recognition, and especially his compositions for court events (including cantatas for the king's birthday), led to his appointment on 25 August 1768 as a maestro di cappella soprannumerario of the royal chapel; he was also music master to Queen Maria Carolina. After the death of Giuseppe de Majo, primo maestro of the royal chapel, the incumbent vice-maestro Giuseppe Marchitti was denied succession and, without the customary public competition, the position given to Cafaro on 21 December 1771; he also continued as maestro di musica della regina, later becoming maestro di musica della real camera. After assuming the leadership of the royal chapel he stopped writing operas and produced primarily sacred music. A Stabat mater, dedicated to the king and queen and printed in Naples in 1785, became his best-known work outside Italy.
Although Cafaro never composed an opera buffa, certain stylistic tendencies associated with this genre (simplicity of harmonic structure, texture and orchestration) are reflected in his serious works. In them the dramatic pathos of earlier composers gave way to Classicist abstraction, expert use of Neapolitan formulae and accepted modes of expression. As a result his music was praised by his contemporaries for 'grace and purity of style' and later criticized for 'poverty of invention'. In the Neapolitan tradition Cafaro was one of the essential links between the generation of Leo and Durante and that of Cimarosa and Paisiello.
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Domenico Cimarosa (17 December 1749, Aversa, Province of Caserta – Venice 11 January 1801) was an Italian opera composer of the Neapolitan school. He wrote more than eighty operas during his lifetime, including his masterpiece, Il matrimonio segreto (1792).
Cimarosa (his name is spelt Cimmarosa on his baptismal certificate) was taken by his parents, a few days after his birth, from Aversa to Naples. His father, Gennaro Cimmarosa, was employed as a stonemason in the construction of the Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte; in the course of work he was killed in a fall. The family lived close to the church of S Severo de' Padri Conventuali, and Cimarosa's mother was able to obtain work as a laundress at the monastery while Domenico was taken into the school. Cimarosa soon attracted the attention of the monastery organist, Father Polcano, who gave him music lessons. He made rapid progress, and was admitted in 1761 to the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto. He remained there for 11 years. His teachers were Manna, Sacchini, Fenaroli and Carcais, the maestro di violino. Cimarosa became an able violinist and keyboard player, and he was also a gifted singer; after he left the conservatory he had singing lessons from the castrato Giuseppe Aprile. It was, however, mainly as a composer that he established himself while still a student, and by 1770 he, Zingarelli and Giuseppe Giordani were senior students in the maestro di cappella class, the class for composers. He may have had further lessons in composition from Piccinni in 1771, when he had left the conservatory.
During his student days Cimarosa composed a number of sacred motets and masses, but with the première in 1772 of his first commedia per musica, Le stravaganze del conte, performed at the Teatro dei Fiorentini in Naples with the farsetta Le magie di Merlina e Zoroastro, his fame as a composer began to spread. Influenced by the tradition of the commedia dell'arte, the farsetta, which constituted Act 3 and included characters such as Dottor Balanzoni and Pulcinella, was the first of a number of similar intermezzos and farsettas that he was to write throughout his career. His works soon became popular in Rome, where his comic intermezzos were performed by a cast of five male singers at the Teatro Valle. Il ritorno di Don Calandrino, L'italiana in Londra, Le donne rivali and Il pittore parigino were given there between 1778 and 1781. Goethe was quite charmed by L'impresario in angustie, which he heard during his visit to Rome in 1787. In his Italienische Reise Goethe commented on the humour in the Act 1 finale in which the poet (centre stage) is being criticized by the impresario and the prima donna on one side of the stage, and the composer and the seconda donna on the other. Serious operas, including Caio Mario (1780) and Alessandro nell'Indie (1781), also had their premières in Rome, at the Teatro delle Dame and the Teatro Argentina. On 10 July 1780 L'italiana in Londra was the first of Cimarosa's operas to be given at La Scala in Milan, initiating a tradition of performances of his works that lasted well into the 19th century.
On 29 November 1779 Cimarosa had been appointed supernumerary organist (without pay) of the Neapolitan royal chapel. He was promoted on 28 March 1785 to the position of second organist, with a monthly salary of eight ducats (which continued to be paid to him even during his periods of absence from Naples). From the early 1780s he also held an appointment as maestro of the Ospedaletto conservatory, Venice; it is not clear exactly when he was appointed, though 1782 is a likely date, as in that year his oratorio Absalom was composed for the institution. Several of his opera librettos in the ensuing years (first those of L'eroe cinese and La ballerina amante, both given in Naples in 1782) refer to his connection with the Ospedaletto, and it would seem that he retained his Venetian post even when absent.
In 1787 Cimarosa accepted the position of maestro di cappella at the St Petersburg court of Catherine II, an invitation probably extended at the recommendation of the Duke of Serra Capriola, the ambassador in Russia of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. On their way to St Petersburg Cimarosa and his wife visited Livorno as guests of Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany, who later, as emperor (1790–92), played a role in Cimarosa's successful sojourn in Vienna. At Parma he paid a visit to Duchess Maria Amalia (daughter of Maria Theresa and wife of Ferdinand of the Bourbons), and he spent 24 days in late August and September in Vienna, where he was presented to Joseph II. During this period the emperor repeatedly invited Cimarosa to sing and play for him. All these contacts strengthened his ties with the Viennese court. From Vienna Cimarosa visited Warsaw and finally arrived in St Petersburg on 3 December 1787.
At the court of Catherine II Cimarosa succeeded a line of Italian composers that included Manfredini, Galuppi, Traetta and Sarti. His operas were presented at the Hermitage and the theatre at Gatchina, the sumptuous palaces of the empress. His serious opera Cleopatra and two previously written comic operas, Le donne rivali and I due baroni di Rocca Azzurra, were adjusted for performers in Russia. Shortly after Cimarosa's arrival, however, the empress engaged Martín y Soler as her second maestro di cappella. His operas seemed to have met with greater success at the Russian court than Cimarosa's. The magnificence and splendour of Catherine's court began to fade by 1791 when economic crises had forced the empress to release most of the Italian singers. Cimarosa, who could not bear the harshness of the Russian winters, left the court in June 1791. After spending three months in Warsaw, he arrived in Vienna shortly after the death of Joseph II.
It had been known for some time that Cimarosa's contract in Russia was nearing an end and that he was planning to return to Naples because of poor health. Joseph II had intended to employ him as soon as he reached Vienna, and in 1789 a number of Cimarosa's works were given at the Burgtheater in preparation for his return. Between May and September I due supposti conti was revived with a new cast, and I due baroni di Rocca Azzurra, for which Mozart composed the aria 'Alma grande e nobil core' (k578), was also presented. Upon his arrival in Vienna Cimarosa was appointed Kapellmeister by Leopold II and was commissioned to write an opera, Il matrimonio segreto, to a text by Giovanni Bertati based on Colman and Garrick's The Clandestine Marriage. The opera, performed at the Burgtheater on 7 February 1792, was so successful that Leopold II ordered that it be repeated that same evening in his private chambers. Cimarosa, whom Joseph Weigl described as having a jovial and friendly personality, enjoyed great popularity among Viennese society and often entertained his hosts by performing at the keyboard. During his two years in Vienna he composed two more operas (La calamita dei cuori, which was a failure, and Amor rende sagace), and reworked his Il pittore parigino.
Cimarosa presumably returned to Naples in spring 1793, between the production of Amor rende sagace in Vienna at the beginning of April and that of I traci amanti in Naples in mid-June. On 8 November 1796 he was appointed first organist of the royal chapel with a monthly salary of ten ducats. In addition to composing new operas, he reworked L'italiana in Londra and I due baroni, adding sections in Neapolitan dialect. The most important works written during this last phase of his career were Le astuzie femminili (1794) and two serious operas, Penelope (1794) and Gli Orazi ed i Curiazi (1796), the last for La Fenice in Venice. In the 1790s Italy was experiencing reverberations of the French Revolutionary Wars that shook Europe. In 1796 the French captured Venice. Three years later, liberal leaders under the auspices of the French established the 'Parthenopean Republic' after the Bourbon king was forced to flee Naples. Cimarosa, in sympathy with their cause, composed a patriotic hymn to a text by Luigi Rossi which was sung on 19 May for the ceremonial burning of the royal flag. At the end of June, however, the Parthenopean Republic fell and the Bourbon troops re-entered the city. Cimarosa found himself in a perilous position in view of his republican sympathies; he endeavoured to make amends by paying homage to the Bourbons, composing (at the suggestion of a priest, Gennaro Tanfano) a cantata in praise of Ferdinand IV, performed on 23 September. He composed other works in his efforts to appease the king, but it seems that they merely angered Ferdinand further, and on 9 December 1799 he was arrested. He spent four months in prison, and was spared the death sentence only because of the intervention of powerful friends (among them Cardinal Consalvi, Cardinal Ruffo and Lady Hamilton). On his release from prison Cimarosa returned to Venice, where he was invited to compose a new opera, Artemisia. He did not live to complete it, as his health rapidly deteriorated and he died on 11 January 1801. Rumours were rife that he had been poisoned at the instigation of Queen Marie Caroline, and pressure of public opinion forced the government to publish a medical report (on 5 April 1801), which certified that he had died from an internal ailment. Cimarosa was twice married: in 1777 to Costanza Suffi, who died the next year; and later to Gaetana Pallante, who died in 1796.
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(b Villa Santa Maria, Chieti, ?1709; d Naples, 29 July 1785). Italian composer and teacher. He was the brother of Michaele Cotumacci (b c1682), composer of a cantata for four voices and violins, Progressi vittoriosi della Fede Cattolica ottenuti della predicazione di S Francesco di Sales (I-Nf); Carlo’s son, Matteo Cotumacci (1739–1804), was also a musician. Carlo Cotumacci, according to Burney, who visited him in 1770, was a pupil of Alessandro Scarlatti ‘in the year 1719’. He began his career as an organist serving various Neapolitan churches, for which he also composed. His earliest known dated work is a Missa di Requiem for two voices and organ (20 October 1727). In 1737 he became a member of the Neapolitan Congregazione dei Musici and in 1749 organist of the Casa dell’Annunziata. On 1 December 1755, after the death of Francesco Durante, he and Joseph Doll joined Girolamo Abos as maestri of the conservatory S Onofrio a Capuana. According to the institution's Libro maggiore for 1755–7, the three teachers were treated as equals in rank and salary. It was not until 1774, when Giacomo Insanguine succeeded Doll with the rank of secondo maestro that Cotumacci was named primo maestro. He remained with the conservatory for the rest of his life. In his teaching he continued the tradition of Durante and wrote several sets of partimenti and other didactic keyboard pieces. His pupils included Giovanni Paisiello, Giuseppe Gazzaniga and Giovanni Furno. Like Durante, Cotumacci never composed an opera; he concentrated on church music, but his works are undistinguished.
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He was the seventh of 11 children of Gaetano Durante and Orsola Capasso. His father, a woolcomber, served as sexton and singer at S Maria degli Angeli e S Sossio, Frattamaggiore, where he and his wife had married on 31 October 1674 and where all their children were baptized. His uncle, Don Angelo Durante (c1650 – after 1704), was a priest and musician who in 1690 succeeded Cristoforo Caresana as primo maestro of the Neapolitan Conservatorio di S Onofrio a Capuana, of which he was rector until 1699. Don Angelo composed several drammi sacri (Gara amorosa tra Cileo, la Terra e ’l Mare, Monteforte, 1697; S Giuliano martire in Sora, Naples, 1700; L’Anacoreta reale S Onofrio di Persia, Naples, 1705), as well as church music, of which a Dies irae attributed to him is extant (two voices and continuo, D-BNu). Nothing is known of Francesco’s education until after his father’s death on 18 March 1699, when his uncle took over his musical training. Don Angelo left Naples to assist his widowed sister-in-law and her children, and Nicola Sabini assumed his duties at the conservatory; but in 1702 he returned to his post at S Onofrio and Francesco enrolled as a convittore to study with his uncle and the violinist Gaetano Francone. Three years later Francesco left the conservatory, and on 13 June 1705 his first known creative effort, a scherzo drammatico entitled Prodigii della divina misericordia verso I devoti del glorioso S Antonio di Padova, was performed in Naples.
Little is known about Durante’s life between then and 1728, when he was appointed primo maestro of the Neapolitan Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo. Choron and Fayolle (1810) stated that he studied with Pasquini and Pitoni in Rome for five years, and although that was later disavowed (by Villarosa and Florimo), circumstantial evidence seems to support them. Girolamo Chiti, in a letter to Padre Martini of 10 September 1746, identified Durante as a ‘scolaro di Pitoni’; Chiti himself had been a pupil of Pitoni about 1713, so his statement has some authority. Durante could have been in Rome either between 1705 and 1710, which would have allowed studies with Pasquini (who died in 1710), or between 1711 and 1719. The only dated composition by Durante from the first period, his Missa S Ildefonsi of 1709, could have been written for the Spanish church in Rome or Naples. By July 1710 he was in Naples, where he began teaching at the Conservatorio di S Onofrio. He remained there for only six months, leaving the institution on 12 January 1711, perhaps to return to Rome or to study there with Pitoni for the first time. A register of the masters and professors of the Congregazione and Accademia di S Cecilia in Rome, compiled in 1851, lists Durante as a maestro there for 1718, but offers no documentation. Several aspects of Durante’s music have been interpreted as pointing to Roman influences: his concentration on sacred music to the exclusion of opera, his preoccupation with the problems of a stile alla Palestrina, and his interest in keyboard music and the concerto. He was, however, in Naples on 4 January 1714, when he married Orsola de Laurentis, 12 years his senior, and is certain to have been present in the city at the first performance of his sacred drama La cerva assetata ovvero L’anima nelle fiamme on 18 February 1719. Thereafter, nothing is known of Durante’s whereabouts until 1728. It could have been during these years that he travelled to Austria [Bohemia] and Saxony, as some older sources report (though for periods when he now is known to have resided in Naples). There is, however, no documentary evidence other than some unique sacred works attributed to Durante that are preserved in Brno, Prague and Dresden in local manuscript copies dating from the early to mid-1720s.
In October 1728 the governors of the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo appointed Durante, now aged 44, primo maestro replacing the elderly Gaetano Greco: his election attests to his high reputation. About the same time he must have been invited to write music for the choruses of Duke Annibale Marchese’s tragedy Flavio Valente, published in the duke’s Tragedie cristiane (Naples, 1729). With this contribution he joined the ranks of the then celebrated older and younger Neapolitan composers, Carapella, Mancini, Sarro, Nicola Fago, Porpora, Hasse, Vinci and Leo, who had written music for other tragedies in the collection. Dated copies of his compositions now become more numerous: a Litanie (1731), Laudate pueri (1732),Missa breve (1734), and the oratorio Abigaile (libretto, 1736). His well-known Sonate per cembalo divisi in studii e divertimenti, however, were not published in Naples in 1732, as has been assumed, but between January 1747 and December 1749, since the dedication refers to the Principe d’Ardore, Don Giacomo Francesco Milano as ambassador to France (which he was between 1741 and 1749) and as Cavaliere di Santo Spirito (which he was named in January 1747). The prince, a student of Durante, dedicated a Salve regina for one voice and instruments ‘al suo maestro Francesco Durante’ D-MÜs, WRgs). Durante’s Requiem in G minor is dated 27 November 1738, and his Missa in Palestrina (in a copy by Famulari) 17–18 October 1739. Also from those years come the two Atti di Contrizioni for the alumni of the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo. Among his students there were Pergolesi, who completed his education under Durante’s guidance, Girolamo Abos, Domenico Terradellas and for about two years Joseph Doll.
After ten years of service, Durante resigned from the conservatory, and in September 1739 he was succeeded by Francesco Feo. The reasons for his resignation are unknown, and there is no information about his activities until 1742, when he was called to the Neapolitan Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto. This oldest and largest of the four Neapolitan conservatories had been without a primo maestro since October 1741, when Porpora went on leave to Venice and did not return; with the death of Giovanni Veneziano on 13 April 1742 it had lost its secondo maestro. On 25 April 1742 the governors elected Durante primo maestro, at the same time appointing P.A. Gallo to assist him as secondo maestro. Under Durante’s directorship the Loreto conservatory regained stability and quality of education. During his 13 years’ service such later masters as Pasquale Anfossi, Tommaso Traetta, Pietro Guglielmi, Alessandro Speranza, Antonio Sacchini and Fedele Fenaroli received their musical education there. When, with the death of Leo on 31 October 1744, the primo maestro position at the Conservatorio di S Onofrio became vacant, Durante, then 60, was awarded the succession as from 1 January 1745. He also petitioned the king to appoint him Leo’s successor as primo maestro of the royal chapel. A competition, however, was held, in which Durante took part on 21 April 1745 along with Giuseppe de Majo, Giuseppe Marchitti, Nicola Sala and others. The judges were Constanzi of Rome, Perti of Bologna, Jommelli of Venice, and Hasse, then also in Venice. Jommelli praised Durante’s a cappella setting on the cantus firmus Protexisti me Deus, of which Perti was critical; the appointment went to Majo, vicemaestro of the chapel (although only Hasse had found his works satisfactory). Durante continued to hold his positions at both S Maria di Loreto and S Onofrio, and during the last ten years of his life was venerated as the most distinguished of all Neapolitan teachers. According to tradition Nicolo Piccinni became Durante’s favourite pupil, of whom he is supposed to have said: ‘The others are my pupils, but Nicolo alone is my son’. Dated compositions from his last decade include the five-voice Miserere for the basilica of S Nicola, Bari, the Requiem in C minor for eight voices, performed in 1746 at S Giacomo degli Spagnoli in Rome, an F major mass (1749), the F minor Litany (1750), and the componimento sacro S Antonio di Padova (1753).
Durante married three times. His first wife died on 27 February 1741; early biographies characterized her as a ‘maledetta vecchia’ who made the 27 years of their marriage a misery. On 26 January 1744 he married his second wife, Anna Furano, of Naples, who is said to have brought happiness back into his life; but she died on 10 August 1747. Only four months later, on 18 December 1747, he was married again, to the 22-year-old Angela Anna Carmina Giacobbe, the niece of Anna Furano and a domestic in his household. Reports of Durante’s character and personality are primarily based on anecdotes related by Giuseppe Sigismondo, who had known the composer, and by Giovanni Furno, who related stories he had heard from his teacher Carlo Cotumacci, Durante’s successor at S Onofrio. According to these sources Durante was a man of simple manners, but profoundly wise in matters concerning his art and a respected arbiter over questions of harmony and counterpoint. He was dedicated to his pupils’ welfare and education; they in turn, like Paisiello, who began his studies at S Onofrio during the last year of Durante’s life, always spoke of him with enthusiasm and admiration. He was buried in S Lorenzo Maggiore in Naples.
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Feo received his musical training at the Conservatorio di S Maria della Pietà dei Turchini at Naples, which he entered on 3 September 1704; among his fellow students were Leonardo Leo and Giuseppe de Majo, who later married Feo’s niece, Teresa Manna. He first studied with the secondo maestro, Andrea Basso, and after 1705 also with Nicola Fago, the then newly appointed primo maestro. According to some 19th-century sources, Feo is said to have left the conservatory about 1708 to study counterpoint with G.O. Pitoni in Rome. This claim has not been substantiated, and it is now believed that he remained at the Turchini until 1712.
On 18 January 1713 he presented to the Neapolitan public his first opera, L’amor tirannico, ossia Zenobia, and during the carnival season in 1714 Il martirio di S Caterina, a dramma sacro. In the following years he began to gain recognition with noteworthy works for local churches (Missa defunctorum, 1718) and contributed recitatives, arias and comic scenes to Neapolitan performances of operas by other composers. In 1719 he composed La forza della virtù, a commedia per musica, followed by the opera seria Teuzzone in 1720. Feo’s first true success, however, appears to have been the opera seria Siface, re di Numidia, performed at the Teatro S Bartolomeo in May 1723 by, among others, Marianna Bugarelli and the castrato Nicolini. The libretto for Siface, based on an older one by Domenico David, was the first attempt at a dramma per musica by the then 25-year-old Metastasio who had just settled in Naples.
Feo’s growing reputation as a church composer and the success of his opera Siface led in July 1723 to his appointment as a maestro of the Conservatorio di S Onofrio a Capuana, where he joined Ignazio Prota and succeeded Nicola Grillo. During his 16 years of service there he became known as one of the most distinguished Neapolitan teachers of his generation. Among his students at S Onofrio were Nicola Sabatino, Nicolò Jommelli and his own nephew Gennaro Manna. In 1739 he left S Onofrio (where Leonardo Leo assumed his position) to become primo maestro of the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo, succeeding Francesco Durante who had resigned. Feo served the institution until 1743, assisted first by Alfonso Caggi and then by Girolamo Abos. One of his pupils there was Giacomo Insanguine, ‘detto Monopoli’.
Between 1723 and 1743 Feo composed the bulk of his oratorios, many sacred cantatas and much church music. His most successful oratorio was S Francesco di Sales Apostolo del Chablais (1734), which over a period of 20 years continued to be performed in various Italian cities. For the stage, particularly for theatres in Rome and Turin, he wrote six additional opere serie and several intermezzos. For Madrid he composed the serenatas Oreste and Polinice (both 1738), and for the Congregation of the Fathers of the Cross in Prague, the oratorio La distruzione dell’esercito dei Cananei con la morte di Sisara (1739). His last opera, Arsace, was given at Turin for the reopening of the Teatro Regio on 26 December 1740 (for illustration see Turin). His last oratorio, La Ruth, was performed at Rome in 1743. Thereafter he yielded the dramatic field to the younger generation of composers represented by Latilla, Jommelli, Terradellas, Girolamo Abos and Manna.
When the Poveri di Gesù Cristo was abolished in 1743 and converted into a seminary, Feo retired from public teaching, but remained active as a composer of sacred music. He continued to serve various Neapolitan churches, among them the Annunziata, where he had been appointed maestro di cappella in 1726. During his last years he relinquished most of his obligations to Manna. His last dated composition in autograph is a Quoniam tu solus of 1760 for tenor and strings. Through the singer A.M. Bernacchi of Bologna, Feo established contact in 1749 with Padre Martini, to whose collection he contributed a portrait of himself: it shows a wistful, aging Feo, with the theoretical treatises of Zarlino, Fux and Scorpione at his side (see illustration).
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Conductor, impresario and composer of over 50 Operas, T. Giordani began his career as a member of a family-run touring opera group.
His father was Carmine Giordani (or Giordano), who was born 1695 in Naples, died after 1762, probably in London. From Naples, the family gradually moved northwards through Italy to Graz, Austria (1748), Frankfurt (1750) and Amsterdam (1752).
Tommaso was trained in Naples and moved with the family to London around 1752. After about three years at the Covent Garden, he brought out his first comic Opera "La commediante fatta cantatrice".
In 1764 he settled in Dublin, becoming one of leading musicians in the Irish capital. In 1781 he returned to London and two years later went back to Dublin where he spent the remainder of his life.
