3 March 2019

3 March

Charles Ponzi - fraudster

Name forever linked with investment scam

The swindler Charles Ponzi, whose notorious fraudulent investment scheme in 1920s America led his name to be immortalised in the lexicon of financial crimes, was born Carlo Ponzi in the town of Lugo di Romagna on this day in 1882.  Ponzi served several prison sentences in the United States, the heaviest of which was handed down after he tried to sustain an unrealistically generous investment scheme by paying dividends promised to investors who thought they were buying and selling international postal reply coupons with money received from other investors. Read more...


Teatro Olimpico – Vicenza

Renaissance theatre still stages plays and concerts

The Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, originally designed by Andrea Palladio, was inaugurated on this day in 1585 with a performance of Oedipus the King by Sophocles, for which the original scenery, which was meant to represent the streets of Thebes, has miraculously survived to this day. One of three Renaissance theatres remaining in existence and since 1994 listed by Unesco as a World Heritage Site, it was the last piece of architecture designed by Andrea Palladio. It was completed after his death by the architect Vincenzo Scamozzi, who is credited with fulfilling Palladio's wish to use perspective in the design, creating the impression that the streets visible through the archways stretched into the distance. Read more…


Nicola Porpora – composer and teacher

Tutor of celebrated opera singers died in poverty

Nicola Porpora, who composed more than 60 operas and was a brilliant singing teacher in Italy, died on this day in 1768 in Naples. Among his many pupils were poet and librettist Pietro Metastasio, composers Johann Adolph Hasse and Joseph Haydn and the celebrated castrati, Farinelli (Carlo Broschi) and Caffarelli (Gaetano Majorano). He then went to London as chief composer to the Opera of the Nobility, a company that had been formed in opposition to Royal composer George Frideric Handel’s opera company.   He spent time in Vienna, where he taught the young Haydn to compose.  Yet the composer’s last years were spent living in poverty in Naples. Read more…


Sebastiano Venier – Doge of Venice

Victorious naval commander briefly ruled La Serenissima

Sebastiano Venier, who successfully commanded the Venetian contingent at the Battle of Lepanto, died on this day in 1578 in Venice. He had been Doge of Venice for less than a year when fire badly damaged the Doge’s Palace. He died soon afterwards, supposedly as a result of the distress it had caused him. Venier, who worked as a lawyer and was married to Cecilia Contarini, was listed as procurator of St Mark’s in 1570, but by December of the same year, he was capitano generale da mar, the Admiral of the Venetian fleet, in the new war against the Ottoman Turks. As the commander of the Venetian contingent at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, he helped the Christian League decisively defeat the Turks. Read more...


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