At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Alessandro Scarlatti - composer



Prolific opera composer was ahead of his time


Baroque composer Alessandro Scarlatti was born on this day in 1660 in Palermo.


Portrait of Alessandro Scarlatti
Alessandro Scarlatti
He is considered to be the founder of the Neapolitan School of opera, from which modern opera developed, and his two sons, Domenico and Pietro Filippo, also went on to become composers.

Scarlatti is believed to have been a pupil of Giacomo Carissimi in Rome. When his opera Gli equivoci nel sembiante was produced in the city he gained the support of Queen Christina of Sweden, an enthusiastic patron of the arts who had taken up residence there. He became her maestro di cappella and joined the Arcadian Academy she had founded.

Along with composers Bernardo Pasquini and Arcangelo Corelli, he regularly visited her home to perform music he had dedicated to her.

In 1684 Scarlatti became maestro di cappella to the royal family in Naples and produced a series of operas and music for state occasions for them.

Scarlatti also enjoyed the patronage of Ferdinando dè Medici and composed operas for his private theatre near Florence. He was also maestro di cappella for Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni who procured him a post at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.


Listen to Scarlatti's concerto grosso in fa maggiore




It was in Rome that Scarlatti produced some of his best operas and church music but he eventually retired to live in Naples where he died in 1725.

Scarlatti’s music formed an important link between the early Italian Baroque vocal style of the 17th century and the classical school of the 18th century and anticipated the work of later composers such as Mozart and Schubert.

Il Mitridate Eupatore, composed for production during the Carnival in Venice in 1707, is thought to be his masterpiece. He also wrote hundreds of chamber cantatas for a solo voice.

Photo of the Palazzo Farnese
The Palazzo Farnese is now the home of the French
Embassy in Campo De' Fiori in Rome
Travel tip:

Palazzo Farnese, where Scarlatti was a guest of Queen Christina of Sweden at gatherings of the Arcadian Academy, is in Piazza Farnese in the Campo De’ Fiori area of Rome. It is now being used as the French Embassy. Queen Christina was given permission to lodge in this important Renaissance building by Pope Alexander VII because when she first came to live in Rome it was standing empty, following the death of Cardinal Odoardo Farnese.

Travel tip:

Palermo, where Alessandro Scarlatti was born, is the capital of Sicily. It is famous for its history, culture, architecture, food and wine. It has examples of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches and palaces. Palazzo dei Normanni, a marvellous example of Norman architecture, is the seat of the Sicilian Regional Assembly. The Teatro Massimo, the biggest theatre in Italy, has staged operas starring Enrico Caruso.

(Photo of Palazzo Farnese by Myrabella CC BY-SA 3.0)

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