Among his compositions are a number of operas, an Oratorio, Isaac (1767), and a large quantity of overtures, Sonatas, Concertos, quartets (mostly string quartets, some with flute or keyboard), trios for violin, flute and basso continuo, songs, etc.
He was organist of St. Mary's Por-Cathedral, Dublin, from 1784 to 1798, and conducted his own Te Deum at the celebration upon the recovery of King George III, April 30, 1789.
Among his pupils were Lady Morgan, Tom Cooke, and John Field, the inventor of the "Nocturne", who made his debut at one of Giordani's Rotunda concerts (4 April 1792).
His last opera, The Cottage, Festival, was produced at the Theatre Royal, Dublin, November 28, 1796.
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Known also as "Il Sassone", he was born in Bergedorf, Germany in 1699. For several decades he was the most admired composer of opera seria in Italy and Germany.
During the 1720s he lived in Naples for many years where he was a pupil of Alessandro Scarlatti.
His finest operas, written between 1730 and 1760, represent a neo-classical style perfectly matched to Pietro Metastasio's text, that he frequently used.
His skill at writing for the voice was flawless; Bel Canto was for him a beautiful display of lyric melodies, to which everything else was subordinate.
As Charles Burney remarked, "Hasse was the most natural and elegant composer for vocal music... who always regarded the voice as the first object of attention in a theater ...preserving its importance as a painter, throwing the strongest light upon the capital figure of his piece."
François-Joseph Fétis observed, “few composers gained such fame as Hasse and yet as quickly forgotten.”
Until Frederick the Great's death in 1786, Hasse's operas and sacred works were performed in Berlin, however, in Italy his music was almost completely neglected.
He died in Venice in 1783.
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Italian composer and teacher born March 22, 1728 in Monopoli near Bari. Insanguine was an expert craftsman and always up to date
(b Monopoli, nr Bari, 22 March 1728; d Naples, 1 Feb 1795). Italian composer and teacher. He was admitted to the Poveri di Gesù conservatory, Naples, on 19 January 1743, studying there with Abos and Feo until November 1743, when the conservatory was closed and he went to the S Onofrio. He studied there with Abos and Durante, becoming a mastricello until Durante’s death in 1755. In 1756 he had his first opera, Lo funnaco revotato, performed at the Teatro dei Fiorentini; it is said to have been highly successful and was revived there in 1760. Insanguine’s production of operas thereafter was somewhat intermittent, but he was also involved in the patching up of operas by other composers. According to remarks supposed to have been made much later by Paisiello, ‘Monopoli was the maestro delle pezze, that is, [he wrote] those numbers that were added in revising other composers’ scores at the impresario’s expense, as a result of which he lost standing among professional musicians’. The full extent of his work of this sort is not known. Most of his own operas written before 1770 were comic ones performed at Neapolitan theatres, and of these only Lo funnaco revotato is known to be extant. L’osteria di Marechiaro (1768) was particularly successful. In 1770 he had a work performed at the S Carlo for the first time, a setting of La Didone abbandonata. According to Prota-Giurleo, this commission began as an assignment to revise and direct Galuppi’s setting, and only when Galuppi’s work proved impossible of adaptation to the needs of the S Carlo was Insanguine asked to set the text anew. Perhaps because of the success of this work he thereafter composed mostly opere serie, including four for the S Carlo (as well as his completion with Errichelli of Gian Francesco de Majo’s last opera, Eumene, which was performed there in 1771). His last two operas for the S Carlo, Medonte (1779) and Calipso (1782), were not successful. Something of his standing at this time may perhaps be seen in the fact that he was paid only 230 ducats for Calipso, while among the composers of the other three operas performed that season, the popular Cimarosa, making his S Carlo début, received 340, the young Francesco Bianchi 250 and only the little-known Curci less (the minimum fee of 200 ducats).
Insanguine was made a teacher at the S Onofrio conservatory on 23 August 1767. In 1774 he succeeded Dol as secondo maestro there and as organist of the second choir at the Cappella del Tesoro in S Gennaro. In 1776 he became organist of the first choir and in 1781 maestro di cappella. In 1785 he succeeded Cotumacci as primo maestro at the conservatory, a post he held until his death. In 1793 the students complained that his age made him incapable of carrying out his duties and Salvatore Rispoli was appointed special secondo maestro.
The scanty references to Insanguine in contemporary lexicons suggest that he was little known outside Naples except as the composer of a few popular arias. The disrespect for him in Naples reflected in Paisiello’s remark above (although Paisiello is known to have been particularly lacking in charity towards most of his fellow composers) perhaps also appears in Villarosa’s judgment, repeated by Florimo and later writers, that he had ‘a style lacking in inspiration [estro] and taste’. Insanguine was an expert craftsman and always up to date (an aria in the library of the Royal College of Music, London, sung by Aprile in an unidentified opera seria at Palermo in 1766, is in a modern style more common in the 1770s and has no trace of galant intricacies); however, his music usually has a slightly perfunctory quality, reflected in the excessively regular working out of his aria forms.
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The Italian composer Niccolò Jommelli, master of opera and sacred music, was among those who initiated the mid-18th century modifications to singer-dominated Italian opera. His greatest achievements represent a combination of German complexity, French decorative elements and Italian brio, welded together by and extraordinary gift for dramatic effectiveness.
Jommelli was born in Aversa, Naples, Italy on September 10, 1714. From 1725 to 1728, at the age of eleven, he studied at the Conservatorio di Sant' Onofrio a Capuana, thereafter moving to the Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchini. His first Opera L'errore amoroso was premiered in Naples in 1737.
Soon thereafter Jommelli began writing serious opera. His first effort, Ricimero re di Goti, was premiered in Rome in 1740. In 1741 the composer moved to Bologna. There he studied with Giovanni Battista Martini, who was also a teacher of Mozart, thirty years later.
Between 1743 or 1745, Jommelli served as Musical Director at the Ospedale degli Incurabili in Venice, an orphanage for girls. Here he focused mainly on producing sacred works.
Jommelli began writing more sacred music and won a position as Maestro di Cappella at St. Peter's Basilica. Among the people supporting Jommelli for this job was Cardinal Alessandro Albani, who also furthered the composer's career by helping him travel to and premiere the opera Achille in Sciro in Vienna in 1749.
He did not, however, cut back on composing operas. Perhaps influenced by his time in Vienna, where ensembles and choruses were much more fashionable than in Italy, his operas include an unusual number of these pieces as well as some electrifying accompanied recitative.
Aside from musical innovations, Jommelli seems to have been interested in changing dramatic conventions as well. That he may have been a proficient poet is suggested by his election to the Arcadian Academy in Rome in 1754. Members were expected to improvise poetry on the spot, and very few composers were granted the distinction of membership. On a practical level, this may mean that Jommelli had more to do with writing his own librettos than people have assumed. This is especially interesting in that two of his librettos, Sofonisba (1745) and Iphigenia in Aulide (1751), break with convention by allowing death to be shown on stage and having an opera end in tragedy.
In 1753 at the Stuttgart court of Carl Eugen Duke of Württemberg, Jommelli oversaw a production of his La clemenza di Tito for the birthday of Duchess Friederike. He was then named Ober-Kapellmeister to the court. Because of his great interest in opera, the Duke insisted on choosing the plots of the operas to be written, but he allowed Jommelli free rein otherwise. Jommelli had, not only, some of Europe's best musicians, but also outstanding choreographers and designers at his disposal.
The operas of Jommelli and his librettist, Mattia Verazi, were highly innovative in several respects. They were based on Greek mythology instead of Roman history. They also incorporated many of the characteristics of French opera, such as large scene groups including not only recitative and aria (the traditional Italian combination), but also orchestral accompanied recitative, ensembles, and chorus. The act finales go even further by integrating ballet as well.
For special occasions Jommelli also wrote sacred music for the Duke including a Requiem for his mother (1756) and a Te Deum (1763).
In 1768, Jommelli returned to Naples and agreed to write one serious opera and one comic opera per year for King Jose I of Portugal.
In his last years, Jommelli wrote operas for Naples and Rome as well as fulfilling his responsibilities to Lisbon. In August of 1771, he suffered a stroke and was unable to write for almost a year. Thereafter, he began work on what was to be his last opera for King Jose I; Clelia, and audiences in Lisbon enthusiastically received it. From 1769 to 1777, up to four Jommelli operas a year were heard in Lisbon.
Jommelli died in August 1774, greatly mourned throughout Europe. Some, such as the German composer and theorist Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart called him "Europe's greatest composer." Despite such praise, Jommelli was soon forgotten. Only within the last twenty-five years have his operas been rediscovered.
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The son of Corrado de Leo and Rosabetta Pinto, he went to Naples in 1709 and became a pupil of Nicola Fago at the Conservatorio S Maria della Pietà dei Turchini. At the beginning of 1712 his S Chiara, o L’infedeltà abbattuta, a dramma sacro, was performed at the conservatory; from the fact that it was performed again in the viceroy’s palace on 14 February it would seem that Leo’s work attracted unusual attention. On finishing his studies he was appointed supernumerary organist in the viceroy’s chapel on 8 April 1713 and at the same time was employed as maestro di cappella in the service of the Marchese Stella; he is also said to have been maestro di cappella of S Maria della Solitaria.
As early as 13 May 1714 his first opera, Il Pisistrato, was staged. There followed commissions for opera arrangements, intermezzos and serenatas, and in 1718 a second opera, Sofonisba. From Caio Gracco (1720) the list of his opera commissions continues without a break up to his death. In 1723 he wrote his first opera for Venice, and in the same year, with La ’mpeca scoperta, he turned for the first time to the developing genre of Neapolitan commedia musicale; from then on he was regarded as one of the leading composers of comedy.
On Alessandro Scarlatti’s death in 1725 Leo was promoted to first organist of the viceregal chapel. In the following years he lost his supremacy as a composer of serious opera in Naples to his rivals Vinci and Hasse, and between 1726 and 1730 he apparently received no commissions for opera at the Teatro S Bartolomeo in Naples. He did however write serious operas for Rome and Venice, and in Naples he pursued his career as a composer of comic operas. After Hasse’s departure and Vinci’s death in 1730, Leo became the dominant figure in Neapolitan musical life. He succeeded Vinci as pro-vicemaestro and on Mancini’s death in 1737 he became vicemaestro of the royal chapel. He was repeatedly given leave to fulfil commissions for operas elsewhere (1737 Bologna, 1739 Turin, 1740 Turin and Milan), and through the family connections of the Neapolitan royal family he received commissions from the Spanish court. Even greater than his reputation as an opera composer was the esteem he acquired as a composer of oratorios with his settings of Metastasio’s S Elena al Calvario and La morte di Abele.
Leo also became prominent as a teacher: from 1734 to 1737 he taught as vicemaestro at the Conservatorio S Maria della Pietà dei Turchini, in 1739 he succeeded Feo as primo maestro at the Conservatorio S Onofrio and in 1741 he also took over the duties of primo maestro at the S Maria della Pietà dei Turchini in succession to his own teacher, Fago. The Miserere for double choir in eight parts and organ (March 1739) appears to be the first of his works aimed at the reform of church music, closely connected with his activities as a teacher. In both respects he was in competition with Francesco Durante, who taught at the two other conservatories in Naples. On Domenico Sarro’s death (25 January 1744) Leo at last became maestro di cappellaof the royal chapel. He immediately composed a series of a cappella compositions (with continuo) for the use of the royal chapel during Lent and reformed the orchestra of the royal opera, but he died after only nine months in office.
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Maio [Mayo, Majo], Gian Francesco de
(b Naples, c1490; d ?Naples, after 1548). Italian composer and organist. His first published works are found in Fioretti di frottole (RISM 15194). From 1540 to 1548 he was organist at the SS Annunziata, Naples, and was possibly the maestro di cappella whom Nola replaced in 1563, although documentation is lacking. Citing famous Neapolitan musicians in his Della prattica musica (1601), Scipione Cerreto described Maio as ‘an excellent organist’.
The majority of the 1519 compositions are homophonic settings of popular poems: one strambotto, one ode and five frottolas (one with a Spanish text). Two through-composed settings of canzoni by Petrarch anticipate the madrigal in their consistently contrapuntal textures and irregular overlapping phrases. The only published volume entirely devoted to Maio's music is his Canzon villanesche … libro primo for three voices (Venice, 1546). The 30 pieces in it are in dialect, and like those of his compatriots Nola and Cimello are high-pitched vocal trios notable for spirited delivery of the dialectal texts. Unlike the other Neapolitans, Maio favoured short scalar motifs, nervous dotted rhythms, chains of consecutive 5ths and even parallel octaves, unisons and seconds. The consistent use of triadic sonorities in close position and the frequent truncation of words and phrases suggest roots in popular oral traditions.
The majority of Maio's villanesche are Petrarchist love lyrics lighty coloured with colloquialisms, but in ten works Maio chained together Neapolitan proverbs, local expressions and literary images in a truly popular manner. A high degree of stylistic consistency in form and content suggests that Maio was an amateur poet: 28 have the metrical form ABB/ABB/ABB/CCC (11-syllable lines) or ABBB/ABBB/ABBB/CCCC (11:11:7:11), used exclusively by Maio in the 1540s but the most popular scheme between 1560 and 1565. Maio preferred the symmetrical form ABC (each repeated) for three-line strophes, but for four-line strophes experimented with various asymmetrical designs.
Maio's Passan madonna was reprinted in Rinaldo Burno's Elletione de canzone alla napoletana (154618). Interestingly, this piece appears to be a reworking of Vincenzo Fontana's setting of the same text. Einstein suggested that Maio was the anonymous composer of the Canzone villanesche (15375), but a comparison of poetic forms and musical styles does not support this hypothesis. Judging from book-fair catalogues, Maio's collection was widely marketed in northern Europe. But his villanesche were apparently never well received among northern composers: only one, Madonna quanto più straccii, was reworked (by Nasco in 1556), and none was intabulated.
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Giuseppe Saverio (Raffaele) Mercadante (b. Altamura, near Bari, baptized 17 Sept 1795; d. Naples 17 Dec. 1870) Contemporary with Donizetti, Verdi, and Bellini.
Mercadante was an illegitimate child whose parents did not marry because of their different social rank; his father belonged to the local nobility, and his mother was a maidservant in his household. Instead, Saverio was adopted by his father as a foundling. The looting of Altamura in 1799 in retaliation for its republicanism dissipated the family finances, and Mercadante’s youth was spent in poverty, with no educational prospects. The family’s circumstances did not improve until after the French occupation in 1806, when his father took an administrative post in Naples.
Mercadante had shown early musical promise, learning the guitar and clarinet from his half-brother, and the move to Naples made a professional training at the conservatory possible. A forged birth certificate was obtained, enabling him to take up a state bursary, and he entered the Conservatorio di S Sebastiano in 1808. He studied the violin, flute and singing, as well as figured bass (with G. Furno) and counterpoint (with G. Tritto), and was soon leading the conservatory orchestra. At this period he had already composed what is probably his best-known work today, the Flute Concerto no.2 in E minor (1813), and in the same year the conservatory’s new director, Zingarelli, accepted him into his composition class. Over the next four years he undertook a systematic study of composition, concentrating chiefly on instrumental music which was intended to qualify him as a maestro di cappella. The Flute Concerto no.6 in D major (1817), a bravura diploma piece, was his first work to be published.
Mercadante made a smooth transition from study to a professional career; he had already become known to the public as an orchestral leader and composer, and with his prize-winningGran Concerto (1817), dedicated to Fernando I, he came to be regarded by the local press as the great hope of the Scuola Napoletana, which had not produced any composer of international standing since Spontini. With the public distinction of primo alunno, Mercadante was able to continue living at the conservatory and to further his studies, now with the aim of operatic composition. At the same time the publication of his chamber music (most of it for flute) brought him his first earnings. Most important of all, he acquired his first practical stage experience in 1818–19, composing ballet music for arias for insertion into existing operas. When he had demonstrated his ability to write dramatic music by producing two cantatas, he was commissioned to write a work for S Carlo, and his first opera, L’apoteosi d’Ercole, had a successful première on 19 August 1819. The choice of subject reflected the cultural and political background of Mercadante’s early career, and also accounted for the king distinguishing the young composer and welcoming him to his box. The message conveyed was that the Bourbon Restoration would return Naples to its former brilliance as a musical capital of Europe, and it is in this context that Mercadante’s first commissions should be seen.
With L’apoteosi d’Ercole, Mercadante was recognized as a professional operatic composer. Although chosen as a musical figurehead for the Bourbon Restoration, however, his attitude during the revolution in Naples in 1820–21 put an end to the associated career opportunities. After the suppression of the Carbonarists, the production of his third opera for S Carlo, Maria Stuarda, an unmistakable tribute to the union of king and people and thus to the idea of constitutional monarchy, was cancelled even before its première, as was a commission from Palermo. He was forced to leave the conservatory, and had to depend subsequently on commissions from northern Italy.
He responded to these political events with his seventh opera, Elisa e Claudio, given its première at La Scala, Milan, on 30 October 1821, and an instant international success. On the surface the opera is an innocuous reworking of Cimarosa’s Il matrimonio segreto, and describes the peasant girl Elisa’s successful struggle with Count Arnoldo to preserve her marriage with his son Claudio and ensure the welfare of their children. However, it subtly illustrates the precedence of natural rights over the privileges of nobility, and thus represents the ordinary citizen’s desire for self-assertion. This message, which could not be disputed by official censorship, contributed greatly to its success.
The triumph of Elisa e Claudio in Milan led to commissions for other north Italian opera houses, where, taking advantage of a less strict censorship system, Mercadante presented himself as a composer of grand tragic operas in the tradition of Carafa’s Gabriella di Vergy and Rossini’s Otello, with productions of Andronico (which has much the same plot as Don Carlos) in Venice in 1821, Amleto in Milan in 1822, and Didone abbandonata in Turin in 1823. His self-promotion as a compositore napoleatano eventually enabled him to return to Naples in 1822, although the king allowed him back only after thorough checks by the Neapolitan police and secret service. When the impresario Domenico Barbaia could not engage Spontini or Coccia to succeed Rossini as composer-in-residence at S Carlo he decided to offer Mercadante the post. The three-year contract stipulated the composition of three operas a year in return for a fixed salary.
Mercadante took up his new post in the spring of 1823. He presented Gli Sciti and Costanzo ed Almerisca at the S Carlo, followed by Gli amici di Siracusa in Rome, with moderate success – their conservative subjects did not particularly inspire him. However, the main event of Mercadante’s engagement was a guest season at the Kärntnertortheater in Vienna, where Barbaia sent his star singers on tour in 1824. The intention was to present and market Mercadante as Rossini’s successor. However, the venture was unsuccessful, not least because Barbaia insisted that Mercadante compose music for Doralice, a medieval tale of a heroine who disguises herself as a troubadour to find and rescue her husband, held prisoner in a tower. Barbaia obviously expected this opera to appeal to enthusiasts of German Romanticism, and hoped to produce an Italian counterpart to Weber’s Euryanthe, which he had staged successfully in 1823. He overlooked the fact that the opera also echoed the Leonora story. The Viennese critics reacted unfavourably, accusing Mercadante of trivializing a moral subject to which contemporary Italian opera, an art of pure entertainment, should not aspire. Moreover, they complained that the attempt had been made by a composer with less talent than Rossini. The same criticism was made of his second opera for the city, Il podestà di Burgos.
Mercadante’s failure in Vienna also undermined his position in Naples, especially as Giovanni Pacini had just had two sensational successes there during the 1824–5 season and was commissioned to write the music for the coronation of Francesco I. Barbaia decided to let Mercadante’s contract run out and engaged Pacini instead in 1826, enlisting Mercadante once again to compose ballet music. His experiences in Vienna, however, marked an important turning-point in his creative career. Until now, as the Viennese critics correctly commented, Mercadante had followed older Neapolitan models, paying rather superficial tribute to Rossini’s popularity with his use of crescendos and cabalettas; he had thus appealed chiefly to the conservative element of the public. However, his operas written in 1825 – the second version of Didone abbandonata, Erode and Ipermestra – combined a preference for tragic subjects with intensive study of Rossini’s experimental works from his Neapolitan period. Ipermestra in particular, a work not based on Metastasio’s 18th-century version of the story but going back to the Classical legend, is among the most remarkable and radical scores of the 1820s, with its rejection of convention and the modernity of its musical structure. It introduces a genuine baritone role (Danao), replaces a concluding aria with an extended declamato, and injects a new psychological grasp of situation and character into the drama.
Although the termination of Mercadante’s engagement in Naples enabled him to compose with less thought of pleasing the public in 1825, he became more conciliatory again in the works that followed. The second enduring success of his career came in Venice at the beginning of 1826, with Donna Caritea. For contemporary critics the success of the opera was due chiefly to its warrior heroine and the account of her defensive campaign against a foreign enemy. However, Caritea, who overcomes her hatred of men to become a loving wife, was also Mercadante’s first depiction of an operatic character suffering inner conflict, a theme that later became central to many of his operas and inspired his most successful works.
Later the same year, Mercadante accepted a contract as director of music at the Italian Opera in Madrid. He composed two operas, I due Figaro and the second version of Il posto abbandonato, first written for Milan in 1822. This period also marks his first encounter with Spanish folklore, reflected in his Sinfonia spagnuola (1826), and a number of later works, such as the Serenata spagnuola (1869). After a brief visit to Turin and Milan at the beginning of 1827, he returned in the spring to Madrid, where a patron had commissioned a large-scale mass, and then proceeded to Lisbon in September. Here he composed La testa di bronzo to an existing libretto by Romani, for Count Farrobo, who maintained a private theatre outside the gates of Lisbon.
On 1 January 1828 he took up an appointment as director of the city’s Teatro de S Carlos, where his first work was a setting of Metastasio’s Adriano in Siria. He then took advantage of his geographical distance from Italy to write his own version of Gabriella di Vergy. (Carafa’s 1816 opera was famous for containing the first fully sung death scene on stage.) The production in September 1827 of a second version of Ipermestra (this time after Metastasio), unrelated to his first opera of that title (1825) and musically as well as dramatically inferior in every respect, can be explained only by the political situation after Prince Miguel I’s coup d’état against his brother, King Pedro IV, which allowed the work to be seen as a direct (but ineffectual) call for reconciliation in the ruling house.
In October 1828 Mercadante, foreseeing the coming civil war and the closure of the opera house, decided against an extension of his contract, and early in 1829 he and some of the Lisbon singers moved to Cádiz, where a rich businessman provided financial backing for a short spring season to which Mercadante contributed his opera buffa, La rappresaglia. The venture was so successful that in the summer of 1829 he travelled to Milan to engage more singers. He organized a complete season in Cádiz in 1829–30, concluding it with the production of his opera buffa, Don Chisciotte alle nozze di Gamaccio.
