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.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Antonio Cesti – opera composer

Singer and organist wrote operas and church music


Antonio Cesti was hailed as the finest musician of his generation
Antonio Cesti was hailed as the finest
musician of his generation
Composer Pietro Marc’Antonio Cesti was baptised on this day in 1623 in Arezzo in Tuscany. It was also probably the date of his birth.

One of the leading composers of the 17th century, Cesti is said to have written about 100 operas, although only 15 are known of today.

He joined the order of Friars Minor, or Franciscans, a Catholic religious group founded by St Francis of Assisi in 1637.

Cesti studied first in Rome and then moved to Venice, where his first known opera, Orontea, was produced in 1649.

In 1652 he became chapel master to Archduke Ferdinand of Austria at Innsbruck and from 1669 he was vice chapel master to the imperial court in Vienna.

Throughout the 17th century his operas were widely performed in Italy. His most famous operas, Il pomo d’oro, Dori, and Orontea, have survived to this day.

An illustration of the stage set, meant to represent the  underworld, for a production of Il pomo d'oro in Vienna
An illustration of the stage set, meant to represent the
underworld, for a production of Il pomo d'oro in Vienna
Il pomo d’oro was a lavish production, written for the wedding of Emperor Leopold I in 1666 in Vienna.

An important manuscript collection of 18 secular and three sacred cantatas by Cesti are preserved in Oxford.

His cantatas and religious works show Roman influences, whereas his operas demonstrate the influence of the Venetian school and foreshadow the operatic developments that were to come in the 18th century.

Cesti was also an acclaimed tenor and an organist and has been described as the most celebrated Italian musician of his generation. He died in Venice in 1669.

The Basilica of San Francesco in Arezzo
The Basilica of San Francesco
in Arezzo
Travel tip:

Arezzo, where Cesti was born, is an interesting old town in eastern Tuscany. The 13th century Basilica of San Francesco in the centre of the town is famous for containing Piero della Francesco’s cycle of frescoes, The Legend of the True Cross, painted between 1452 and 1466.


The Basilica of St Mark in Venice
The Basilica of St Mark in Venice
Travel tip:

One of the focal points for music in Venice during the 17th century was St Mark’s Basilica in the square of the same name. St Mark’s is the cathedral church of Venice and one of the best examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture in existence. Because of its opulent design and gold ground mosaics it became a symbol of Venetian wealth and power and has been nicknamed Chiesa d’Oro (Church of Gold).

More reading:

How the castrato Farinelli became music's first superstar

The oldest opera still being performed

The 17th century musician who invented the piano

Also on this day:

1953: The birth of Felice Casson, the magistrate who uncovered NATO's top-secret Operation Gladio

2002: The death of crime novelist Franco Lucentini


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