During his time in Cádiz Mercadante’s life was again affected by politics, this time in the form of the projected wedding of the young Neapolitan Princess Maria Cristina – known in musical history for commissioning Rossini’s Stabat mater – to her great-uncle, Fernando VII of Spain. With a view to making this match more acceptable to the princess, attempts were made to reorganize the rather mediocre musical life of Madrid. Mercadante was asked to direct the Teatro Real, and he accepted, returning to Italy in the summer of 1830 to form a company of singers. With this royal protection he was reconciled with Barbaia in Naples, and he also succeeded in recruiting the Neapolitan star soprano Adelaide Tosi for his Madrid company. At the end of 1830, however, following personal animosities involving Tosi, he decided not to accept an extension of his contract in Madrid and returned to Italy for the next season.
His work as director of the royal opera houses of Lisbon and Madrid, which seemed to contemporaries to be continuing the 18th-century Neapolitan tradition, had considerably enhanced Mercadante’s reputation in Italy. The perspicacity with which he absorbed the developments of melodramma dramatico from 1827 is remarkable: while he was still in Madrid he staged Bellini’s La straniera and composed a Francesca da Rimini to an existing libretto by Romani. In contrast to his previous practice on similar occasions, Mercadante made considerable changes to Romani’s libretto, with the aim of producing a tragic triangular story on the model of Il pirata. Musically too, the work betrays the influence of the bel canto style typical of Bellini. It was probably no coincidence that he also chose to set Zaira, with which Bellini had just failed in Parma. Mercadante’s opera was well received and brought him Zingarelli’s official approval. Thus encouraged, he went to Turin, where he gave La testa di bronzo its first performance in Italy in the autumn of 1831, and then I normanni a Parigi, on 7 February 1832. All the critics agreed that he had caught up with the latest developments, and had emerged as a front-ranking operatic composer, a view that was confirmed with the première of Gabriella di Vergy on 16 June 1832 in Genoa.
During rehearsals for Gabriella Mercadante met his future wife Sofia Gambaro (1812–98), whom he married on 9 July 1832. He now decided to secure a steady income and a settled home for his wife and family (two sons and a daughter). Early in 1833 he applied, in competition with Donizetti and Coccia, to succeed Pietro Generali as maestro di cappella at Novara Cathedral, a post traditionally regarded as one of the great church music appointments of Italy. The fact that he was invited to sign the contract only six weeks later says much for his reputation at this time.
In retrospect, Mercadante saw his years in Novara (1833–40) as a period of serene creativity; he had his greatest artistic successes at this time. He withdrew from opera for a year and wrote a great deal of functional sacred music for daily performance by the cathedral cappella. He concentrated mainly on compositions for the chief liturgical festivals of Novara, and since he had additional solo singers and an orchestra as well as the cathedral choir available, he was able to write grand ceremonial works, including a Missa solemnis for the feast of the Assumption. The real advantage of the arrangement, however, was that the dates of these church festivals, Novara’s proximity to Turin, Milan and Venice, and the provision in his contract for generous leave of absence enabled him to continue his operatic activities, producing two or three new operas every year, and staging about the same number of new productions of his own earlier operas. Since his salary from Novara was sufficient to support his family, he was able to accumulate a considerable fortune in securities during these years, especially since his increasing operatic success meant that his average fee for a new opera, in 1833 roughly the same as his annual salary from the cathedral, had almost quadrupled by 1840.
His economic and artistic success in these years could not necessarily have been foreseen. The revision of Gabriella in 1832 had effectively concluded his come-back as an operatic composer. With the exception of Emma d’Antiochia (Venice, 1834) all Mercadante’s operas of 1832–6 had at best a succès d’estime. He was far less popular with audiences than Bellini and Donizetti, a state of affairs clearly reflected in Rossini’s decision not to invite him to compose an opera for the Théâtre Italien in Paris until the spring of 1836 (Bellini and Donizetti had written works for the same theatre in 1835), and even then asked for an opera buffa or semiseria. Meanwhile, Mercadante had accepted a commission to write an opera for Naples in the autumn of 1835, chiefly so that he could show his wife his native city. When a cholera epidemic frustrated their travel plans he changed them, and arrived in Paris in September 1835. However, after three months of delays, Felice Romani, from whom the libretto had been commissioned, finally declined to provide one at all. Mercadante was obliged to work with the inexperienced J. Crescini, and had to set I briganti in a very short time. It had its première on 22 March 1836. The opera was not exactly a failure, but was overshadowed by the greatest operatic event of the 1830s in Paris – the première of Les Huguenots, three weeks before. However, his time in Paris was not wasted; apparent failure, as in Vienna in 1824, provided creative impetus. Il giuramento (La Scala, 11 March 1837) from the night of its première was regarded as his masterpiece and became his most frequently performed opera. It also marked the point of departure for the series of successes (Elena da Feltre, Le due illustri rivali, Il bravo and La vestale) with which Mercadante set the trend in replacing the dramaturgy of the pure bel canto opera of Bellini with dramatic action that permeated the whole work. Many contemporaries, chief among them Franz Liszt, thought that in these works Mercadante overtook Donizetti himself as the leading composer of Italian opera between Bellini and Verdi. (A glance at performance history, however, shows that even with these, his most successful operas, Mercadante never attained Donizetti’s popularity; although produced internationally, they were rarely revived in subsequent seasons.)
Early in 1838 Mercadante applied to suceed Zingarelli as director of the Naples Conservatory. His chief rival for the post was Donizetti, who had been a professor there since 1830 and had taken over in the interim after Zingarelli’s death. Since both men began with about the same amount of support in influential Neapolitan circles, a decision was delayed. During 1839 they both tried to score further points in support of their candidature, Donizetti with his initially not very successful visit to Paris, Mercadante with the production of his highly acclaimed version ofLe sette ultime parole di Nostro Signore (inviting direct comparison with the famous earlier works of Haydn and Zingarelli) and with the announcement of a forthcoming Metodo di canto. The scales tipped in his favour with the successful Neapolitan première of La vestale in March 1840, and with Rossini’s public invitation to him to come to Bologna as both maestro di cappella at the cathedral and director of the conservatory. The offer of the Bologna appointments also allowed him to make considerable financial demands in Naples. He succeeded in winning the appointment as director of the Naples Conservatory, and took up his new post in 1840.
This appointment represented both the peak of his career and a turning-point; material security allowed him and his family the high standard of living that had previously been a considerable spur to his creativity. His new post, with duties comprising the artistic (but not administrative) management of the conservatory, taking a master class in composition and directing the conservatory orchestra, freed him to compose as he pleased. Consequently, he turned away from opera in favour of instrumental music, which was at the centre of his creative output after 1860. The reverse side of the coin in his new post was his geographical distance from the centres of Italian musical life in the north and dealing with a despotic government that was under threat and took little interest in the arts. The reason why Mercadante, who remained faithful all his life to the political liberalism of his youth, preferred Naples to Bologna lies in his view of the post: he saw the director of the Naples Conservatory as de facto leader of the Neapolitan school of composition. His remark of 1840 in a letter to Florimo, ‘I have established a school founded on Neapolitan antiquity, but lacking the prejudices and the pretension that result from the progresses made in the art’, may be seen as the key to his own composition and his activities at the conservatory.
In his teaching he aimed to combine theory closely with practice, placing emphasis on instrumental teaching; his experiences with operatic orchestras obviously influenced him in this. His advocacy of an approach to the teaching of singing that would answer the requirements of modern canto dramatico was also linked to practice. This attitude led to his estrangement from Florimo, who regarded himself as the guardian of the older tradition, and it explains Florimo’s hostile depiction of Mercadante as director of the conservatory in the second edition of his treatise La scuola musicale di Napoli (1881), which has affected Mercadante’s reputation to this day. It is true that there were no outstanding composers of opera among Mercadante’s students of composition; however, in such students as T. Mabellini, A. Mariani and Serrao, Mercadante trained composers and conductors who had a great influence on Italian musical life in the second half of the 19th century, and Cilea and Giordano, pupils of Serrao, made their débuts with operas in his style. He also introduced to the conservatory orchestra works by French and German composers such as Beethoven, Weber, Auber and Offenbach, and presented unusual and spectacular projects for concerts at the conservatory – such as his arrangement for chorus and orchestra of ‘Qual mesto gemito’, Rossini’s pezzo concertato from Semiramide. Not long after Mercadante took up his post a visit to the conservatory became a regular part of the programme laid on for foreign state guests, and the minister of the interior regularly attended the examination concerts at the close of the academic year. In an unconstitutional state ruled by an avowedly unmusical monarch, such factors were the best possible guarantee of the conservatory’s continued existence and gave Mercadante some limited scope to manoeuvre within the cultural bureaucracy.
During this period he contemplated withdrawing from the operatic stage entirely, but he finally presented Il proscritto at S Carlo early in 1842. However, its modernity proved too taxing for the theatre’s rather conservative audiences. The following year he accepted an invitation from Turin to set a subject (Il reggente) that the censor would not have permitted in Naples; this work proved more successful. In contrast, Leonora, produced at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples in 1844, was a nod in the direction of the Neapolitan buffo tradition, mingling the advanced operatic style of the 1840s in the serious parts with 18th-century parlando in the buffo sections (in Neapolitan dialect and with secco recitatives); it was the most successful opera of Mercadante’s late Neapolitan period.
At the beginning of the 1844–5 season, Mercadante took up the post of music director at S Carlo, while continuing in his position at the conservatory, thereby becoming the dominant figure in Neapolitan musical life. This restricted his ability to accept outside engagements, although there was no shortage of invitations: until the early 1850s, for instance, he was repeatedly invited to write for the Opéra in Paris. The duties of his new post included conducting, and an undertaking to write a new opera for S Carlo every three years. Early in 1845 he made use of this agreement to realize a project he had long cherished, the reworking of Francesco Donato, written in 1835 for Turin; even in its new version, however, it was not successful. In March 1845 he produced Il vascello di Gama, a version of the Raft of the Medusa story disguised for the sake of the censor, and probably the closest he ever came to grand opera. It would probably have been more successful if Mercadante and his librettist Cammarano had not allowed themselves the luxury of a happy ending, and instead had left the rescue ship to appear after the soprano’s death on stage from thirst. However, an opera originally intended by Cammarano for Pacini, Orazi e Curiazi, was a triumph in the autumn of 1846, although Florimo was probably right in assuming that the applause was for the evocation of ancient Rome rather than the work’s unmistakable pacifist message. This success sent Mercadante on a protracted tour (August 1847 – March 1848) to conduct performances of his own works in Venice, Trieste and Milan. Almost incidentally, this led to a commission to write a new opera for Milan, La schiava saracena. Its première was to have been in January 1848, but the revolutionary troubles of the time meant that it had to be postponed until December.
On returning to Naples, Mercadante found the short-lived constitutional government in place. He was made a Cavaliere, a distinction Fernando II had always declined to award him. Mercadante made his own comment on the suppression of the constitution in 1849 by his choice of subject for his next opera at S Carlo, Virginia, set in ancient Rome, with a heroine whose actions lead to the revolt of the plebeians and the institution of tribunes of the people. Although Cammarano’s libretto avoids the political conclusions to be drawn from the subject, the opera was banned by the king shortly before its planned première in March 1850, a measure of censorship that attracted attention and condemnation throughout Europe. The appointment of Mercadante as inspector of the royal military bands in 1852, and the commissioning of several works for these ensembles (Fantasia sull’inno russo; Fantasia sull’inno borbonico), may be regarded as an attempt on the part of the state to improve its image. However, Mercadante locked away the score of Virginia and refused to agree to a compromise permitting its performance if the scene of the action were moved to Egypt. As a substitute opera for S Carlo, he presented Medea in 1851. Although based on a revision of Romani’s libretto of 1813 for Mayr, the Classical legend had distinctly modern features in Mercadante and Cammarano’s psychological interpretation. The failure of this opera hit Mercadante hard. He tried to build on the success of Leonora with Violetta (1851–2) for the Teatro Nuovo, but the sudden death of the leading singer meant that the première had to be postponed until January 1853, when Mercadante found he was competing with himself; the première of Statira was to be given at S Carlo in the same month. Neither work was very successful, and Mercadante felt reluctant to compose any more operas. After the 1855–6 season he resigned his post as director of music at S Carlo; his last work for the theatre, Pelagio (1857), is a kind of afterthought, owing its existence chiefly to the fascination the libretto held for Mercadante.
Mercadante turned instead to orchestral music, writing a number of programmatic works, mostly free in form, responding to the need for the revival and reinvigoration of instrumental music in Italy. They were deliberately intended to be different from the German symphonic music he admired and performed. His two Decimini, an individual response to Beethoven, were written at this time. He also returned to church music with two great masses, and kept in touch with a wide public by publishing demanding romanze and folklike canzone napoletane. An admirer of Offenbach, Mercadante also wrote light polkas, waltzes and mazurkas for piano or wind, as well as several more substantial concert waltzes.
His standing in Naples was illustrated by his being commissioned in 1859 to write the coronation and wedding music for Francesco II. His compliance was by no means a personal declaration of loyalty, as became evident when the state collapsed in 1860. Not only did the new government of a united Italy very swiftly confirm Mercadante’s appointment at the conservatory, but at its express wish he also resumed musical direction of S Carlo. He paid tribute to the political change with an Inno a Vittorio Emanuele. His true sympathies, however, can be deduced from his dedication of two separate Inni to Garibaldi, and from the musical character study of the hero of the Italian war of unification in his Sinfonia Garibaldi of 1861. Similarly, his orchestral fantasy Insurrezione Polacca commented musically on the Polish revolt against Russian rule in 1863 and the assistance given by Garibaldi’s soldiers.
In 1862 Mercadante suffered a stroke that left him completely blind; he had already lost the sight of one eye after an inflammation in 1838. He naturally had to give up his post as conductor at S Carlo, but remained nominally director of the conservatory, although his work was largely done by his colleague Carlo Conti. He concentrated on teaching composition by dictating new works to his students. The symphonic poem Il lamento del bardo, one of the few compositions to reflect his personal circumstances, was written in 1862–3. His Melodie preparatorie al canto drammatico of the same period was a modern operatic counterpart and complement to Florimo’s tutor codifying the 18th-century Neapolitan tradition in song. The most significant event of his last years was the successful première of Virginia in 1866. It came too late to make the work the national opera of Italy, as Mercadante may have hoped, but it won him the highest possible civil distinction of the kingdom of Italy with his appointment as Cavaliere dell’Ordine Civile di Savoia, together with promotion to the ranks of the hereditary nobility, and it spurred him on to continue composing. In 1869 he produced his Mass in G Minor, but his intention of returning to opera with a setting of Cammarano’s posthumous libretto Caterina di Brono was never completed. He had reached the finale of the first act when he suffered another stroke, and this time did not recover; he died after a short illness.
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Paisiello received his education first at the Jesuit school in Taranto and then, between 1754 and 1763, at the Conservatorio di S Onofrio, Naples. At about the time he left the S Onofrio he attracted the attention of a young nobleman, Giuseppe Carafa, who appointed him musical director of the small opera company he was then forming. It was due to Carafa that Paisiello acquired his first commissions to write works for the Teatro Marsigli-Rosi, Bologna, in 1764. The second of these, I francesi brillanti, failed at its first performance but was more successful when it was transferred to Modena two weeks later. This led to a commission from Modena for some new music for an opera originally by Guglielmi, La donna di tutti i caratteri. Paisiello’s revision, Madama l’umorista, contained much new music; its success led in turn to requests for new operas for other north Italian theatres.
Paisiello regarded himself as Neapolitan, and preferred living and working in Naples to anywhere else. In 1766 he returned to Naples; as a freelance composer his chief activity was setting comic operas for the Nuovo and Fiorentini theatres, where his chief rival was Piccinni. But he was also happy to accept commissions for heroic operas for the S Carlo. The three operas (Lucio Papirio dittatore, Olimpia and the so-called Festa teatrale in musica) staged at the S Carlo between June 1767 and May 1768 appear to indicate that the court, and in particular the King of Naples, Ferdinando IV, approved of his music. However, the royal approval seems to have been withdrawn, possibly because of Paisiello’s unusual behaviour over his marriage to a widow, Cecilia Pallini. In the summer of 1768 he signed a contract to marry her but then tried to withdraw from it, using various excuses. Pallini successfully appealed, and Paisiello was confined in prison until the marriage was solemnized on 15 September. He received no further recognition from the court until 1774, when his short Il divertimento de’ numi was performed at the royal palace, and no further commission came from the S Carlo until mid-1776.
Paisiello was unable to fulfil this commission because in 1776 he received and accepted an invitation from Catherine II of Russia to become her maestro di cappella in St Petersburg for three years at an annual salary of 3000 roubles. He left Naples for Russia on 29 July. His duties in St Petersburg included composing all the theatrical pieces ordered by the court and directing the court’s orchestra and opera company. His new patroness maintained her small Italian opera company less out of personal affection for opera than with an eye to its political prestige value. Her relative indifference to music explains perhaps why Paisiello composed fewer stage works in Russia than he had done in a comparable period of time in Naples. In recompense he had time to write a number of keyboard pieces for other ladies of the court; most were for his pupil, the Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna, the empress’s daughter-in-law. Catherine liked him enough to renew his contract in September 1779 for another three years at an increased salary of 4000 roubles. And in 1781 she offered him a further four-year contract from September 1782, the date when his existing contract was due to expire. Paisiello accepted this latest offer, although he was starting to have second thoughts about staying in Russia much longer. His relationship with the court became strained in November 1783 after he had quarrelled with the newly formed committee of court theatres. Using his wife’s ill-health as an excuse, he asked to be granted permission to return to Italy. Rather than lose her maestro altogether, Catherine granted him paid leave for a year. Once out of Russia, however, he made no attempt to return.
One reason why Paisiello did not go back to St Petersburg was his nomination by King Ferdinando of Naples on 9 December 1783 as compositore della musica de’ drammi of the Neapolitan court. This was the result of a determined campaign by Paisiello to persuade the king, through the intercession of friends and intermediaries, to give him an official court position. During his campaign Paisiello sent his latest scores to Ferdinando through the diplomatic mail. His nomination was announced 17 days after Il barbiere di Siviglia (one of the operas he had sent from Russia) was performed before the Neapolitan court at the Palace of Caserta on 22 November 1783.
As the King’s compositore Paisiello had no regular duties at court and no regular salary. Perhaps for this reason he did not reach Naples until October or November 1784, spending the summer of that year in Vienna, where he composed Il re Teodoro in Venezia (performed at the Burgtheater on 23 August). His first offering to the Neapolitan court after his return wasAntigono, first given at the S Carlo on 12 January 1785. Shortly afterwards, on 7 March, the king granted him a pension, the conditions of which were reported in the Gazzetta civica napoletana of 18 March: Paisiello was in future obliged to write an annual [heroic] opera for the S Carlo and other occasional music as needed; in return he was to receive 1200 ducats annually, half from the treasury and half from the S Carlo (in effect payment for his annual opera); he was forbidden to leave Naples without royal permission; lastly, he was to receive the pension ‘even if he could no longer compose in the service of His Majesty’. Paisiello faithfully obeyed these conditions for the next five years, and wrote no operas for theatres outside Naples during that period. On 29 October 1787 the king also appointed him maestro della real camera with an annual salary of 240 ducats. This appointment put Paisiello in charge of all secular music at court. His positions as court composer and maestro della real camera, with their large pension and salary, made him the most favoured musician in the city.
In 1790 Paisiello seems to have suffered some kind of physical or mental breakdown. He had contracted to write three operas for different Neapolitan theatres during the autumn and winter season of 1789–90 when Ferdinando gave him the extra task of composing Nina, o sia La pazza per amore (performed outside Caserta on 25 June 1789). This put him behind schedule with the other works. He was able to finish the first, I zingari in fiera, basically on time for the Fondo theatre in the autumn. But the other two, for the Fiorentini and the S Carlo theatres, both of which should have been staged the following carnival, did not then appear. The late completion of Zenobia in Palmira brought him into dispute with the impresario of the S Carlo, who maintained that he had failed to fulfil his annual contract. Paisiello petitioned the king to be relieved of all further duties to the theatre and once more gained his wish. On 30 October 1790 Ferdinando ordained that he should in future receive his full pension without being obliged to write music for the S Carlo. This left him free to write operas for theatres outside Naples if he wished, and in fact he wrote three such works for Padua, London and Venice during the 1791–2 period. After 1792 his output of new operas slowed down; by 1800 it had virtually ceased, and he subsequently wrote only two complete stage works.
From about 1787 Paisiello started to receive commissions from monasteries and convents for masses and other liturgical music. This marked a change in the direction of his artistic endeavours, a change confirmed in December 1796 when he was appointed maestro di cappella of Naples Cathedral. By involving himself primarily in church music from here on Paisiello to some extent turned his back on public acclaim. His earlier successes had been almost exclusively in the realm of opera. Now he was working in musical fields that attracted less publicity. Performances of most of his late religious works were confined to a few locations in Naples, and from 1802 onwards, after he became Napoleon’s private maître de chapelle in Paris.
Paisiello’s journey to Paris followed a series of events that affected his career profoundly. In January 1799 republican forces with French military support gained control of Naples and established there the so-called Parthenopaean Republic. The king and his court fled to Sicily, but Paisiello, who was supposed to follow them, stayed behind. On 4 May he was mademaestro di cappella nazionale to the republic (although he afterwards claimed he had not wanted this post) and on 23 May conducted the music at a religious ceremony attended by members of the new government. After Ferdinando’s forces recaptured Naples at the end of June 1799, Paisiello’s part in the republic’s affairs was officially investigated, and he was suspended from all court duties. Not until 7 July 1801 was he pardoned and reinstated in his former positions. This was following a general amnesty for republican sympathizers, apparently requested by the French government, announced by Ferdinando in June 1801.
Napoleon Bonaparte had been a known admirer of Paisiello from the time, in 1797, when he had commissioned from him a funeral march to commemorate the death of the French general Lazare Hoche. Now first consul of France, Napoleon started negotiations with Ferdinando towards the end of 1801 for Paisiello’s temporary release for a visit to Paris. These negotiations must have been complete by 19 January 1802, when Paisiello requested the Naples court to pay his monthly salary to his lawyer during his French visit. The composer finally reached Paris on 25 April. Napoleon seems to have taken his time deciding how best to make use of Paisiello’s talents. In July he offered him a monthly salary of 1000 francs, free housing and free carriage, in return for being at the head of the ‘music formed for the first consul’, and for composing two operas a year and a military march each month. At this stage Napoleon’s idea was clearly to turn his protégé into the leading composer of French opera. But the conditions of employment were then changed. On 25 September Paisiello received a new instruction to be present at and direct the music of the mass of the first consul’s chapel each Sunday. This allowed Paisiello to ignore the earlier conditions, namely that he produce a steady flow of operas and marches. In fact he wrote only one opera in France, Proserpine, which was first performed at the Paris Opéra on 29 March 1803 and was a failure. Otherwise he concentrated on reconstituting the choir and orchestra of Napoleon’s chapel (there had been no private chapel of the rulers of France since the abolition of the French royal chapel in August 1792) and providing music for the weekly service held there.
By early 1804 rumours were being reported and denied in the Parisian press that Paisiello wanted to return home. He finally obtained his release as Napoleon’s maître de chapelle around 10 April, when J.-F. Lesueur was appointed as his successor, but he did not leave Paris until 29 August of that year. His late departure is related to the fact that Napoleon, who had made himself Emperor in May 1804, required the composer to help prepare the music for his coronation (which took place in Notre Dame on 2 December). The coronation music included a newly composed mass by Paisiello and his older Te Deum of 1791.
His return to Naples did not cause a severence of his links with Napoleon. The latter showed his continuing satisfaction with his past maître de chapelle by making him a member of the Legion d’Honneur on 18 July 1806 and by awarding him on 31 July 1808 an annual pension of 1000 francs backdated to 23 September 1804. The composer returned the compliment by sending the Emperor each year between 1807 and 1813 one or more sacred works (most of these were in honour of Napoleon’s birthday on 15 August). Paisiello also continued to serve Napoleon in an indirect way by serving members of his family. In 1806 a French army invaded Naples, forcing Ferdinando to flee to Sicily for the second time. Napoleon’s brother Joseph was installed King of Naples in May. One of his first acts was to put Paisiello in charge of all music at court, i.e. the composer now became maestro di cappella as well as compositore andmaestro della real camera. Joachim Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law, confirmed Paisiello in these appointments after he succeeded Joseph on the throne of Naples in 1808. Partly because of his own merits, no doubt, but partly also because of his connections with the Bonapartes, Paisiello received other rewards as well. In 1807 he was given one of the three directorships of the music college in Naples that Joseph had just founded, a post he held until 1813. In May 1808 he gained a place in the newly created Ordre royal des Deux Siciles, which gave him the rank of ‘Cavaliere’. He also obtained honorary titles from Academies in Lucca and Livorno, and on 30 December 1809 was nominated one of the eight ‘associés étrangers’ of the Fine Arts section of the French Imperial Institute in Paris.
The composer can hardly have expected good treatment at the hands of Ferdinando when the latter returned yet again to Naples after the fall of the Bonapartes in 1815. Florimo gives the impression that the composer now lost all his appointments save that of maestro di cappella because of his previous affiliations. But in fact Ferdinando, by an amnesty published in Naples on 23 May 1815, pardoned all employees of the previous regime and promised that no action would be taken against them. So Paisiello held on to all his royal appointments until his death in June 1816. Almost inactive as a composer by now, he continued to serve up music in Ferdinando’s chapel that he had written in previous times, much of it ironically first intended for members of the Bonaparte family.
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(b Naples, 1707; d Venice, 25 Aug 1791). Italian composer and teacher. He is believed to have studied with Nicola Porpora in Naples, but little is known about his early life. The first documented performance of his music was of the opera Alessandro in Persia (Lucca, 1738), on a libretto of the Florentine Francesco Vanneschi. The poor reception of this work marked the beginning of a generally unsuccessful career as a composer for the stage. During the 1739–40 season Paradies moved to Venice, where he was employed by the Conservatorio dei Mendicanti, one of the city’s four famous schools for orphaned girls. There his reputation as an opera composer suffered further when his serenata of 1740, Il decreto del fato, proved unpopular. During this period, however, he was exposed to the vibrant Venetian musical life of the era and the progressive keyboard music of composers such as his contemporary Baldassare Galuppi.
Paradies emigrated to London in 1746 and, shortly thereafter, changed the spelling of his name (from the Italian form ‘Paradisi’). He was one of numerous Italian composers, including Galuppi, who worked there during the mid-18th century. His series of operatic failures continued in January of 1747, when his setting of Vanneschi’s Fetonte encountered negative reaction during its nine performances at the King’s Theatre, Haymarket. Charles Burney described the arias as ‘ill-phrased’ and lacking in ‘estro or grace’. Although Paradies continued to supply arias for pasticcio productions at the King’s Theatre, where Vanneschi had become impresario, he never met with success as a composer of opera. He achieved some renown in England, however, as a teacher of harpsichord and composition. His most distinguished student was the elder Thomas Linley, who later became a highly regarded composer of English opera. In 1770, anticipating retirement, Paradies sold his manuscript collection to Richard (later Viscount) Fitzwilliam. He returned to Venice, where he spent the rest of his life.
Although Paradies published a concerto for organ or harpsichord and orchestra and composed numerous other instrumental works, his most enduring fame rests on his 12 Sonate di gravicembalo. This collection, published by John Johnson under the protection of a royal privilege in 1754, was reprinted several times in England during the composer’s life, as well as by Le Clerc and Imbault in Paris and Roger in Amsterdam. These sonatas quickly achieved widespread popularity in England and on the continent. The letters of Leopold Mozart indicate that they were studied and performed in his household. Although Burney attributed Paradies’s failure as an opera composer to inexperience, the sonatas consistently display refined craftsmanship. Several of them appeared in 19th- and 20th-century collections of keyboard music, and the entire set exists in two modern editions. The second movement of the sixth sonata, often published separately, entitled ‘Toccata’, has remained popular among harpsichordists and pianists.
The 12 sonatas are all in two movements. They display some of the more progressive features of the time along with many that are still firmly rooted in Baroque style. Their most modern attribute is the appearance of Classical formal procedure within many individual movements. The opening movements of the sonatas are the most complex and innovative, with 11 of the 12 recognizable as various versions of sonata form. Five of the closing movements are lively, quasi-contrapuntal studies, characterized by rhythmic regularity and broken-chord figuration. Their binary structures sometimes approximate sonata forms except for the lack of rhythmic differentiation (e.g. the ‘Toccata’ from Sonata no.6). Three are gigas and one is a minuet, all in binary form. The remaining three finales are lyrical rondos in slow or moderate tempos. Although many passages approach the cantabile style of Classical pianoforte music, this music was obviously conceived for harpsichord. Dynamic markings are non-existent. The textures exemplify the transitional state of keyboard composition of the mid-century. Much of the writing, especially in the finales, is in two parts in a style that resembles counterpoint, but in which one voice is normally more harmonic than melodic. Some movements begin with brief canonic passages, but quickly abandon imitative style. The first movements tend to be dominated by the melody in the right hand with various patterns outlining the harmony in the left. The true Alberti bass is used only occasionally. Many passages show the influence of the graceful keyboard idiom of Paradies’s Neapolitan predecessor Domenico Scarlatti. In his manipulation of form, Paradies is inconsistent. Of the 11 first movements that resemble sonata form, seven omit all or part of the principal thematic area in the recapitulation in the manner of Scarlatti. Four, however, contain convincing thematic differentiation in the expositions and full recapitulations. Similarly, some of the sections after the central double bar are perfunctory transpositions of opening material, while others contain relatively sophisticated thematic development.
The other instrumental works are less progressive than the sonatas. The two keyboard concertos are in the Baroque style and show little differentiation between solo and tutti material. The sinfonias are typical tripartite Italian overtures. Of the dramatic works, Fetonte is unusual in its use of ballet music for chorus. Several excerpts from the operas were published in song collections. Paradies’s style in these is competent, but facile and uninspired.
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(b Naples, 1711; d Lisbon,30 Oct 1778). Italian composer. He was the son of Giovanni Perez and Rosalina Serrari, both Neapolitans (the surname Perez, of Spanish origin, was fairly common in the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies). At the age of 11 he became a student at the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto in Naples, where he remained until 1733, studying counterpoint with Francesco Mancini, singing and keyboard playing with Giovanni Veneziano, and the violin with Francesco Barbella. On completion of his studies, Perez immediately entered the service of the Sicilian Prince of Aragona, Diego Naselli. His first known pieces, the Latin cantatas Ilium palladio astu subducto expugnatum and Palladium, performed in Palermo's Collegio della Società di Gesù for the laurelling festivities, date from 1734. For the next few years he was active in Palermo and Naples, his patron having become chamberlain to King Carlo I. His first opera, La nemica amante, was composed for the king's birthday in 1735 and performed in the gardens of the Neapolitan royal palace and later in the Teatro S Bartolomeo. In the libretto's dedication the impresario of the theatre, Angelo Carasale, referred to Perez and Pergolesi as ‘dei buoni virtuosi di questa città’. In 1738 he was appointedvicemaestro di cappella of Palermo's Cappella Palatina, the church dedicated to S Pietro in the royal palace, and became maestro the following year, succeeding Pietro Puzzuolo.
In the early 1740s Perez firmly established himself as a mature master. The opera he composed for the Teatro Alibert, Rome, for the carnival of 1740 was not performed due to the sudden death of Pope Clement XII, but on his return to Naples he staged an opera buffa (I travestimenti amorosi) and a serenata (L'amor pittore) at court, and an opera seria (Il Siroe) at the Teatro S Carlo, the latter performed by Caffarelli and Manzuoli. Opera was not an easy enterprise in Palermo and, until 1744, most of Perez's compositions as maestro di cappella there were serenatas and church music. He also composed church music for Naples, and two operas for the carnival of 1744 in Genoa. After March 1748 he was granted leave of absence and never returned to Palermo, although he continued to receive half his Palermo salary until his death. He proceeded to stage his operas in rapid succession in Naples, Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Turin and Vienna. In February 1749 he competed with Niccolò Jommelli in a public examination for the position of maestro di cappella at the Vatican. Cardinals Albani and Passionei helped grant Jommelli the appointment, although Perez was popular with the musicians (Girolamo Chiti, maestro di cappella of S Giovanni in Laterano, commented that Perez ‘composes, sings and plays as an angel’ and ‘is very much superior to Jommelli in groundwork, singing and playing. He is, however, an imaginary hypochondriac’).
In 1752 the King of Portugal invited Perez to become mestre de capela and music master to the royal princesses, a position he occupied until his death. The substantial annual stipend, coupled with the excellent musical and theatrical resources of the Portuguese court, undoubtedly influenced his decision to remain in Lisbon. The ambition of the new king was to depart from his father's music policy, which favoured church music, and give Italian opera a central position at court. Sumptuous scenic treatment was the rule, and Perez's operas were mounted by such famous designers as Berardi, Dorneau, Bouteux and Galli-Bibiena. Equally important were the great singers who appeared at the Portuguese court, including Raaf, Elisi, Manzuoli, Gizziello and Caffarelli.
The nature of Perez's output changed in the aftermath of the Lisbon earthquake of 1 November 1755. The court withdrew from the theatres, and no operas were produced for seven years (and thereafter only in a less spectacular fashion). In the last 23 years of his life, Perez wrote only a few new operas; however, he wrote a huge amount of church music, covering almost all the rituals and practices of the two main musical chapels of Lisbon, the royal chapel and the Seminário da Patriarcal. Because he never left Portugal, his international acclaim slowly declined. Nevertheless, Gerber noted that by 1766 Perez's compositions were known and in demand in Germany and that in 1790 he was ‘one of the most celebrated and beloved composers among the Italian masters … one of the latest composers who maintained the rigour of counterpoint’. In 1774 Perez became by acclamation a member of the Academy of Ancient Music in London, where the only full-scale piece printed in his lifetime, the Mattutino de' morti, was published by Bremner. His music, particularly that for the church, was widely copied in Italy. During the last four years of his life he suffered from a chronic disease, eventually losing his sight, but continuing to compose. In 1778 Maria I (one of his pupils) made him a Knight of the Order of Christ; and when he died she ordered his funeral to be conducted with pomp at court expense.
Perez composed more than 45 dramatic works between 1733 and 1777, about half of which were operas written between 1744 and 1755, the period during which he concentrated almost exclusively on the genre. Excerpts from Arminio, La Didone abbandonata, Ezio, Il Farnace, Solimano and Vologeso were published in London by John Walsh, and many works exist in manuscript. In the opere serie written before 1752 he was often bound by the forms of Metastasian opera. Il Siroe, Andromaca and Alessandro nell'Indie (1744 version) are prime examples: 20 or more full da capo arias (more than half accompanied by strings alone) are consistently used, with between one and four accompanied recitatives, usually a single duet, a perfunctory three-movement sinfonia and a simple choral finale for the principals. The arias are usually written in the Baroque concerto idiom, with extravagant word-painting in the orchestra and extensive vocal bravura passages. Adhering to Metastasio's prescription of character definition as the sum of a pattern of dramatic reversals, each aria usually depicts a single affect, with few exceptions: Artaserse and Alessandro each contain a scene complex of related arias and accompanied recitatives.
With Il Demofoonte in 1752, as Perez began his lengthy residence in Lisbon, the monumental idiom declined and a sentimental style gained increasing prominence, with a resultant clarity of texture, greater symmetry of phrase, frequent rhythmic motifs and an emphasis on the pathetic. Formal modifications include the frequent absence of ritornellos, truncated da capo arias, between five and nine accompanied recitatives and several small ensembles. Perez's operas of the 1750s frequently display an orchestral mastery superior to that of the contemporary Italian opera school, incorporating features that appeared in his church music of the 1740s. The strings are in three to five parts, the wind are often used for solo passages, and there is less doubling of the vocal part and an increase in concertante passages. Among the better examples of this later manner are Olimpiade, Il Demofoonte, L'Ipermestra and Alessandro nell'Indie(1755 version). Several works written after 1757 reflect French influence. Creusa in Delfo, for example, contains extensive finales, prominent chorus and ballet scenes, and accompanied recitative for two to five characters.
Demetrio (1766 version) represents a transitional aesthetic, in which Perez combined a modified Baroque dramaturgy with a more up-to-date musical style: he eliminated 14 Metastasio aria texts, used eight accompanied recitatives and two duets for moments of personal reflection, and gave the da capo aria more musical and dramatic coherence. Solimano (1757) is his acknowledged masterpiece. It contains 14 dal segno arias, one cavatina and six accompanied recitatives, the scope and procedures of which are exceptional; several times the individual numbers are integrated into large-scale scene complexes. The flexibility of form, dramatic contrasts and musical vitality of the work are due in large part to the juxtaposition of buffo and seriaidioms and to an interchange of compositional technique between aria and accompanied recitative. Kretzschmar (1919) claimed that Solimano ‘belongs under the heading of masterworks … richness of invention and of feeling, originality of means and of form, everything is therein, which makes an art great’ and ‘if all opera composers of the Neapolitan school had been of his stamp, there would have been no need of a Gluck’.
Perez's two long periods of employment offered ample opportunities to write for the church. In the early part of his career he is reported by Florimo to have ‘enriched with his compositions’ Palermo's Cappella Palatina, but there are also many pieces that were written for Naples. In Lisbon, his deep religiosity and that of his pupil, the Princess Maria, combined with the musical policy of the court, led him to concentrate on church music for the last 23 years of his life. His first mass is dated February 1736. In most of his early works he made good use of orchestral and choral resources, taking great care over their treatment. The Mass in E (1740), for example, is scored for two choirs (the final ‘Cum Sancto Spiritu’ is a ten-voice fugue), full strings divided, in some sections, into two orchestras, and woodwind (no clarinets), horns and trumpets in pairs. The orchestral writing includes muted strings, ‘seconda corda’ passages for the violins, an abundance of crescendos and diminuendos, and solo parts for the woodwind and the viola. He treated solo vocal passages like operatic arias; most fugues or fugato sections have symmetrical thematic entries, and the pieces in the stile antico are conservative in harmony and notation.
The later church music written at Lisbon is quite different from the earlier works. The orchestral writing is as detailed, but instruments such as recorders and lutes are no longer employed. There are fewer separate sections for solo voices, and in most pieces one or more soloists emerge from the choir for short passages, thus creating numerous distinct vocal textures. A striking difference is that the counterpoint, although remaining strict, is more eloquent and sentimental, and rarely are the modern and archaic styles distinctly juxtaposed. The beginning of the 1772 Stabat mater serves as an example of his later style, in which the musical presentation of the words acquires pietist overtones. The sections alternate freely between polyphonic and chordal writing, and the harmony is elaborate, with much use of chromaticism. On the whole the style is strongly in favour of variety over coherence, and therefore thematic recurrence is not a regular feature. 18th-century critics often ranked Perez with Hasse and Jommelli; Burney found ‘an original spirit and elegance in all his production’. 19th- and 20th-century commentary, based for the most part on a few earlier operas, has generally downgraded this judgment. A more complete examination of his works affirms the stature his contemporaries assigned to him. While he was essentially a transitional figure in 18th-century opera, he was nevertheless one of the great composers of opera seria, and as a church composer, he wrote some of the finest Roman Catholic music of the 18th century.
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His grandfather, Cruciano Draghi, was a shoemaker, a son of Maestro Francesco from Pergola; he married a woman from Iesi in that town on 1 January 1663. The family was known as ‘Pergolesi’ from the town of their origin (although the composer’s elder brother and sister were entered in the baptismal register under the name ‘Draghi’). In the files of the conservatory where he studied, Giovanni Battista is entered under the name ‘Jesi’, although he called himself ‘Pergolesi’; in contemporary records the form ‘Pergolese’ is also used.
The composer’s father, Francesco Andrea Draghi-Pergolesi, was a surveyor, and in that capacity formed links with the nobility of Iesi. One such nobleman was the godfather of Giovanni Battista, the third child; another defended his interests in a dispute over the will after his father’s death on 27 May 1732 (his mother had died in 1727). The composer’s two brothers and one sister died in infancy, and even as a child Giovanni Battista seems to have been sickly: it is significant that he was confirmed as early as 27 May 1711. The caricaturist Pier Leone Ghezzi met the composer in Rome in 1734 and sketched his profile that May. After Pergolesi’s death Ghezzi expanded the sketch to a full-length caricature with a note that he suffered greatly from a deformed leg and limped (see fig.1). This is the only likeness of Pergolesi linked with any certainty to the composer. He died from tuberculosis.
According to later tradition, Pergolesi received his elementary musical training from the maestro di cappella at Iesi, Francesco Santi, and was instructed on the violin by Francesco Mondini, the public music master. Through the Marquis Cardolo Maria Pianetti, of Iesi, he was sent to study at the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo in Naples at some time between 1720 and 1725. Gaetano Greco, maestro di cappella of the conservatory until his death in 1728, was Pergolesi’s instructor in composition; Greco was succeeded for a few months by Leonardo Vinci and then, from October 1728, by Francesco Durante. Pergolesi did not have to pay maintenance or tuition expenses at the conservatory because he took part in musical performances, first as a choirboy, later as a violinist and as capoparanza (the leading violinist of one of the groups of instrumentalists made available by the conservatory for performances in Naples and the surrounding area). Villarosa, whose account is based on a manuscript by Giuseppe Sigismondo, wrote in superlatives of his skill and improvisations as a violinist.
A dramma sacro by Pergolesi, Li prodigi della divina grazia nella conversione di S Guglielmo Duca d’Aquitania, was performed by the conservatory in summer 1731 at the monastery of S Agnello Maggiore. Such performances were part of a tradition whereby the Naples conservatories gave their advanced students the opportunity to make their public débuts as composers; they were commissioned to compose drammi sacri, three-act religious operas with buffo scenes. After Pergolesi’s death S Guglielmo was twice revised, once as a two-part opera (in Rome, 1742).
Pergolesi must have left the conservatory in the late summer of 1731. A Mass in D probably dates from this era and he received his first opera commission in 1731, which reflects his growing and influential patronage. The libretto chosen was Alessandro Severo, written by Zeno for Venice in 1716 and now revised as Salustia. It would seem, from the fact that the author of the text for the intermezzo (possibly Domenico Caracajus) himself set the recitatives of the second part to music, that Pergolesi had to compose the music in haste. The most famous member of the cast for Salustia, Nicolini, died on 1 January 1732; Gioacchino Conti was brought from Rome, two roles changed hands, and Pergolesi had to make last-minute alterations. Accordingly, the opera was not staged until the second half of January 1732, and apparently it had little success; the second opera of the season, Alessandro nell-Indie by the court maestro di cappellaFrancesco Mancini, followed as early as 2 February.
In 1732 Pergolesi became maestro di cappella to Prince Ferdinando Colonna Stigliano, equerry to the Viceroy of Naples. Lo frate ’nnamorato, his first commedia musicale, was performed at the Teatro dei Fiorentini in Naples on 27 September 1732; the libretto was by G.A. Federico, a lawyer and the leading Neapolitan comedy writer of the time. Lo frate ’nnamorato met with unusual success. The performances may have continued into 1733, and for Carnival 1734 Pergolesi had to revise the work for a new cast. When there was a new production of the opera in 1748, at the Teatro Nuovo, the work was said to have been recited and sung in the city streets for the previous 20 years.
There were earthquakes in 1731 and again in November 1732; the archbishop summoned the people to services of atonement and the municipality elected St Emidius, protector against earthquakes, as the city’s special patron saint. A vow was taken to celebrate his festival annually with a solemn mass and double vespers, and the decree was formally proclaimed on 31 December 1732 in the church of S Maria della Stella. Villarosa reported that Pergolesi composed for the occasion a mass for double chorus, a Domine ad adjuvandum me and the psalmsDixit Dominus, Laudate and Confitebor. It is probable that the Mass in F and perhaps the vesper introit Deus in adjutorium (‘Domine ad adjuvandum me’), as well as other vesper psalms, were performed on this occasion; the extant psalm Laudate pueri, however, belongs among Pergolesi’s last works. The brief interval (19 days) between the election of St Emidius and the celebration suggests that the mass (the autograph of which is dedicated to the saint) may have been written earlier, or for a later celebration of the event.
During Carnival 1733 the theatres in Naples remained closed as a sign of atonement. For the empress’s birthday (28 August 1733) Pergolesi was commissioned to write an opera, Il prigioniero superbo (after Silvani’s libretto La fede tradita e vendicata). The impresario had engaged an unusual and small cast: there was no primo uomo and the prima donna was an alto. The text of the intermezzo, La serva padrona, was written by Federico. For some reason the first performance did not take place until 5 September 1733; there were further performances continuing into October. On 23 February 1734, presumably because of his services during the festivities in honour of St Emidius, Pergolesi was appointed deputy to the maestro di cappellaof the city, Domenico Sarro, with the right to succeed him.
In March 1734 the claimant to the Neapolitan throne, Charles Bourbon, approached the city with Spanish troops. The Austrians, who had ruled Naples since 1707 through a viceroy, retreated into the citadel and remained there until the beginning of May; on 10 May Charles celebrated his solemn entry into the city and reinstated the Kingdom of Naples. Pergolesi’s patron, the Prince of Stigliano, had withdrawn to Rome. Another Neapolitan nobleman, Marzio Domenico IV Carafa, Duke of Maddaloni, ordered a performance of a mass by Pergolesi in the church of S Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome, on the festival of St John Nepomuk (16 May 1734); this was the Mass in F (probably performed earlier in Naples), which aroused great interest, if only because the Neapolitan ‘number’ mass was unusual in Rome. In his diary Ghezzi reported mockingly that it was an extraordinary event and a ‘musica spaventosa’ performed by all the singers and violinists of Rome. In Valesio’s chronicle it is stated that the maestro di cappella had been specially brought from Naples at the expense of the duke’s mother (an aunt of the Prince of Stigliano). Because of the congestion in the church, it was noted, the floor and the corner of the choir rostrum subsided.
It may have been in connection with the performance that Pergolesi entered the Duke of Maddaloni’s service as maestro di cappella. He probably returned to Naples in the duke’s entourage in June 1734. The duke was interested in literature and was an amateur cellist; Pergolesi’s cello sinfonia was no doubt composed for him. The duke’s uncle and guardian, Lelio Carafa, Marquis d’Arienzo, was among the closest friends of King Charles, and in September 1734 was entrusted with the supervision of the opera house. Pergolesi was commissioned to write an opera for the birthday of the king’s mother on 25 October 1734. The libretto chosen was Metastasio’s Adriano in Siria; the text of the intermezzo (now known as Livietta e Tracollo) was supplied by Tommaso Mariani. One of the most famous singers of the 18th century, Caffarelli, who had been admitted into King Charles’s musical establishment, was engaged as primo uomo. In setting the libretto Pergolesi had to take note of Caffarelli’s wishes, and Metastasio’s text was considerably rewritten. This was Pergolesi’s last serious opera for Naples. In a statement by the impresario of the Teatro S Bartolomeo to the Marquis d’Arienzo in 1735, Pergolesi is no longer mentioned among the composers who could be called on, and in a second document it is stated that he was esteemed as a musician but that his last opera had failed to please.
It must accordingly have come as some compensation to Pergolesi that his mass in S Lorenzo in Lucina had aroused the interest of the Roman public; he was commissioned to set Metastasio’s L’olimpiade for the Teatro Tordinona in Rome for Carnival 1735. Metastasio, who had reports sent to him in Vienna about the preparations for the première, became indignant: the chorus which he required had been omitted, and the cast was mediocre. Nevertheless, Pergolesi (who apparently wrote most of the opera in Naples) had to make further alterations for the singers; he composed one new aria, and in four others drew on Adriano in Siria. The performances began in January. After a few days they were interrupted when the Rome theatres were closed because of the death of Maria Clementina Stuart-Sobieski, wife of the pretender to the English throne. Performances were resumed on 23 January, but the theatres were again closed on 1 and 2 February for the Candlemas festival; by 5 February the next opera, Ciampi’s Demofoonte, was in production. Grétry’s report, which depends on Duni for its evidence, states that L’olimpiade was a failure and that a member of the audience threw an orange which struck Pergolesi on the head (one of the many traditional stories about him). It must be admitted that initially L’olimpiade did not apparently enjoy any special success; but it lived on in multiple restagings, and some passages in the opera, such as the aria ‘Se cerca, se dice’, were later considered unrivalled for dramatic effect; Galuppi, Hasse, Jommelli and others based their own settings of the text on Pergolesi’s model. It was also heard in numerous pasticcio versions throughout Europe, including the one given on 20 April 1742 at the King’s Theatre, London, as Meraspe. An extensive manuscript tradition attests the fact that L’olimpiade was still highly esteemed by connoisseurs and operagoers in the second half of the century.
Pergolesi’s health seems to have deteriorated in summer 1735. He had his last theatrical success with Il Flaminio, a comedy on a text by Federico produced in the Teatro Nuovo in Naples in autumn 1735; the libretto refers to Pergolesi as organist of the royal chapel. The comedy was performed again in winter 1737 at the Teatro dei Fiorentini, and for Carnival 1743 it was given in Siena as a divertimento giocoso; it was also staged with a new production of Lo frate ’nnamorato in the Teatro Nuovo in Naples in 1748 and 1749. Pergolesi was commissioned to write a serenata (Il tempo felice) for the wedding of Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero, at Torremaggiore in December 1735. According to the libretto, dated 9 November 1735, the second part was set by Nicola Sabatino because Pergolesi was in poor health.
Early in 1736 Pergolesi moved into the Franciscan monastery in Pozzuoli founded by the ancestors of his patron, the Duke of Maddaloni. His aunt, Cecilia Giorgi, from Iesi, who had been his housekeeper, remained in Naples; he is said to have handed his possessions over to her, which suggests that he did not expect to recover. According to Boyer, during his final illness Pergolesi composed the cantata Orfeo, the Stabat mater and (his last work) the Salve regina in C minor for soprano and strings (the cantata was in fact written before Il Flaminio). Villarosa, however, said that Pergolesi’s last work was the Stabat mater, written for the noble fraternity in the church of S Maria dei Sette Dolori in Naples as a replacement for Alessandro Scarlatti’sStabat mater. Pergolesi, aged 26, died in Pozzuoli and was buried in the common pit next to the cathedral. The Marquis Domenico Corigliano di Rignano, who then owned the Stabat matermanuscript and was a friend of the first Pergolesi biographer, Villarosa, had a memorial tablet for him set up in the cathedral at Pozzuoli; the inscription on it was by Villarosa. In September 1890 a side-chapel of the cathedral was prepared as Pergolesi’s burial chapel and the memorial tablet was transferred there.
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(b Bari, 16 Jan 1728; d Passy, nr Paris, 7 May 1800). He was one of the central figures in Italian and French opera in the second half of the 18th century.
Although his father was a musician and his mother the sister of the composer Latilla, he was destined originally for the church. His precocious musical talent, however, would not be suppressed. Most of the information about his early years comes from La Borde. This, the first substantial notice, was incorporated in Ginguené’s memorial biography (1800–01); Ginguené claimed to have written the notice for La Borde, in which case it originated from a person close to Piccinni at a time when he could have consulted his subject directly, a possibility strengthened by the precision of some of its details. Thus Piccinni is said to have entered the S Onofrio Conservatory in Naples in May 1742 and to have studied there until 1754, under Leo (d 1744), and then under Durante, who had a special affection for him. Prota-Giurleo published documents (1954) that throw doubt on this by indicating that Piccinni became a resident of Naples only in 1753. But Piccinni himself called Durante his teacher in a letter published in Alessandro Manfredi’s translation of Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum (Carpi, 1761). Further, Villarosa (RosaM), using manuscript material left by Giuseppe Sigismondo, wrote that Piccinni was so devoted to his old conservatory that after leaving it he visited it frequently and even acted with some of his old companions in carnival time, as he did in Sigismondo’s I figliastri.
In 1754 Piccinni embarked on a career of almost exclusively operatic composition. Beginning with comic works, as was the custom, he quickly gained a following in Naples, where the public had formerly been devoted to the opere buffe of Logroscino. It was the first of several competitive situations that were later to overshadow the career of this amiable and generous man. The extent of his early success and recognition of his promise are reflected in his soon being invited to compose an opera seria, his first, for the Teatro S Carlo. This work, Zenobia (1756), was also a success and was followed by others, so that in the next few years his output was balanced almost evenly between the serious and comic genres. In 1756 he married one of his singing pupils, the 14-year-old Vincenza Sibilla, who sang his music exquisitely in private but never appeared on the stage. The extent of Piccinni’s labours in Italy, his resistance to Burney’s inducements to visit England, and his subsequent reluctant move to Paris, were dictated by his desire to obtain the best conditions possible to support seven children (two more died in infancy).
The rapid growth of Piccinni’s reputation is indicated by the commission from Rome in 1758 for Alessandro nelle Indie. His second Rome opera, La buona figliuola (1760), created a furore and began a period in which he remained the undisputed favourite of the reputedly fickle Roman public. Goldoni’s rather crude adaptation of Richardson’s Pamela had already been set by Duni in 1756, with scant success. The charm and vitality of Piccinni’s music, which according to Ginguené was composed in only 18 days, conquered Europe; it also won the approval of Jommelli: ‘Questo è inventore’. Piccinni produced new works in Rome at every Carnival up to 1773 except that of 1767. His fertility became legendary in a period when prolific operatic composition was by no means unusual. Burney reported Sacchini’s assertion that Piccinni had written 300 operas. More sober commentators, like La Borde (or Ginguené), gave a figure of 130 that is not much exaggerated. Piccinni remained in Naples, where Burney met him in 1770 and called him ‘a lively agreeable little man, rather grave for an Italian so full of fire and genius’. He was second maestro di cappella under Manna at Naples Cathedral, taught singing and on 16 February 1771 was appointed second organist of the royal chapel. Yet from 1758 to 1773 he produced over 30 operas in Naples, over 20 in Rome and others in all the main Italian cities. This period represents the first peak in his achievement.
Piccinni’s position in Rome was suddenly undermined by a craze, which began in 1773, for Anfossi, an inferior composer who, although a year Piccinni’s senior, had been his pupil in Naples and at first his protégé in Rome. Piccinni’s fall was sudden and cruel; a cabal hissed his last Rome opera and he returned to Naples and fell seriously ill. The date of this event is somewhat in doubt. Ginguené placed it in 1775, but Piccinni did not visit Rome in either 1774 or 1775 (1775 was a jubilee year and the theatres were closed). He did go in Carnival 1776, when his La capricciosa (also known as L’incostanza) followed Anfossi’s La vera costanza at the Teatro delle Dame, and that seems the most likely occasion for his defeat. However, he maintained his reputation in Naples with a second Alessandro nelle Indie and the successful comedy I viaggiatori, and by 1776 a superficially more alluring prospect had already arisen in Paris. In 1774 the Neapolitan ambassador there, Caraccioli, had commended Piccinni to the court, and negotiations began. A delay was imposed by the death of Louis XV, but in 1776, with the promise of an annual ‘gratification’, revenue from his operas and employment by the court and nobility, Piccinni left Naples (16 November). He reached Paris on the last day of the year, suffering cruelly from the cold, knowing no French and with little idea of what was in store. In the subsequent squabbles of the ‘Gluckists’ and the ‘Piccinnists’ he almost alone emerged with dignity and credit; his ability to adapt to the needs of the French stage, a far greater adjustment than Gluck had had to make, demonstrates both courage and versatility.
The italophile party was large and influential, and Piccinni soon found friends. Marmontel undertook to adapt the librettos of Quinault and reconcile them to a modern, italianate musical idiom. He had also to coach Piccinni daily in French; if his account is to be trusted, he may be considered as much an accessory to Piccinni’s music as Calzabigi was to Gluck’s. In 1777 Gluck, who claimed to have discarded his Roland on hearing that Piccinni was at work on one, produced Armide. Battle was joined over La Harpe’s review of it, the performance in Paris of Sacchini’s Olimpiade and Marmontel’s polemical Essai. Isolated at the centre of controversy, Piccinni became depressed and expected failure; but Roland, performed early in 1778, won both respect and affection from the public. Among the cast even the devout Gluckist Larrivée was won over and performed the title role magnificently.
In 1778–9 Piccinni was engaged to direct a troupe of Italians, giving performances of opere buffe at the Académie Royale. The repertory included works by Anfossi, Paisiello, Sacchini and Traetta, as well as Piccinni himself (Le finte gemelle, La sposa collerica, La buona figliuola, La buona figliuola maritata, Il vago disprezzato). La buona figliuola was also known in Paris as La bonne fille (Comédie-Italienne, 1771). Later in his Paris sojourn Piccinni was in charge of singing instruction at the Ecole Royale de Musique et de Déclamation, and he undertook private teaching, including well-paid visits to the country home of La Borde, where he seems to have composed Didon. He was evidently used unscrupulously by the court, however, and although from 1783 he was granted a pension, the chief promise of Paris – that he would be better off while writing fewer operas – was hardly fulfilled. He also suffered from the chicanery of the Opéra management. He was promised that his Iphigénie en Tauride would be staged before Gluck’s; in the event it came two years later and was preceded by the composer’s nervous disclaimer of any intention to rival Gluck (Journal de Paris, 22 January 1781). Nevertheless it survived the problems of a poor libretto (Dubreuil resisted Ginguené’s attempts to improve it) and the drunkenness of Marie-Josephine Laguerre at the second performance. Only when juxtaposed with a revival of Gluck’s work was its undoubted inferiority to that masterpiece demonstrated, albeit crudely, by lower receipts. It was favourably received when revived in 1785. In 1783 Piccinni reached his second peak with a highly successful revival of Atys and the introduction of Didon, which momentarily eclipsed the rising star of Sacchini. The triumph of Didon was partly due to the exceptional performance of Mme de Saint-Huberty in the title role; without her at rehearsal it had seemed doomed to failure. Piccinni followed it with two charming and successful comic operas, of which Le faux lord would stand revival as well as any of his works.
In 1784 the rival attraction of Sacchini became serious, and Salieri’s Les Danaïdes diverted attention further from Piccinni. He was no longer a novelty; not only did the dramatically weak Diane et Endymion fail to please but he suffered a quite unmerited failure with Pénélope in 1785 (it was revived briefly in 1787). A projected revival of Adèle de Ponthieu, an inept work which Piccinni had nevertheless revised, came to nothing (1786), and Clytemnestre, although rehearsed in 1789, was never performed. Saddened rather than embittered, Piccinni remained generous; he spoke at Sacchini’s funeral and proposed an annual concert in memory of Gluck. With the Revolution and the withdrawal of his pension, his position became precarious, and in 1791 he left for Naples, where he was warmly welcomed. In 1792 his daughter indiscreetly married a Frenchman of Jacobin leanings. Deemed guilty by association in the tense and reactionary atmosphere of Naples in those years, Piccinni, on returning from Venice where he had staged two new works, was quite unjustifiably placed under house arrest in 1794. He remained there in indigence and misery for four years, composing psalms, until political changes enabled him to return to France; his family followed as soon as they could. Financially he fared little better; his pension was only partly restored and he was forced to appeal to Bonaparte. By the time he was granted the post of sixth inspector at the Conservatoire he was too ill to benefit from it.
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(b Naples, 17 Aug 1686; d Naples,3 March 1768). Italian musician. He was internationally famous during his lifetime both as a composer (particularly of vocal music and opera) and as a singing teacher.
He was the son of Caterina and Carlo Porpora, the latter a Neapolitan bookseller. On 29 September 1696 he was enrolled at the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo, where Greco is assumed to have been his composition teacher. His fees were waived after the first three years; presumably by 1699 he was earning his keep as a student teacher. His first commission was for an opera, L’Agrippina (1708), which was successful, although it was several years before he obtained another commission. The libretto of his second opera Flavio Anicio Olibrio, performed during Carnival 1711, describes him as maestro di cappella to Prince Philipp of Hesse-Darmstadt, the general of the Austrian army in Naples. By the time of the prince’s departure from Naples in June 1713, Porpora had obtained a new patron; the libretto of Basilio re d’oriente designates him as maestro di cappella to the Portuguese ambassador in Rome. In 1716 he apparently obtained an honorary title from Prince Philipp, who had become Imperial Governor of Mantua.
The first dozen years of Porpora’s career as an opera composer were rather lean, which was probably partly owing to Alessandro Scarlatti’s dominance of the Neapolitan scene. Moreover, the death of Porpora’s father and eldest brother in 1717 left him as head of the family. At this time he began his other career, as a music teacher, being appointed as maestro at the Conservatorio di S Onofrio in 1715; he also gave private lessons.
With Scarlatti’s return to Rome in 1719, new opportunities emerged. By the end of the year Porpora’s opera Faramondo was given its première in honour of the Empress Elizabeth’s nameday. For her birthday celebrations in 1720 and 1721, he composed the serenatas Angelica and Gli orti esperidi, both with texts by the young Metastasio, Angelica being his first libretto. One of his singing pupils, the castrato Farinelli, also made his début in the latter work. Porpora began to make his mark as a teacher; from his private singing classes there emerged both Farinelli and, several years later, Caffarelli. The anecdote about Caffarelli singing the same page of vocal exercises for five years suggests that Porpora put a great deal of emphasis on pure technique. Not only were his teaching methods continued by several of his pupils, most notably Domenico Corri, but also the solfeggi attributed to him and published in various 19th-century editions were used by generations of singers, creating a living pedagogical tradition rather like that of Liszt for the piano. The basic principle was the development of absolute control of the voice, particularly with regard to agility, dynamics and colouring, through the use of regular and rigorous exercises.
It was also during these years that Porpora established a reputation as an opera composer in Rome. Eumene, performed at the Teatro Alibert (1721), was particularly successful and was judged ‘superior’ to Scarlatti’s La Griselda, performed during the same season. He was invited back to the Teatro Alibert for the 1722 and 1723 seasons, both of which featured Farinelli. During summer 1722 he resigned from his position at the Conservatorio di S Onofrio. After fulfilling two commissions in 1723–4, he set out to try his fortunes in Germany and Austria. With the exception of Damiro e Pitia, produced in Munich in 1724, little came of this journey; in Vienna the emperor apparently found his music too florid and ornate.
Returning to Italy in early 1725, he collaborated with Metastasio in a new setting of Didone abbandonata for Reggio nell’Emilia. The libretto of Siface, one of his most successful works, lists Porpora’s new appointment as ‘maestro del pio Ospitale degli’Incurabili’. He settled down in Venice and for several years his operas featured prominently at the Teatro S Giovanni Grisostomo. Foremost among these were his settings of Metastasio’s Ezio and Semiramide riconosciuta. During this period a rivalry developed between Porpora and his younger colleague Leonardo Vinci. This rivalry, which according to Burney went back to their studies at the conservatory, was renewed during the 1726 and 1727 carnival seasons, when they were both producing operas in the same theatres in Venice and Rome. According to Friedrich Marpurg (Kritische Briefe über die Tonkunst, Berlin, 1760, vol. i, pp. 225–7), it came to a climax during Carnival 1730, when Vinci and Porpora produced operas at the two competing Roman theatres, the Delle Dame and Capranica. After Vinci’s death later that year, Porpora appears to have shifted his attention to J.A. Hasse. During the 1730 season, while Porpora was in Rome, Hasse scored a major success in Venice, which led to his appointment as Kapellmeister to the Elector of Saxony, a position for which Porpora was being considered. From this point on, their careers criss-cross, giving substance to Burney’s statement that Porpora was Hasse’s ‘old and constant rival’.
In 1733 Porpora resigned from the Incurabili and travelled to London, having received an invitation from a group of nobles intent on setting up an opera company to compete with the existing one under Handel. The new company, the so-called Opera of the Nobility, opened its first season in December 1733 with the première of his Arianna in Naxo. Over the next two and a half years he composed four more operas, an oratorio and a serenata; none of them, however, matched the success of Arianna, not even Polifemo, with which Farinelli made his London début. In spite of a superb team of singers, Porpora and the Opera of the Nobility did not establish superiority over Handel. While in England he published his op.1 cantatas, which came to be regarded as his ‘masterpieces’, and his Sinfonie da camera op.2. His last work written in London was the serenata La festa d’Imeneo, produced in May 1736 to celebrate the marriage of the Prince of Wales. He left England later that summer, less than a year before both companies collapsed owing to lack of public support.
He returned to Venice, resuming his old position at the Incurabili while the current maestro, Hasse, was on extended leave in Dresden. With a commission from the new Teatro S Carlo, he moved back home to Naples in October 1738 after a dozen years absence. A revised version of Semiramide riconosciuta was produced for the king’s birthday in January 1739. By the summer he was appointed maestro di cappella at the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto, and additional commissions were obtained from both the S Carlo and the comic theatres. In 1741, however, Porpora’s regular output of one or two operas a year came to an end; like Handel, he was having problems in holding the operatic stage. The apparent dearth of commissions may have been a factor in his subsequent movements. In October 1741 he obtained leave to go to Venice to fulfil an opera commission. By the time Statira was produced, he had already accepted the position of maestro di coro at the Venetian Ospedale della Pietà. Payments at the Pietà came to an end in November 1742, when he may have taken leave to go to London for the première of his Temistocle.
Shortly after his appointment at the Pietà, he began giving singing lessons to pupils at one of the other Venetian conservatories, the Ospedaletto, where he was formally appointed maestro del coro on 20 January 1744. By the end of the year, however, he was applying for the post of maestro di cappella at the Neapolitan court. He not only submitted the required test pieces, but also wrote a supplication to improve his situation at the Ospedealetto. This double-dealing backfired. He was greeted with hostility by the governors of the Ospedaletto and was informed by the court in Naples that he had to appear in person to complete his application, which his current position in Venice would not allow. Things were apparently resolved between Porpora and the Ospedaletto governors, since he remained there without incident until January 1747, when he resigned on account of an unspecified family emergency.
Later that year he was in Dresden as singing teacher to the Electoral Princess of Saxony, Maria Antonia Walpurgis, for whose birthday he composed the comic opera, Filandro, introducing his latest protégée Regina Mingotti. Unfortunately the old rivalry between Hasse and Porpora was augmented by a new rivalry between Hasse’s wife Faustina Bordoni and Mingotti. Although Hasse scornfully referred to Mingotti as ‘Porpora’s last stake; the only twig he had to catch at’, in April 1748 Porpora was appointed Kapellmeister. There was, however, something hollow about this victory; the appointment carried with it the caveat ‘until further notice’, and in January 1750 Hasse was appointed as Ober-Kapellmeister. Porpora was pensioned off in January 1752 and left for Vienna.
Although he and Metastasio had had a serious falling out over the première of Issipile in Rome, Carnival 1733, they apparently reconciled, and during winter 1753 Metastasio considered asking him to set his new libretto, L’isola disabitata. Unfortunately an illness on the part of the composer prevented this old partnership from being revived. During his years in Vienna Porpora gave singing lessons to various pupils, including Metastasio’s protégée, Marianne von Martínez. Metastasio was probably responsible for introducing the young Joseph Haydn to Porpora. Haydn became Porpora’s keyboard accompanist, valet and pupil; he claimed to have learnt ‘the true fundamentals of composition from the celebrated Herr Porpora’.
Porpora’s Dresden pension ended with the invasion of Saxony during the Seven Years War. In March 1759 Metastasio wrote to Farinelli describing the misfortunes of their former master, asking him to excuse ‘Porpora’s irregularities’ and remember him as a man ‘of eminence, and a friend’. Porpora overcame his misfortunes by turning again to the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto, Naples. Although he had abandoned this institution about 20 years before, in spring 1760 the governors elected him as ‘another maestro di cappella’, in addition to the two they had already employed. He also accepted a commission for an opera at the Teatro S Carlo, and in the autumn he obtained a second position at the Conservatorio di S Onofrio. These honours, however, were somewhat ephemeral. The opera, a new version of Il trionfo di Camilla, was a failure, and by September 1761 he had resigned from both teaching appointments. His final years of retirement were spent in considerable poverty. Among his last pupils were Giuseppe Gazzaniga and Domenico Corri. The latter reported that ‘Porpora kept so miserable a table, that he was frequently driven out of the house, by hunger to seek a dinner elsewhere’. After his death, the musicians of Naples banded together to perform gratis at his funeral in their church of Ecce Homo, where he was buried.
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(b Naples, 15 Sept 1690; d Naples, Jan 1748). Teacher and composer. As a child he received musical instruction from his uncle, the priest Filippo Prota (d Naples, 1 Jan 1740), maestro di cappella of S Giorgio Maggiore, Naples, of whose works only a Lectio III primi nocturni sabati sancti for contralto survives (I-Nf). In 1706 Ignazio entered the Neapolitan conservatory S Maria di Loreto, where he completed his musical training under the primo maestro Gaetano Veneziano and the secondo maestro Giuliano Perugino. On 9 March 1713 he married the 14-year-old Caterina d'Ambrosio. Of their descendants, two sons, (2) Tommaso and (3) Giuseppe, two grandsons, Ignazio and (4) Gabriele, and a great-grandson, (5) Giovanni, became musicians. The relationship of a Gaetano Prota, an oboist in the Teatro S Carlo orchestra in Naples with (3) Giuseppe during the 1786 season, is not known.
Ignazio contributed a prologue, several arias and three buffo scenes to a performance of C.F. Pollarolo's Tito Manlio at the Teatro S Bartolomeo in Naples in 1720. The following year he composed his first opera buffa, in Neapolitan dialect, La finta fattucchiera, for the Teatro dei Fiorentini. After his appointment as a maestro of the Neapolitan conservatory S Onofrio a Capuana in June 1722, he curtailed his promising career as an operatic composer in favour of teaching. He served S Onofrio for 26 years until his death, first with maestro Francesco Feo (1723), then Leonardo Leo (1739), and finally Francesco Durante (1745). He never attained the first position, but was highly respected by his students, among them Gennaro Manna, Jommelli, Latilla and Domenico Fischietti. His successor at S Onofrio was Girolamo Abos, who had assisted him since 1742. In 19th-century literature (Fétis, Florimo, Eitner) various members of the Prota family are confused, and Ignazio's biography is discussed under the name of his son (3) Giuseppe.
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(b Naples, before 15 Sept 1624; d Naples, 6 Sept 1704). Italian composer and teacher. He was the first prominent Neapolitan musician to compose opera, but his work was mainly devoted to teaching and he taught many important Neapolitan musicians active in the first part of the 18th century.
As a young boy Provenzale may have studied with Giovanni Salvatore and Erasmo Bartoli at the Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchini, close to his family home in Naples. There is, however, no record of his activities prior to 1658, when his opera Theseo was performed in Naples: the libretto states that Provenzale was the composer of at least three other operas performed in Naples; Il Ciro, Xerse and Artemisia. He may have composed music for the Febiarmonici (a musical group that had been active in Naples from at least 1650), succeeding Francesco Cirillo. A member of the Febiarmonici witnessed the marriage of Provenzale to Chiara Basile on 12 January 1660.
An opera with the title ‘Il Ciro’ and with music by an unstated Neapolitan composer was presented at the Teatro di SS Giovanni e Paolo, Venice, in 1654, with additional music by Cavalli. There seems no doubt that this Neapolitan opera was Provenzale's and it may have been the first such work to be performed on a Venetian stage. Provenzale may afterwards have returned the compliment that Cavalli paid him by adapting his Il Ciro. Cavalli wrote two original operas called Xerse and Artemisia for Venice, in 1654 and 1656 respectively. Since the operatic company then in Naples was in the habit of borrowing extensively from the Venetian repertory, it is possible that Provenzale's Xerse and Artemisia were arrangements of Cavalli's operas rather than compositions totally his own. On 7 May 1663 Provenzale was appointed maestro of the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto (even if already working there since at least 1661). He was replaced by his vicemaestro, Giuseppe Cavallo, in 1675, by which time Provenzale had already been maestro for two years at the more prestigious Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchini. While at S Maria di Loreto, he produced a number of sacred melodrammi, including Il martirio di S Gennaro (1663), La colomba ferita (1670), La fenice d'Avila(1672) and possibly La Vittoria fuggitiva. These works received numerous performances in Naples and its surroundings by students of the conservatory. Provenzale gradually gained status in the city, taking on posts as maestro di cappella at numerous churches and congregations, including S Domenico maggiore (1667), S Angelo a Nilo (1669), Monte degli Agonizzanti in S Maria Ancillarum (1679) and the Monastero di S Chiara (1679). He was also appointed maestro della Fidelissima Città di Napoli at the Tesoro di S Gennaro in 1665 (an appointment which did not come into effect until 1686), and maestro onorario to the royal chapel (1680). He resigned from the royal chapel in 1684 (taking six of its best singers with him) after twice being overlooked for the position of chief maestro. In 1689 his only printed work appeared in Naples, the Mottetti a due voci.
Provenzale led a comfortable life, financially. As was common at that time, he received a percentage of the earnings of his pupils for organizing performances for them and for making arrangements to leave them prestigious posts at his retirement or death. In 1699 he was removed from his post as maestro of S Gennaro because of ‘incapacity and old age’, his pupil Gaetano Greco replacing him, and in 1702 the Conservatorio dei Turchini came to the same decision. However, he continued to serve the royal chapel as deputy to Alessandro Scarlatti (who was appointed maestro in 1684 over Provenzale's head), a post which he had resumed in 1688. From 1691 he was maestro di camera there and continued to serve until a few days before his death, by which time he was finally chief maestro, a post which was passed on to his favourite pupil, Gaetano Veneziano. Provenzale had three children, not one as was previously thought: his son, Giuseppe (b 5 March 1665), had a brilliant ecclesiastical career; a daughter, Grazia, was married in 1674, taking with her the considerable dowry of 3000 ducats; and a second daughter, Anna Maria, entered the Monastero di S Teresa di Massalubrense in 1684.
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(b Naples, ?c1736–45; d Naples, 1812). Italian composer and teacher. He studied at the S Onofrio conservatory, Naples, under Cotumacci and Insanguine. In the 1770s he composed settings of some of Saverio Mattei's psalm translations, including, for the birth of the hereditary prince in 1777, Mattei's arrangement of Psalm lxxi as a cantata, I voti di Davide per Salomone. Mattei, in a note published in the 1770s in an edition of his psalms, praised Rispoli as ‘a young man of rare ability and taste who joins to a solid study of old music all the brilliance of the modern’ (Mattei's reference to Rispoli as a young man suggests that Fétis's birthdate for him, 1745, is closer to the true one than that given by Gerber, 1736). In 1781 Rispoli composed the music for Mattei's cantata on the death of Empress Maria Theresa; in the preface to the libretto Mattei repeated his praise of Rispoli (still calling him a young man) and added that through the ‘happy disgrace’ of not having had the opportunity to compose for the opera house he had avoided its corrupting influence. During the period 1782–7, however, Rispoli did have five operas, comic, serious and sacred, performed at Milan, Turin and the secondary theatres of Naples, but he never achieved the honour of being asked to compose for S Carlo. On 1 January 1793 he became secondo maestro at the S Onofrio conservatory, and on the death of Insanguine in 1795 he and Furno became joint primi maestri. In 1797, when the S Onofrio and Loreto conservatories merged, he was pensioned.
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(14 June 1730 – 6 October 1786) was an Italian opera composer. Sacchini was born in Florence, but was raised in Naples, where he received his musical education at the San Onofrio conservatory. He wrote his first operas in Naples, thereafter moving to Venice, then London and eventually Paris, where he died. He was one of the leading composers of opera seria.
When Antonio was four, his father Gaetano, a cook, attached himself to the retinue of the Infante Don Carlos and accompanied them to Naples. At the age of ten Antonio entered the Conservatorio S Maria di Loreto to study the violin with Nicola Fiorenza. He also studied singing with Gennaro Manna, and the harpsichord, organ and composition with Francesco Durante, who esteemed him highly and predicted that he would be ‘the composer of the century’. He was asked to serve as mastricello in 1756, the same year that his first theatrical work, the intermezzo Fra Donato, was performed by the students at the conservatory and in various houses throughout the city and province. The success of Fra Donato and of Il giocatore, a second intermezzo written for the conservatory in 1757, brought invitations to compose comic works for two Neapolitan theatres – the Teatro Nuovo and the Teatro dei Fiorentini. In January 1758 he was nominated maestro di cappella straordinario at the conservatory, an unpaid post in which he assisted Manna, the primo maestro, and Pierantonio Gallo, the secondo maestro. When Manna retired in May 1761, Gallo became primo maestro and Sacchini secondo maestro. In the same month Andromaca, his first opera seria, was performed at the Teatro S Carlo, Naples. On 12 October 1762 he was granted leave to go to Venice, where he composed Alessandro Severo for the Teatro S Benedetto and Alessandro nell'Indie for the Teatro S Salvatore. Neglecting to return to his duties in Naples, he proceeded to Padua, where on 9 July 1763 his Olimpiade was such an overwhelming success that it was performed throughout Italy. Further triumphs in Rome, Naples and Florence led him to abandon his post at the conservatory for a career as an opera composer.
For the next few years Sacchini lived in Rome, where he composed for the Teatro Valle a number of comic works which achieved fame throughout Europe, including Il finto pazzo per amore(1765), La contadina in corte (1765) and L'isola d'amore (1766). In 1768 he moved to Venice, where he became director of the Conservatorio dell'Ospedaletto. He quickly gained a reputation as an excellent singing teacher (Nancy Storace and Adriana Gabrieli were among his pupils). He composed several oratorios for the conservatory and numerous sacred pieces for Venetian churches. In early 1770 he visited Germany to compose operas for Munich and Stuttgart, and then returned to his post in Venice, where for the next two years he combined his teaching with the composing of successful operas for the major Italian theatres.
In 1772 Sacchini moved to London, where he remained for nearly ten years. Burney described Il Cid (January 1773) and Tamerlano (May 1773), his first operas for the English capital, as equal, if not superior, to any musical dramas I had heard in any part of Europe. The airs of Millico, the first man, were wholly written in the delicate and pathetic style of that singer; as the first woman's part was in the spirited and nervous style of Girelli. And he cherished the talents of the inferior singers in so judicious a manner, that all their defects were constantly disguised or concealed.
When Traetta arrived in London in 1776 his opera failed miserably because, according to Burney, ‘Sacchini had already taken possession of our hearts, and so firmly established himself in the public favour, that he was not to be supplanted by a composer in the same style’. But Sacchini's dissolute life created many enemies and eventually brought financial ruin. His former friend, the singer Venanzio Rauzzini, went so far as to claim many of the composer's most famous arias as his own.
Faced with the threat of imprisonment, Sacchini left England in 1781 and went to Paris. He was already famous there because of performances of his La colonie (L'isola d'amore) in 1775 and L'olimpiade (Olimpiade) in 1777, in adaptations by Framery. The success of these works had delighted the Piccinni supporters, who attempted to draw Sacchini to Paris as an ally in their struggle with the Gluck supporters. In autumn 1781 the composer appeared at Versailles, where he was presented to Marie Antoinette and received with enthusiasm. Joseph II of Austria was also visiting the French court at that time and, being particularly fond of Italian opera, he recommended Sacchini to his sister's protection. Determined to keep the composer in France, the queen persuaded the directors of the Opéra to accept his demand for 10,000 francs for each of three operas.
From the very first, Sacchini found himself the object of intrigue and ill-will. M de la Ferté, the intendant des Menus-Plaisirs, contrived to stall the performance of his first opera for Paris,Renaud, and to draw attention to the queen's preference for foreign composers, while the Gluck supporters attempted to estrange the composer from his Piccinnist supporters. When Renaudwas finally performed on 28 February 1783 it was not well received. The Piccinni faction asserted that the score (an adaptation of his Armida of 1772) was influenced by Gluck, while the Gluck supporters condemned the work for lacking dramatic power and originality. Sacchini's next opera, Chimène, was performed at Fontainebleau on 18 November 1783 in an atmosphere of open rivalry with Piccinni, whose Didon had been performed two days earlier and proclaimed a masterpiece. Although Chimène suffered in comparison, receiving only one performance while Didon received three, both composers were presented to the king (Sacchini by the queen herself) and given a large pension. Chimène was first performed at the Opéra on 9 February 1784 and received 16 performances. The Mercure de France found the work full of musical beauty but dramatically weak because of unnecessary arias and ritornellos.
The music for Sacchini's next opera, Dardanus, was completely original, and with this opera and those that followed, he attempted to create works that conformed to the ideals of French music drama. The failure of Dardanus can be attributed in part to an undramatic libretto and an inadequate staging brought about by his enemies at the Opéra. In autumn 1785 the queen had Dardanus given at Fontainebleau in a revised version, which proved a success. In the same year Sacchini completed his Oedipe à Colone, which the queen had promised would be the first opera to be performed at Fontainebleau during the court's forthcoming stay there, but mounting criticism of her preference for foreigners forced her to revoke her pledge and to cede the honoured place to the French composer Lemoyne. Sacchini’s beloved pupil, Henri Berton, asserted that this disappointment contributed greatly to the composer’s death, which occurred shortly afterwards on 6 October 1786, although Sacchini had been suffering many years from gout and the effects of dissipation. Oedipe was performed at the Opéra on 1 February 1787 and hailed as his masterpiece. The work formed a standard part of the repertory until 1830 with 583 performances. Arvire et Evelina, Sacchini's last opera, was completed by Rey, the conductor of the Opéra orchestra, and given its première in Paris on 29 April 1788. Although it did not gain the popularity of Oedipe, it was heard in Paris until 1827 and had 95 performances.
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(b Tocco-Caudio, nr Benevento, 7 April 1713; d Naples, 31 Aug 1801). Italian teacher and composer. From 1732 to 1740 he studied at the Conservatorio di S Maria della Pietà dei Turchini, Naples, with Nicola Fago and Leo. While still a maestrino there, he seems to have composed the opera Vologeso (Fétis claimed to have seen a score of it with an indication, otherwise unconfirmed, that it was performed in Rome in 1737). After the death of Leo in 1744 Sala applied unsuccessfully to succeed him as primo maestro of the royal chapel (his test piece, the five-part fugue Protexisti me dated 21 April 1745, is printed in his Regole). In the 1760s he had three operas as well as several prologues and other occasional works performed at the Teatro S Carlo. In 1783 the senate of Messina petitioned the king to allow them to appoint Sala maestro di cappella at the cathedral there without the usual competition, but the king refused.
Sala was most important as a teacher, providing a formative influence on many Neapolitan composers. Early dates are lacking, but he seems to have taught for most of his life at the Pietà dei Turchini conservatory, becoming secondo maestro in 1787 and primo maestro from 1793 until his retirement on 11 October 1799. His monumental Regole del contrappunto pratico(Naples, 1794) presents a complete course of theoretical and practical counterpoint from basic principles to complex manifestations. It seems to have been characteristic of Neapolitan teaching to emphasize practical demonstration rather than theoretical explanation, and the Regole follows this method by offering almost no written text to accompany its series of musical models. According to Villarosa, the work was published at government expense through Paisiello’s influence. During the Revolution of 1799 the plates disappeared (about half of them were rediscovered in 1860 and are now in the Naples Conservatory), and copies of the work became rare and expensive. Perhaps partly because of that, Sala soon acquired an almost legendary reputation for profound contrapuntal knowledge (previously his name had been little known outside Italy). Choron described Sala’s work as ‘the most considerable and esteemed of all’, and reprinted the second and third volumes of it in his Principes de composition (Paris, 1808), adding a large number of Sala’s partimenti, not included in the Regole. Later, Fétis harshly attacked Sala’s competence, describing his counterpoint as poorly written and in a bad style, and his fugues as lacking in interest, frequently monotonous, sometimes tonally uncertain and confused as to the difference between real and tonal answers.
Sala’s compositions, although inconsequential and mostly pedestrian, have been unjustly treated by some modern writers. In particular, Mondolfi’s harsh judgment on his operas is almost entirely directed at characteristics of the contemporary opera seria as a genre, not of Sala’s operas exclusively. His greatest weakness was in lyrical melody; some of his arias in an agitatoor declamatory style are not ineffective. He was better in his church music in a free style, where he could set off operatic solo writing against textures more highly worked and contrapuntal than in the opera. His Stabat mater is a worthy upholder of the Pergolesi tradition.
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(b Trani, Apulia, 24 Dec 1679; d Naples, 25 Jan 1744). Italian composer. In his marriage contract dated 6 February 1705 he states that he came to Naples between the ages of six and seven, studied at the Neapolitan conservatory S Onofrio, and had not been outside the city since. His first known composition is a sacred opera, L'opera d'amore, performed in 1702 at the Arciconfraternita della SS Trinità de' Pellegrini. In 1703 he took part in a public competition (the other competitors being Gaetano Veneziano, Cristoforo Caresana and Francesco Mancini) for the vacant post of court maestro di cappella. Veneziano obtained the post, but on 26 December 1704 Sarri was appointed vicemaestro di cappella.
During 1706 and 1707 Sarri composed several operas for the Neapolitan public theatres. Between 1708 and 1718, however, he wrote few works of this kind: this may partly have been because of changed circumstances at court. In mid-1707 the Austrians captured Naples and drove out the Spanish regime to which Sarri had pledged allegiance. Both he and Veneziano lost their court appointments on 31 August 1707. There is no evidence from Neapolitan sources that the new Austrian government put Sarri back on its payroll before 1720, so the statement in the Venetian libretto of his intermezzo Barilotto, performed in Venice in 1712, that he was ‘Maestro nella Real Cappella di Napoli’ is almost certainly false. He nonetheless supervised the music in the Theatine church of S Paolo Maggiore and other churches in Naples, and composed most of 76 secular cantatas over this period.
Sarri's promise as a dramatic composer began fully to materialize in 1718. Between this date and 1741 he composed many operas, of which the earlier ones (i.e. those produced between 1718 and c1725) constitute perhaps his most significant contribution to music. Didone abbandonata (1724, Naples) is particularly important because it is the first setting of Metastasio's first major libretto. In 1720 Sarri was promised two important musical posts when they became vacant. The first was that of maestro di cappella to the city of Naples, which he obtained in 1728 on the death of the holder, Gaetano Greco. The second was that of vicemaestro di cappella to the court; to help the composer until he actually occupied this post, the viceroy awarded him a salary of 22½ ducats a month. He regained his post as vicemaestro, with a stipend of 30 ducats a month, in late October 1725, and he remained in the service of the court for the rest of his life. In 1735 he took over the duties, though not the title, of maestro di cappella at court when the holder of the post, Mancini, fell ill. When Mancini died in September 1737, Sarri was appointed his successor with a monthly salary of 35 ducats. One of his first tasks was to compose the opera for the official opening of the Teatro S Carlo, newly erected by order of Charles III. The opera was Achille in Sciro, given on 4 November 1737, Charles's name day. That this honour fell to Sarri was probably due in part to the recent deaths of Vinci (1730) and Pergolesi (1736), with Porpora and Hasse composing elsewhere.
Sarri was one of the first prominent composers to emerge from the Neapolitan conservatories during the 18th century. By choosing to confine his activities largely to Naples, he acquired only moderate fame abroad during his lifetime. Commentators have since tended to regard him as a transitional composer in between more important generations of Neapolitans represented on the one hand by the much older Alessandro Scarlatti and on the other by Porpora, Vinci, Leo, and other composers slightly younger than himself. His personal contribution to the important changes in musical style and technique that became apparent in Italian vocal music about 1720 has usually been underrated; Sarri's early operas show clearly his role in changing orchestration, form and melody to the new style. Describing these changes in his General History of Music (1789), Burney gave credit for them to Vinci, mentioning Sarri only briefly in this context. J.J. Quantz, after hearing Sarri's opera Tito Sempronio Gracco in Naples in 1725, declared that the composer was copying Vinci's style. Because of statements like these, Sarri has sometimes been considered an imitator rather than innovator, though this is somewhat misleading.
Sarri's earliest music contains both old and new; much is in the quasi-contrapuntal style associated with Alessandro Scarlatti, though it lacks the nervous energy characteristic of Scarlatti's best work, while other pieces are clearly among the earliest evidences of later change. By 1718, after a ten-year hiatus from serious opera, his musical textures had become less contrapuntal and his melodies more shapely as regards phrase structure and pitch. By about the time of his Valdemaro (1726) he had developed a style in which all the musical interest is in the top melodic part and the lower parts of the texture are reduced to mere accompaniment. His revisions of Didone for Venice in 1730 show further this shift of musical language. These are the changes in compositional method with which Burney credited Vinci. Sarri's relationship to Vinci has yet to be fully examined, but there is no present evidence that Vinci was more progressive than Sarri during the period 1718–23 when Sarri was the fashionable composer in Naples. After 1726, however, Vinci and Hasse had become prominent, and Sarri's period of greatest success was over. It thus seems that the period around 1720 was the one when Sarri made his most constructive contribution. Very few of his works written after 1730 survive. Achille in Sciro, his last extant work for the stage, is largely conservative in style, yet shows occasional brilliance and sensitivity to change. By the end of the 1730s his music was generally thought unfashionable. Charles de Brosses, who heard the 1739 Neapolitan revival of his opera Partenope (1722), called him ‘knowledgeable but cold and sad’, though apparently the work was received ‘with great applause’, perhaps by a conservative faction in the city. The Minister Ulloa, responsible for recommending the revival of Partenope to the king, who did not like the work, afterwards had to excuse himself: ‘The composer Sarro has always been a most celebrated man. It is true however that he flourished in a bygone age’. He promised the king to see to it that the composer's next work, a festa teatrale called Le nozze di Teti e Peleo (1739), had music better suited ‘to the grandeur of the joyous day and to good modern taste’. Little is known of Sarri's sacred music, though G. Bertini's Dizionario storico (1814–15) claims that Sarri's sacred compositions brought wide acclaim in Germany, and his winning the post of vicemaestro in 1704 was based on his submission of a mass.
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Sarti was the seventh of 11 children of a jeweller who was also a violinist. He began his musical education with F.A. Vallotti in Padua and at the age of ten went to study with Padre Martini in Bologna. He was organist of Faenza Cathedral from 1748 to 1752, when he accepted the directorship of the theatre in Faenza, for which he wrote his first opera, Pompeo in Armenia. In December 1752 he became music director of Pietro Mingotti’s opera troupe, which visited Copenhagen late in 1753. His talent and personality won him the admiration of King Frederik V, who in 1755 nominated him to succeed Scalabrini as court Kapellmeister. Later he became director of the Italian opera company at Copenhagen. He continued to compose opere serie and may also have written a Danish opera (Gram og Signe, 1756). When in 1763 the Italian opera was closed Sarti became director of court music; in this position he had the opportunity to compose instrumental works. In 1765 the king sent him back to Italy to engage singers for the proposed reopening of the opera; but the king died, and Sarti remained in Italy for the next three years. On 25 March 1766 his oratorio La sconfitta de’ Cananei was performed in Rome. From 19 May 1766 to 11 September 1767 he was maestro di coro at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice. During this time he composed several serious works, as well as his first comic piece for the stage, the intermezzo La giardiniera brillante. On his return to Copenhagen in 1768 he resumed the post of director of the royal chapel and became the king’s singing teacher. From 1770 to 20 May 1775 he directed the court theatre, for which he wrote both Italian and Danish works. While in Copenhagen he married Camilla Passi, by whom he had two daughters. In 1775 he was dismissed after siding with the wrong party in a series of political intrigues, and returned to Italy.
In 1779 Sarti entered a competition to become maestro di cappella of Milan Cathedral. His victory (with an eight-voice mass for the feast of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patron saint of the cathedral) and the successful revival of his Le gelosie villane at La Scala greatly increased his reputation and won him many pupils, including Cherubini. During these years Sarti created a series of works that were extremely popular throughout Europe and brought his fame to its zenith; these included, besides Le gelosie villane (1776), the comic opera Fra i due litiganti (1782) and the serious operas Medonte (1777) and Giulio Sabino (1781). In 1782 Grand Duke Paul of Russia heard his Alessandro e Timoteo at Parma and suggested to Catherine II that Sarti might succeed Paisiello as director of the imperial chapel. The empress extended the invitation, and in 1784 he left Italy for St Petersburg, stopping in Vienna where he was graciously received by Joseph II and given the proceeds of a performance of Fra i due litiganti, which had gained great favour there. He met Mozart, who played to him and spoke of him as an honest, good man. Mozart later quoted the theme of ‘Come un agnello’ from Fra i due litiganti in Don Giovanni. Sarti seemed unable to understand Mozart’s quartets dedicated to Haydn and in his Esame acustico fatto sopra due frammenti di Mozart he pointed out numerous ‘barbarisms’ and concluded with Rousseau’s words ‘de la musique pour faire boucher les oreilles’.
In St Petersburg Sarti was showered with honours, and under his direction the Italian opera reached an artistic peak. His outstanding works of this period were the comic opera I finti eredi(1785) and the opera seria Armida e Rinaldo (1786). He also wrote French and German works and even collaborated with Pashkevich and Canobbio on a Russian opera, Nachal'noye upravleniye Olega (‘The Early Reign of Oleg’, 1790). This work, which was the sensational event of the season and remained in the repertory for the next five years, was based on a libretto by Catherine II, who supervised the production herself. For the empress’s choir Sarti composed several Russian oratorios, a Te Deum to celebrate the taking of Ochakov by Potyomkin and a requiem in memory of Louis XVI. Court intrigue involving the mezzo-soprano Luisa Todi sent Sarti into seclusion in a village in Ukraine given him by Prince Potyomkin. There he founded a singing-school which later produced some important singers. In 1793 the empress restored him to favour and appointed him director of a conservatory modelled on those in Italy, a position he retained for the rest of his stay in Russia. While there he invented a machine for counting the vibrations of sounds, and thereafter he established a pitch standard for the St Petersburg orchestras (a' = 436). In 1801, after the death of the emperor, he decided to return to Italy. He broke his journey in Berlin to visit one of his daughters who was married to the queen mother’s Kapellmeister, Natale Mussini. He died there and was buried in the Hedwigkirche.
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Domenico Scarlatti was born in Napoli in 1685.
His musical gifts developed with prodigious rapidity. After settling in Roma with his father Alessandro, he became the pupil of the most eminent musicians in Italy, Pasquini and Gasparini.
Scarlatti was a familiar figure at the meetings of the Accademie Poetico-Musicali hosted by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, where he met Thomas Roseingrave who became his enthusiastic champion, publishing in London the first edition of Scarlatti's Essercizi per gravicembalo (1738-9).
Although a composer of vocal music, sacred and secular, his fame rests on the hundreds of keyboard sonatas, nearly all in the same binary form, in which he gave freedom to his imagination, stimulated by the new sounds, sights and customs of Iberia and by the astonishing gifts of his royal pupil and patron.
In these Sonatas he explored new worlds of virtuoso technique, employing such devices as hand-crossing, rapidly repeated notes, wide leaps in both hands and countless other means of achieving a devastating brilliance of effect.
In 1738, at the Capuchin convent of S. Antonio del Prado in Madrid, sponsored by King John V of Portugal, he became Knight of the Order of Santiago. He died in Madrid in 1757.
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Father of the Neapolitan Opera school. Sicilian-born in 1660, Alessandro Scarlatti was trained in Rome. He married in 1678 and later that year was appointed Maestro di Cappella of San Giacomo degli Incurabili. His first large-scale oratorio-operatic works were performed there the following year when he was only 19. His patrons from the outset were of the highest rank, among them the exiled Queen Christina of Sweden who made him her Maestro di Cappella, Cardinal Pamphili, and the musically indefatigable Cardinal Ottoboni and, in Florence, Prince Ferdinando de Medici. In 1684 at the age of 24 Scarlatti moved to Naples, where he was appointed Maestro di Cappella at the vice-regal court of Naples, at the same time as his brother Francesco was made First Violinist. It was alleged that they owed their appointments to the intrigues of one of their sisters with two court officials, who were dismissed.
For the next two decades over half the new operas given at Naples were by Scarlatti, producing over 40 works, which were first performed at the Viceregal Palazzo Reale and then at the public theatre of S. Bartolomeo, where Scarlatti was employed as the director along with nine singers, five instrumentalists and a copyist. In contrast to contemporary five-act Venetian operas, which continued to rely upon mythological characters and stage machinery, Scarlatti's shorter three-act 'Drammi per Musica' centered on the characterization of kings and confidants, lovers and servants. Il Pirro e Demetrio (1694) and La caduta de' Decemviri (1697) were particularly successful.
From 1695 his operas and 'musical dramas' incorporated three-movement sinfonias which soon became standard for all Italian operas. Indeed, the Italian opera overture, or sinfonia, contained most of the elements of the pre-classical and classical symphonies, and the symphony (or sinfonia), designed for concert performance, may be traced back to the Italian opera overture (or sinfonia) of Alessandro Scarlatti. It was in these overtures and last operas that he also began experimenting with orchestral (instrumental) color in the modern sense. While resident in Naples Scarlatti occasionally returned to Rome to supervise carnival performances of new operas, contributions to pasticci and cantatas at the Palazzo Doria Pamphili and the Villa Medicea (at nearby Pratolino), as well as oratorios at Ss. Crocifisso, the Palazzo Apostolico and the Collegio Clementino. Astonishingly, he also produced at least ten serenatas, nine oratorios and sixty-five cantatas for Naples.
By 1700 the War of the Spanish Succession was beginning to undermine the privileged status of the Neapolitan nobility, rendering Scarlatti's position insecure. In 1702 he left with his family for Florence, where he hoped to find employment for himself and his son Domenico with Prince Ferdinando de' Medici. When these hopes failed, he moved back to Rome at the end of 1703, seeking a quieter life, as assistant Maestro di Cappella at S Maria Maggiore (the public theaters had been closed by papal decree since 1700, so operas were performed only occasionally and in private). In this capacity he was required to compose motets and Masses in both strict (Papal) and concertato styles, according to the occasion. To augment his income he renewed his connections with the cardinals and formed new ones with Marquis Ruspoli, concentrating now on oratorios, celebratory serenatas and cantatas.
In 1706 he was elected, along with Pasquini and Corelli, to the Accademia dell'Arcadia, where he must have met Handel in 1707. From 1702 until 1708 he sent Prince Ferdinando de' Medici quantities of oratorios and church music and four operas which the prince had performed at Siena, Livorno and Florence. Scarlatti also composed and directed two five-act tragedies for the 1707 Venetian Carnival. Upon his return to Rome he was made Maestro di Cappella at S. Maria Maggiore, but the salary was so meager that he was ultimately forced to return to his posts in Naples in 1709. During the next decade he produced 11 operas employing greater instrumental resources, of which Il Tigrane (1715) was his Neapolitan masterpiece. His 'commedia in musica', Il trionfo dell'onore (1718), was also very successful.
He maintained his connections in Rome, returning there in 1718 to oversee his opera Telemaco at the Teatro Capranica, in 1719 Marco Attilio Regolo, and finally in 1721 for La Griselda (his last opera). He produced a lavish Messa di S Cecilia for soloists, chorus and strings, performed there in October 1720. Meanwhile Scarlatti ventured into orchestral writing, expanding the Sinfonia concept with his twelve Sinfonie di concerto grosso.
The "Six Concertos in seven parts for two Violins and Violoncello Obligate with two Violins more a Tenor and Thorough Bass, Compos'd by Sigr Alexander Scarlatti", as they were first called, were published in London under the above title by Benjamin Cooke in 1740. Of these six Concerti, numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 were composed so that they could also be performed as string quartets. Scarlatti called them specifically Sonate a quattro, and as such they represent some of the earliest forms of chamber music in this genre.
The fact that these Six Concertos were published some fifteen years after the composer's death was quite unusual for that time; it may be suggested that Benjamin Cooke was "cashing in" on the popularity of the Scarlatti name. Thomas Roseingrave had published in London the first edition of Alessandro's son Domenico's Essercizzi per gravicembalo a couple of years before, and Domenico's work was also being popularized in London by Thomas Kelway and Thomas Arne. That Domenico's popularity continued is witnessed by the publication in 1743 by Charles Avison of his twelve Concerto Grosso arrangements of Domenico's harpsichord sonatas.
Alessandro's last years were spent in Naples, teaching (Hasse was his pupil from 1722), composing cantatas (which ultimately numbered over 600, mostly for soprano and continuo), a Serenata and a set of Sonatas for Flute and Strings, probably composed for Quantz, who visited him in late 1724 or early 1725.
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1. 1774–1802: Italy.
The son of an artisan and smallholder, Spontini was destined for the church, but when his musical talent came to be recognized, in 1793, he entered the Conservatorio di S Maria della Pietà dei Turchini in Naples. Here he composed various opere buffe, the first of which was performed in Rome in 1796. The Bourbon court moved temporarily from Naples to Palermo in 1798, and there is evidence that Spontini was there too in 1800, before he moved to Paris at the end of 1802. At least 12 of his operas had their first performances in Italy, and it seems that he must have visited Rome, Florence and perhaps Venice between 1796 and 1802 – although little research has been done into the details of his early career or the dates of performance of several of his works (many of the scores are not preserved). Nor is much known for certain about his teachers. He must have been taught by Nicola Sala and Giacomo Tritto at the conservatory; his later claim that he was a pupil of Cimarosa cannot be substantiated. In any event, he won no more than occasional recognition in the first six years of his career, and in no way stood out among the many minor operatic composers who were his contemporaries.
2. 1803–20: Paris.
Spontini began his career in Napoleonic Paris by giving singing lessons. His first success came in 1804, at the Théâtre Italien, with a revised version of La finta filosofa. But his first French-language work, La petite maison, ran into widespread anti-Italian feeling at its troubled first performance, on 12 May 1804, and had only three performances in all (though the fiasco at least made Spontini better known). Milton, described as a fait historique, was first performed at the Opéa-Comique in the same year. Its librettist, Etienne de Jouy, further offered Spontini a libretto he had already written for La vestale. After writing his last work in the Italian opera buffa style in 1805 (Julie, ou Le pot de fleurs), Spontini devoted himself to work on La vestale, his first tragédie lyrique, which was completed in draft in 1805, the year in which he was first described as compositeur particulier de la chambre to the Empress Josephine. Josephine’s patronage, to which Spontini responded with such occasional works as the cantata L’eccelsa gara and the vaudeville Tout le monde a tort (both 1806), proved a decisive influence on his career; only Josephine’s persistent intervention brought about the long-delayed first performance of La vestale on 15 December 1807 (see fig.2). The work’s triumphant success meant that Spontini was now seen as one of the leading composers in Paris, and he was commissioned to provide propaganda for Napoleon’s Spanish campaign in the form of an opera about Hernán Cortés and his conquest of Mexico. Napoleon himself, with the kings of Saxony and Westphalia, attended the première of Fernand Cortez on 28 November 1809 (see Grand opera, fig.1).
Although Fernand Cortez was taken out of the repertory in 1810, that year proved to be the peak of Spontini’s career. In February he was appointed directeur de la musique de l’opéra buffa at the Théâtre de l’Impératrice and was able to put his ideas for repertory – concentrating on performances of Cimarosa and Mozart – into practice at the Théâtre Italien. In July he was awarded a newly created prize for the best opera of the decade, for La vestale, and in the same month he married Marie-Cathérine-Céleste Erard, daughter of the pianoforte maker and publisher Jean-Baptiste Erard. After Napoleon’s fall from power Spontini withdrew from the public eye for some time, but he greeted the return of the Bourbon kings in August 1814 with Pélage and he was restored for a time to the position at the Théâtre Italien which he had given up in 1812. After collaborating on the opera Les dieux rivaux (1816), written for the wedding of the heir to the throne, and achieving success with a new version of Fernand Cortez and an adaptation of Salieri’s Les Danaïdes (both 1817), he obtained French naturalization in November 1817 and in May 1818 was granted a pension by the king.
As early as 1814, the King of Prussia had invited Spontini to Berlin. For some time he delayed making a decision, meanwhile composing a Preussischer Volksgesang, a grandiose hymn to the glory of Prussia, which, after its première in 1818, was performed each year until 1840 in celebration of the king’s birthday. Finally he accepted the appointment in 1819, when his tacit hopes for a prominent position in the musical life of Paris were becoming increasingly nebulous and the production of Olimpie had run into various difficulties; it was eventually performed on 22 December 1819, when it was attacked by liberal reviewers. Spontini took up his position in Berlin on 1 February 1820.
3. 1820–42: Berlin.
As the leading court musician, with the title of Generalmusikdirektor, Spontini was warmly welcomed by King Friedrich Wilhelm III and by many of the city’s intellectuals such as E.T.A. Hoffmann. But he also came under attack, even more vigorously than he had during his last years in Paris. Leading critics expressed resentment at the status accorded to a foreigner, whom they despised as an interloper, drawing a contrast with the circumstances of Weber and the emerging German Romantic opera. In the musical running of the Hofoper, conflicts with the administrator Brühl (who had been opposed to Spontini’s appointment) were inevitable, since their spheres of jurisdiction were never clearly delineated. Nevertheless, Spontini’s three main Parisian works, La vestale, Fernand Cortez and Olimpie, were frequently performed, and he also won recognition as a conductor of the operas of other composers. His own creative rhythm, however, was slowing down. Of the operas he wrote in Berlin, all first performed on the occasion of royal weddings, neither Nurmahal (1822) nor Alcidor (1825) was popular with the general public, nor was Agnes von Hohenstaufen, although after the première of its first act on 28 May 1827 Spontini repeatedly revised it, as perseveringly as he had previously revised Fernand Cortez and Olimpie.
When Brühl left the Hofoper in 1828, Spontini, who had no aptitude for intrigue, became even more entangled in conflicts with his successor, Redern, and was the target of increasingly virulent attacks led by the critic Rellstab. Worse was to come after the king’s death in June 1840. Some phrases in a statement Spontini had made (he was not proficient in German) led to his being accused of lèse majesté, and on 2 April 1841 the audience drove him out of the opera house after the overture to a performance of Don Giovanni. In July he was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment and dismissed from his post. However, in May 1842 Friedrich Wilhelm IV lifted the sentence, which had been confirmed by the court of appeal. He had already, in August 1841, guaranteed the continued payment of Spontini’s salary despite his dismissal.
4. 1842–51: return to Italy.
In 1842, as none of his previous hopes for a triumphant return to Paris had materialized, the embittered Spontini had to acknowledge that his day in France was long since over. In disregard of the facts, however, he ascribed the general lack of interest in his work entirely to intrigue, for which he held Meyerbeer chiefly responsible, and he took refuge in an exaggerated sense of self-esteem (satirized in Wagner’s reminiscences of his visit to Dresden in November 1844). Notable among the many distinctions Spontini received in these years was his appointment by the pope to the title of Count of San Andrea on 21 January 1845. After some years spent alternately in Paris and travelling, he returned to his birthplace in the Papal States (to which he had already sent generous donations) in September 1850. In 1939, in recognition of the improvements Spontini had made possible, the town was renamed Maiolati Spontini.
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(b Bitonto, nr Bari, 30 March 1727; d Venice, 6 April 1779). Italian composer. He was trained between 1740 and 1750 at the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto, Naples, where his teachers were Porpora (until 1741) and Durante. His Stabat mater, probably written around 1750, shows contrapuntal mastery and a penchant for sombre, chromatic choral writing. In accordance with local custom, he presumably proved his talents for the stage by writing comic operas for the smaller Neapolitan theatres before receiving a commission to write Il Farnace for S Carlo in 1751. He continued to write both serious and comic opera throughout his life. In Rome and Naples during the early 1750s he came into contact with the commanding figure of Jommelli, to the production of whose Ifigenia in Aulide at S Carlo in 1753 he contributed five arias. In 1757–8 he had no fewer than five Metastasian operas performed in Rome and northern Italian cities including Venice, which became his base.
The crucial phase of Traetta's career began with his appointment in 1758 to the court at Parma, where the intendant Du Tillot proposed to unite some features of French tragédie lyrique with the reigning ideals of Italian aria opera, and to this end had the text of Rameau's Hippolyte et Araicie translated and adapted by the court poet C.I. Frugoni. The work was conceived in part as a vehicle for the prima donna, Caterina Gabrielli, who inspired Traetta to his best efforts here and on several later occasions. Frugoni introduced choruses and spectacle into Ippolito ed Aricia but was unable to integrate them with the drama. He was also hard pressed to extract suitable scenes and aria texts from the model, so he used Racine's Phèdre as well. The result, for all its weaknesses, was deemed epochal, even by Algarotti, who corresponded with Frugoni during the genesis of the opera; in a letter to Voltaire he called it the best spectacle seen in Italy for some time. Within six months Ignaz Holzbauer, who probably saw the production at Parma, took the libretto back to Mannheim and set it, thus presaging the day when Traetta himself would be called to Mannheim. During 1760 Frugoni reworked French models for the texts of I Tindaridi (after Castor et Pollux) and a wedding serenata Le feste d'Imeneo.
Although in a letter to Mattia Verazi, court poet in Mannheim, Traetta denied having seen Rameau's music for Hippolyte, he did have Rameau's scores at his disposal when composing these works; this is evident from his occasional borrowings, which are restricted to dance music and, more rarely, pictorial effects such as the storm music in Hippolyte. What he did not borrow is more significant. Whereas Rameau had set the scene around Castor's urn as a choral tombeau, grief being expressed through descending chromatic lines in imitation, Traetta made it a solo scene for Telaira (sung by Gabrielli). During the scene's initial obbligato recitative the orchestra depicts several phases of emotion: grief, terror, resignation and consoling hope. The set piece that follows, a cavatina addressed to the shade of the departed, is a tender Andante in E, a type of Italian opera aria to which Traetta gave a new degree of sensuous expression. The writer J.J.W. Heinse declared that this scene alone was worth an entire opera; with audiences in 1760 unprepared for more than a few scenes of such intensity, they were used sparingly. These scenes placed Traetta in the vanguard of the young opera composers who, following Jommelli's example, increasingly extended the range of orchestral colour and developed an arsenal of effects for the dramatic ballets, melodramas (in the specific sense) and other peculiarly Sturm und Drang phenomena that came to flourish in Germany during the 1770s.
Parma broadened Traetta's view of the dramatic possibilities of musical theatre; writing for Gabrielli strengthened his already powerful gifts as a melodist. Pleased with the fame of hismaestro di cappella, the duke allowed him to fulfil commissions for other courts and between 1760 and 1763 he composed operas for Turin, Vienna and Mannheim. Armida (1761, Vienna) again involved Gabrielli in the title role; the libretto, adapted by the intendant Durazzo and the court poet Migliavacca from Quinault's Armide, was designed to display her talents. Although the score is full of marches, choruses, ensembles and dances, Armida is still dominated by the da capo aria in the longwinded Neapolitan style of the mid-century. The orchestra is skilfully used to depict Armida's turning from hatred to pity, then to love in the scena and aria ‘Mori, si mori' (Act 2 scene ix) – the very point in the drama about which Rousseau and Rameau had disagreed, the one attacking and the other defending Lully's setting. As with the Parma operas, many of the recitatives are orchestrally accompanied, and Traetta often took pains to connect them not just to the beginnings of the set pieces, but also, by means of transitions, to their endings. He was evidently intent upon building large scene complexes, and began to take more account of tonal planning.
Sofonisba (1762, Mannheim) carried these advances further. The commission brought Traetta again into contact with Jommelli, who then directed opera at the neighbouring court of Stuttgart. Verazi, Jommelli's frequent collaborator, provided the libretto. Apparently the event was an attempt by the Elector Palatine Carl Theodor to outshine Carl Eugen of Württemberg in lavishness of spectacle and brilliance of musical effect. With the famous Mannheim orchestra at his command, Traetta wrote the most symphonic of his operas, and certainly his best operatic sinfonia. He himself wrote the ballet music. The pomp of ancient Rome comes to life in such scenes as the gladiatorial games, a ballet with chorus in the middle of Act 1, and the march and obbligato recitative for the equestrian procession and entry of Scipio. The ways of achieving grand scenic effects learnt from Rameau had more scope here than in the Parma operas; but it was again the heroine of the piece who inspired Traetta to his highest achievement. Sophonisba was played by the young Dorothea Wendling, the future Ilia of Mozart's Idomeneo. Heinse commented at length on Sophonisba's suicide and the final quintet of lament, likening them to classical tragedy.
Goldschmidt underestimated Sofonisba, although he chose to prepare an abridged edition of it. His judgment was swayed by a mistaken dating of Traetta's second Viennese opera, Ifigenia in Tauride, which he assigned to 1759 instead of 1763. The earlier dating is historically and stylistically implausible, whereas if the later date is accepted Ifigenia can be seen to follow and intensify the bold advances made in Armida and Sofonisba. The text was the most direct, uncluttered and ‘classical’ that Traetta had yet been given. The opera was written one year after Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice and for the same forces, and profited much from its predecessor. The castrato Gaetano Guadagni, for whom the role of Orpheus had been created, was the first Orestes, and his scene with the Furies compares favourably with, and is indebted to, Gluck's similar scene in Orfeo. Artistic relations between the two composers went further: Gluck directed a performance of Traetta's Ifigenia at Florence in 1767, and he had not forgotten its music when he came to write his own Iphigénie en Tauride at the end of his career. When Burney visited him in 1772 Gluck had his niece sing arias by Traetta which he accompanied. Traetta was stimulated by Gluck's dramatic vision. The impression made on him by Orfeo is evident in hisAntigona (1772), particularly in Antigone's lament and invocation of the Furies at the beginning of Act 2; the structure and versification of the text are themselves derivative. In his late comic opera Il cavaliere errante Traetta paid Gluck the compliment of parodying ‘Che farò’.
With his Viennese Ifigenia (1763) Traetta had gone further in the direction of classical tragedy than would have been possible on any other operatic stage outside Paris. For his setting of the people's compassion for Orestes (‘O come presto a sera’, Act 1 scene v), emboldened not only by Gluck's example but also by Rameau's chromaticism in the laments for Castor, Traetta returned to the sombre colours of his early Stabat mater for a long and difficult chorus, producing an effect of grandeur which equalled Gluck's highest aspirations and achievements. Ifigeniabecame Traetta's best-known serious opera and was frequently revived; Haydn chose to stage it (with his own additions) as late as 1786.
Declining enthusiasm and lack of funds for opera at Parma made it expedient for Traetta to accept the post of director of the Conservatorio dell'Ospedaletto at Venice in 1765. This position gave scope to his talents for sacred music and prompted the oratorio Rex Salomone for women's voices. He also wrote two comic operas which were later widely appreciated during his Venetian stay: Le serve rivali and Amore in trappola. His serious operas for the public theatres of Venice incurred no financial risk for their promoters; they were conventional aria operas after the Metastasian formula. The tragic opera he was capable of writing was possible only at court theatres, and then only when directors like Durazzo and Du Tillot or princes like Carl Theodor and Carl Eugen enforced their wills, whereas Maximilian III Joseph of Munich commissioned and received from Traetta a perfectly ordinary setting of Metastasio's Siroe (1767).
In 1768 Traetta accepted another court position, as successor to Galuppi in the service of Catherine II of Russia, arriving at St Petersburg late in the year. Besides giving singing lessons to his princely patrons (a task he had fulfilled in his previous posts as well), he became musical director of the opera. At first he revived some of his conventional aria operas, embellishing them with a few choruses and with arias reorchestrated to take advantage of newly fashionable instruments such as the clarinet. He must have felt the need to test reactions at a court that was accustomed to hearing operas in the best Italian tradition – a tradition that Galuppi had maintained. But in 1772 he produced a major new work, Antigona, stimulated by his reunion with the librettist Coltellini, a refugee from Vienna, and with Caterina Gabrielli. The opera has been considered his masterpiece ever since Heinse acclaimed it; Goldschmidt pronounced it the culmination of opera seria. In dedicating the libretto to Frederick the Great, Coltellini claimed that he had eliminated sententious comparisons (referring to Metastasio) and substituted the real ‘pity’ and ‘terror’ of his classical model, Sophocles' drama, at the king's suggestion (advice which saw strangely little application at Berlin). In fact the libretto has some dramatic ineptitudes and banal dialogue, which is however mitigated by the force of Traetta's music, especially in the scenes dominated by the heroic central figure and in the great choral pantomimes. Antigona, like Sofonisba, is flawed by having to serve too many singers. If its creators had gone one step beyond eliminating simile arias and had eliminated all but the three central characters, they could have avoided anticlimactic scenes such as the one at the end of the first act. Traetta partly compensated for an excessively prolix drama by concentrating on a few emotions and restricting his tonality to a few constantly recurring keys. The most effective tonal shock of the opera is that of the E minor choruses of Act 3, which powerfully challenge the flat keys of the neighbouring solo scenes; they suggest the futility of the struggle by trapped individuals against tragic destiny. Traetta was particularly conscious here of building scene complexes through tonal planning. He also advanced beyond the most adventurous aspects of his earlier tragedies by the repeated use of a few easily identified motifs, such as rushing ascending and descending scales to suggest the Furies of Hell, and the sobbing figure at the beginning of Act 2, which appears many times later, most impressively to introduce Antigone's final aria in E(the figure is also used within the aria). Research may show that such motivic repetition was an operatic commonplace of the early 1770s; certainly it anticipates techniques used by Benda in his melodramas from the middle of the decade, and by Mozart (in Idomeneo) at its end.
Traetta left Russia in ill-health during the summer of 1775 and settled again in Venice. He tried his fortunes for a time in London, among other places, with a serious opera, Germondo. Burney related that the great English success of Sacchini at the time prevented Traetta from becoming popular. In 1777 he was briefly in Paris, where he presumably sought new opportunities, just as Mozart would the following year; Il cavaliere errante was given posthumously at the Opéra in 1779. In autumn 1777 he returned to Venice, where his son Filippo (also a composer) was born; his last two completed works were comic operas for the Venetian carnivals of 1778 and 1779. By the latter date he was already suffering from his final illness. He was a celebrated man at his death, and was buried with honours near the Ospedaletto. Arteaga summed up his achievements by speaking of the ‘talents and the learning of the always beautiful and sometimes sublime Traetta’.
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(b Altamura, nr Bari, 2 April 1733; d Naples, 16/17 Sept 1824). Italian composer. He studied at the Pietà dei Turchini conservatory, Naples, with Cafaro, whose assistant he later became. While a maestrino there he had his first opera performed (1754) but it had no immediate successors. In 1764 he did, however, undertake an abortive stage career. A comic opera performed at the Teatro Nuovo was followed by an intermezzo at a Naples convent in Carnival 1765. In Carnival 1766 he directed the production of Sacchini’s Lucio Vero at the S Carlo. In 1777 he tried again, addressing petitions to the king and prime minister begging permission to compose an opera seria for the S Carlo. This request was denied, with Tritto’s lack of experience and reputation given as reasons. He turned to the secondary theatres of Naples and in the summer of 1780 began to provide them with a series of over 30 comic operas. He also started writing comic operas for Rome and later for several other cities. In 1784 he was finally given a commission for an opera seria, L’Artenice, from the S Carlo. He subsequently wrote 13 more opere serie for Naples, Rome and Milan.
On 1 October 1785 Tritto was named secondo maestro straordinario, still at the Pietà dei Turchini, and in 1793 secondo maestro. After the revolutionary government was put down in 1799, Tritto celebrated the king’s return in July with two cantatas. Unlike Paisiello, Cimarosa and many conservatory students, Tritto apparently had not been compromised during the revolutionary period, because on Sala’s retirement in October he was made primo maestro of the conservatory. On 27 July 1804 he was named maestro of the royal chamber. When the two remaining Naples conservatories merged in December 1806 Tritto became, with Fenaroli and Paisiello, one of the three joint maestri of the new Real Collegio di Musica. Although Zingarelli was named sole maestro in 1813, Tritto continued to hold the chairs of counterpoint and of sacred and profane composition until his death. On 14 July 1816, continuing to show a remarkable suppleness in adapting to changes of regime, he was named maestro of the royal chapel and chamber under the restored Bourbon monarchy.
Tritto was perhaps most important as a teacher, having been influential in the formation of several generations of Neapolitan composers; however, his two published didactic works, Partimenti e regole generali per conoscere qual numerica dar si deve ai vari movimenti del basso (Milan, 1816), a collection of figured basses with very little accompanying text, and Scuola di contrappunto, ossia Teorica musicale (Milan, 1816), in the traditional form of dialogues between master and pupil, are inconsequential. He was undistinguished as a composer of sacred music and opere serie. His talent lay primarily in comic operas, where he showed a fine musical dramaturgy, genuine humour and a particular feeling for Neapolitan folk traditions (such as dances and popular song forms). Their strong Neapolitan colouring, however, limited their dissemination, and Tritto’s influence remained largely local, confined to Naples and to some extent Rome. That his opere serie achieved some prominence in the first decade of the 19th century is an indication less of their own merit than of the impoverishment of the Neapolitan scene by the death or the silence of the leading older figures such as Cimarosa, Paisiello and P.A. Guglielmi. Lippmann emphasized the modern tendencies in Tritto’s last opera, Marco Albino in Siria (Naples, 1810), pointing to the use of the chorus in the arias and to the multi-tempo forms. However, these were hardly innovatory in 1810, and a slightly earlier work, Cesare in Egitto, which was very successful in Rome in 1805 and was also performed in Naples, makes a rather old-fashioned impression, especially in style, but also in its range of forms. While exhibiting an attempt to cater to the Roman taste in the prominence given to wind passages, it is timid in its use of the new formal possibilities and of the chorus and accompanied recitative. According to Florimo, Tritto also worked for several Neapolitan churches, and he composed a considerable amount of church music. His 18 children included Domenico Tritto (1776–1851), an unimportant Neapolitan church musician and dramatic composer who also taught at the conservatory, to which he sold his father’s manuscripts, including scores (mostly autograph) of nearly all his operas and much church music. Other libraries also possess scores of some operas and church works.
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Mattia Vento born in Naples, Italy 1735, died in London, England 1776 ; studied at the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto, Naples. Composer and harpsichord teacher.
First operatic successes in Italy; Le deluse accortezze (1756) and La finta semplice (1759) produced at Rome; L'egiziana in Venice and Milan, 1763; went to England, 1763; active there as a composer and harpsichord teacher until his death; for the London opera, first produced the pasticcio Leucippo e Zenocrita , repeated in a command performance for the wedding of Princess Augusta (sister of George III), 1764; in succeeding seasons produced Demofoonte , 1765; Sofonisba , 1766; La conquista del Messico , 1767; also contributions to pasticcios.
His aria Caro amor was successfully inserted in London performances of Piccinni's La buona figliuola, 1766; after a lapse of some years, produced Artaserse for the Harmonical Meeting, Soho Square, 1771; listed as a director at the King's Theatre, producing comic and serious operas ( Il bacio , La vestale and further pasticcios), 1775-1776; also served as conductor at public concerts including those at the Pantheon; listed among the major composers in London by a visitor from Germany, 1776.
Other work included 11 collections of keyboard sonatas, most with subordinate violin accompaniments, criticized for their sameness, but which were retained in publishers' catalogues for half a century, 65 sonatas date from 1764-1776.
Vento brought to London from Naples the latest operatic style but changes in the sonatas suggest that he also responded to the contemporary pre-Classical synthesis of German, Italian and English elements.
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(b Strongoli, Calabria, ?1696; d Naples, 27/28 May 1730). Italian composer. His music exerted a direct influence on many composers of the next generation, notably Pergolesi and Hasse, and also made an impact on older composers such as Vivaldi and Handel, whose later works incorporate elements of the style of Vinci and his colleagues.
The year of birth usually given, 1690, is based on the death register of S Maria della Neve, Naples, which describes Vinci as 40 years old in 1730. Another death register, however, that of S Giovanni Maggiore, describes him as ‘about 34’, placing the year of his birth at about 1696. This supports Dent’s speculation about the composer’s age and would seem to tally more closely with subsequent events in his life. Vinci entered the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo, Naples, on 14 November 1708 as a ‘convittore’, paying 36 ducats a year, but after three years this fee was waived; apparently he was by then earning his keep as a ‘mastricello’ or student teacher. At the conservatory he studied composition with Gaetano Greco. After ten years of study he left and for a short time served as maestro di cappella to Prince Sansevero.
Vinci made his operatic début on 19 April 1719 at the Teatro dei Fiorentini in Naples with the commedia per musica Lo cecato fauzo, enthusiastically reviewed in the Avvisi di Napoli. His second opera followed immediately in July, and for the next three years he was virtual house composer at the Fiorentini; not until Piccinni in the 1760s would another composer dominate the comic stage in Naples to the same extent. Vinci’s first operas were of the commedia per musica type, full-length comic operas with texts primarily in Neapolitan dialect. His Li zite’ngalera, from carnival 1722, is the earliest surviving score of a Neapolitan commedia. Vinci produced his first serious opera, Publio Cornelio Scipione, at the Teatro S Bartolomeo in Naples on 4 November 1722; it was so successful that after the production of Lo labborinto during Carnival he turned primarily to the dramma per musica. This was not only the more prestigious but also the more cosmopolitan genre, dialect restricting the commedie to Naples. Only on one subsequent occasion, the inauguration of the Teatro della Pace in Naples in May 1724, did he return to the comic genre (though most of his drammi per musica for Naples contain comic intermezzos).
In 1724 Vinci secured his first commission outside Naples, setting Lucchini’s Farnace for the Teatro delle Dame in Rome. According to Burney, ‘so great was the success of this drama, that [Vinci] was called upon to furnish at least one opera every year till 1730, when he composed two’. Roman theatres were closed for the Holy Year in 1725, but Vinci wrote two new operas for the Teatro S Giovanni Grisostomo in Venice that year; their success probably led to a commission for a new opera at Parma in the spring involving the same composer and principals. Vinci’s activity reached a peak during winter 1725–6 when three new operas were produced: Astianatte in Naples in December, Didone abbandonata in Rome in January and Siroe re di Persia in Venice in February. The last two were the first of a series of successful collaborations between Vinci and Metastasio. Vinci set all but one of Metastasio’s early librettos, and except in the case of Didone these were first settings. This collaboration was cited as the ideal by Algarotti, who urged composers to ‘keep up such a dependence and friendly intercourse as subsisted between Lully and Quinault, Vinci and Metastasio’. Vinci’s success seems to have been challenged by his older colleague Porpora. Productions of operas by the two men in Venice and Rome fuelled a rivalry which, according to Burney, dated back to their youth.
Following the death of Alessandro Scarlatti in October 1725, Vinci was appointed pro-vice-maestro at the royal chapel in Naples. His activity was now virtually restricted to Naples and Rome, but in 1728 he took on further commitments: in spring he collaborated with C.I. Frugoni on the opera Medo and the equestrian ballet Le nozze di Nettuno for the wedding of the Duke of Parma; he served during the summer as maestro at his former conservatory, where Pergolesi was among his pupils; and in autumn he became a lay brother with the Congregation of the Rosary at the monastery of S Caterina a Formiello, where he also served as maestro di cappella. Most of Vinci’s few sacred works were written and performed at S Caterina a Formiello.
During the 1729–30 season Vinci was one of the impresarios at the Teatro delle Dame, as well as its principal composer. In the latter capacity he collaborated with Metastasio on three major works: the serenata La contesa de’ numi, performed at the palace of the French ambassador in Rome on 26 November in celebration of the birth of the dauphin, and the operas Alessandro nell’Indie and Artaserse at the Teatro delle Dame the following January and February. During the same season Porpora presented two operas at the Teatro Capranica in Rome; according to Marpurg, Vinci, fearful of Porpora’s challenge, resorted to sabotage in an attempt to crush his rival. Vinci’s machinations were hardly necessary, as both his operas became celebrated examples of the dramma per musica. According to De Brosses, the Italians did not ‘want to see again any piece … that they have already seen another year, unless it is some excellent opera by Vinci’. Vinci did not live to enjoy his success. He died in Naples amid rumours that he had been poisoned because of an illicit love affair.
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(b Naples, 4 April 1752; d Torre del Greco, nr Naples, 5 May 1837). Italian composer and teacher. Left fatherless at the age of seven, Zingarelli was enrolled in the Conservatorio di S Maria di Loreto, where his father had taught singing, and studied with Fenaroli, Speranza, Anfossi and Sacchini. After his graduation in 1772 he became organist and violin teacher at Torre Annunziata. When his first patron the Duchess of Castelpagano gave him her support, however, he began his career as an opera composer, in the theatres of northern Italy, Florence and Rome. His first cantata was performed in 1778 and his first opera, Montezuma, in 1781. Although Haydn did not praise this work as highly as once was supposed, he nevertheless produced it (and later Alsinda) at Eszterháza. Between 1785 and 1803 Zingarelli was principally known as an opera composer.
In 1790 he visited Paris, where his opera Antigone was performed, without success, and Les Hespérides and Pharamond were tentatively accepted but not produced. In the same period three other operas, L'olympiade, Les femmes and Zadig were composed in collaboration with his pupil Isabelle de Charrière but never performed, despite various attempts to produce them; the unsettled conditions due to the Revolution compelled his return to Italy. He petitioned the chapter of Milan Cathedral for the post of maestro di cappella in 1793, and obtained it in 1795; the following year he accepted a similar post at the Santa Casa, Loreto, where he remained until 1804 (although retaining the right to succeed Carlo Monza at Milan Cathedral). There he composed the Annuale di Loreto, sacred compositions for the entire church year, as well as his most famous opera, Giulietta e Romeo. After Guglielmi’s death in 1804 Zingarelli became musical director at S Pietro, Rome. In 1811, when Napoleon had his infant son crowned King of Rome, the French occupiers of Rome demanded solemn musical festivities in all the churches, but Zingarelli refused to comply on the grounds that he recognized only the pope, Pius VII (then imprisoned at Fontainebleau), as king of Rome. For this he was arrested and imprisoned, but at Napoleon’s personal intervention he was sent to France, where he endeared himself to the emperor by writing a full-scale solemn mass that lasted only 20 minutes. In 1813 he was appointed head of the newly consolidated conservatory S Pietro a Majella in Naples. After the execution of Murat and the restoration of the Bourbons he retained his position because of his loyalty to the pope and his abstemious and exemplary Catholic life, and his approval by the Austrians for having set Carpani’s translation of the emperor’s hymn to music. After Paisiello’s death in 1816 Zingarelli was also appointed musical director of Naples Cathedral.
Opinions differ about his success as a teacher and administrator of the Naples Conservatory, but the conventional portrait of Zingarelli as a vindictive reactionary is an exaggerated one. He encouraged his students to study the works of foreign as well as Italian composers, stressed the importance of a mastery of the fundamentals of harmony and counterpoint, and emphasized the composition of melody and the search for musical simplicity. His most famous pupils were Morlacchi (at Loreto), Mercadante, Michael Costa and Bellini. From 1804 he received many honours from various European monarchs and musical societies, culminating in his knighthood from Ferdinando I in 1822. He continued to compose, though almost exclusively church music and one-movement symphonies, until his death. He was a highly prolific composer in all vocal and in many instrumental genres.
Zingarelli was the last major composer of opera seria. Most of his librettos are on mythological subjects with happy endings, and his last opera, Berenice, is based on a libretto originally by Zeno. His best-known opera, Giulietta e Romeo (1796), loosely modelled after Shakespeare’s tragedy and with a happy ending, was internationally performed until about 1830 (often as a pasticcio, with pieces added by other composers) and was a favourite vehicle for Maria Malibran. Many of his best operas, including Artaserse, Pirro, Giulietta e Romeo, Ines de Castro andEdipo a Colono, were revised by his contemporaries. Although he was not particularly inclined to comedy, he wrote at least two successful comic operas, Il mercato di Montefregoso (1792) and Il ritratto (1799), both performed at La Scala, Milan.
One of the principal characteristics of Zingarelli's style is the simplicity (and often the sweetness) of his melodic language; his almost obsessive search for a natural style sometimes leads to a certain banality of melodic material. His arias were written specifically for such singers as Crescentini, Rubini, Pasta and Malibran and are in a very simple style, leaving plenty of room for improvisation. His orchestration sometimes shows interesting attempts to exploit the possibilities of single instruments, whether with the voice or alone, but genuine originality is only rarely achieved, and usually in his early works. His tendency to increase dramatic complexity, especially at key moments in the action, results in a combination of traditional forms, often highly extended, and more modern forms (secco or accompanied recitatives, rondos or cabalettas, ensemble or chorus scenes); however, he frequently resorts to conventional solutions to recurring musico-dramatic problems. Zingarelli's main interest was in the expression of tenderness or pathos, and this is best exhibited in his arias for solo voice and string accompaniment, often for secondary characters. Some of these arias retained their popularity into the 1820s and 30s.
After 1811 Zingarelli stopped writing operas and returned to composing or revising oratorios in which he adapted his own style to new tastes through more complex dramatic structures, more elaborate choral writing and by abandoning the castrato voice.
His secular cantatas, with string or orchestral accompaniment, occupy an important place in his output. Since Zingarelli wrote them throughout his career they demonstrate, more than the operas and sacred music, all his various attempts at stylistic renewal, and are thus important from a historical perspective. Of the dramatic cantatas, the more interesting date from before 1790, such as Pigmalione (1779); in the years immediately following, as his interest in Haydn and Mozart waned, he showed greater respect for the formal models and styles current in the late 18th-century cantata. His refined literary taste is reflected in his choice of texts by Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto and his favourite, Tasso. In his mature compositions Zingarelli attempted to adapt to the new sentimental genre which swept Naples in the wake of the success of the French romance and led to the creation and popularity of the salon song. He also wrote a large number of concert arias, duets and terzettos. For the collection of settings of the poem In questa tomba oscura (1808), Beethoven wrote one song but Zingarelli ten, an example of his prolific, if not always discriminating, creativity.
In contrast to the symphonic style of the Viennese mass or the dramatic masses of Cherubini, Zingarelli’s church music is completely functional, intended to support the liturgical ceremony rather than to serve as independent compositions. His sacred works range from motets for solo voice with organ accompaniment, through choruses ranging from two-part boys’ choirs to eight-part double choruses, all with organ accompaniment (musica di capella), to masses or mass sections with full orchestra (musica a pieno). Masses for one or two choirs with a florid soprano solo and organ accompaniment are generally early works. Many of his works for Lent are given a particularly penitential and sombre colour through his use of a reduced orchestral accompaniment consisting solely of violas, cellos, bassoons, basses and organ.
Zingarelli was a pioneer in the setting of sacred devotional works to vernacular texts. Of these, the various settings of devotions on the three hours of Christ's agony stand out: Zingarelli seems to be the only composer from whom a large number of works for this occasion has survived; despite his rather schematic approach to the treatment of the individual texts, they are powerfully expressive. He also wrote vernacular settings of the Stabat mater sequence and of various psalms. Since his sacred music was intended to support rather than to dominate the liturgy, it is difficult to single out individual works on the basis of their musical merit alone, but his mass for Napoleon, the Missa classica di requia, the F major Dixit in which an orchestral ostinato is superimposed on the psalm tone, a Christus e miserere for three solo voices, organ and solo cello, and his settings of Psalms xli and cxii may be considered his best works written specifically for the church. His most famous sacred work is the Christus e miserere alla Palestrina for unaccompanied chorus, written for the students of the Naples Conservatory in 1826. His large non-liturgical choral works include operas on sacred topics and oratorios which range from the classic Neapolitan type (his setting of Metastasio’s Passion) to two massive choral works written in his late years, his setting of Isaiah xii for the Birmingham Festival, 1829, and his oratorio Saulle; Sir Michael Costa made his London début with the revised second version. The best of his non-liturgical choral works are his intimate Nativity cantatas.
Zingarelli’s sonatas and symphonies are generally short one-movement works rather than the multi-movement instrumental cycles of his contemporaries. One of the few composers of the time to write for the organ, he was most interested in the pastorale and its lilting 6/8 rhythm. His numerous fugues, perhaps originally contrapuntal exercises, can also be played on the organ. Most of his chamber music seems to have been written for teaching purposes and consists primarily of duos for two similar string instruments (even two double basses); his best chamber work, a quartet for two cellos, bassoon and contrabass, was probably a prelude to a Lenten devotion. His symphonies represent the peak of his instrumental music, and after 1815 reflect his interest in the music of Haydn and Mozart in their rich orchestral writing, and particular emphasis on the woodwind. Apart from 12 three-movement symphonies which date from his Milan days, they are one-movement works, generally with a slow introduction, highly contrapuntal treatment of the first group of themes, and frequent motivic relationships between groups of themes. They may have been used as ‘overtures’ to solemn masses, especially the four funeral symphonies.
Zingarelli’s relative isolation from contemporary musical currents and his deeply ingrained conservatism caused him to compose, at his best, in a dignified neo-Classical idiom distinguished by skilful counterpoint and noble melodies, but his music at its worst is superficial, stereotyped, dull and even trivial. He was both industrious and prolific and wrote rapidly, often choosing the easiest rather than the best solution to a compositional problem; in the few instances when he revised a work, his second inspirations were superior to his first ones. He believed that Rossini’s music had swept his aside. His posthumous reputation was marred by the bitter attacks of Fétis and the unflattering comments by Méhul, Spohr and Fellerer. The sheer bulk of his musical output and the dispersal of his manuscripts has inhibited detailed studies of his work.
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