19 February 2022

19 February

Vittorio Grigolo - opera singer

Tenor courted public popularity as way to land 'serious' roles

The operatic tenor Vittorio Grigolo was born on this day in 1977 in Arezzo in Tuscany.  Grigolo has performed at many of the world's leading opera houses and recently starred in Werther by Jules Massenet at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.  Yet he has achieved fame as a serious performer after first releasing an album of popular songs and using reality TV shows to put himself in the public eye.  Brought up in Rome, Grigolo was a child prodigy who began to sing at the age of four, his love for music inspired by his father, who liked the family house to be filled with the sound of opera arias.  He won a place at the prestigious Sistine Chapel Choir School by the time he was nine and at 13 appeared on the same stage as the opera legend Luciano Pavarotti as the shepherd boy in Giacomo Puccini's Tosca at the Rome Opera House.  It earned him the nickname Il Pavarottino - the little Pavarotti.  Grigolo's progress continued to be rapid.  At 18 he joined the Vienna Opera Company and became the youngest tenor to perform at Teatro alla Scala in Milan at the age of 23.  But in the years that followed, he felt his career reached a plateau. Read more…


Domenico Grimani - cardinal and art collector

Owned works by Da Vinci, Titian and Raphael among others

The Venetian cardinal Domenico Grimani, whose vast art collection now forms part of the Museo d'Antichità in the Doge's Palace in Venice, was born on this day in 1461.  Grimani acquired works among others by Italian Renaissance masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Giorgione, Titian and Raphael, as well as by Hans Memling and Hieronymus Bosch, two of the great Early Netherlandish painters of the 15th century.  He also owned the illustrated manuscript that became known as the Grimani Breviary, produced in Ghent and Bruges between 1510 and 1520, which is considered one of the most important  works of Flemish art from the Renaissance period.  Gerard David, Gerard Horenbout, Simon Bening and other illustrators contributed to the work, which was acquired by Grimani for 500 gold ducats, and subsequently bequeathed to the Venetian Republic.  It is now housed in the Biblioteca Marciana, opposite the Doge’s Palace.  Domenico also began the collection of Greek and Roman antiquities that was subsequently expanded by his nephew, Giovanni, and now kept in the Palazzo Grimani museum, near Campo Santa Maria Formosa.  Read more…


Massimo Troisi – actor, writer and director

Tragic star died hours after completing finest work

Massimo Troisi, the comic actor, writer and director who suffered a fatal heart attack in 1994 only 12 hours after shooting finished on his greatest movie, was born on this day in 1953 in a suburb of Naples.  Troisi co-directed and starred in Il Postino, which won an Oscar for best soundtrack after being nominated in five categories, the most nominations in Academy Award history for an Italian film.  He also wrote much of the screenplay for the movie, based on a novel, Burning Patience, by the Chilean author Antonio Skármeta, which tells the story of a Chilean poet exiled on an Italian island and his friendship with a postman whose round consists only of the poet’s isolated house.  Plagued by heart problems for much of his life, the result of several bouts of rheumatic fever when he was a child, Troisi was told just before shooting was due to begin that he needed an urgent transplant operation.  However, he was so committed to the project, a joint enterprise with his friend, the British director Michael Radford, he decided to postpone his surgery.  He was so ill that he collapsed on set on the third day but recovered to continue.  Read more…


Luigi Boccherini – musician

Composer gave the cello prominence in his charming quintets

Cellist and composer Luigi Rodolfo Boccherini was born on this day in 1743 in Lucca in Tuscany.  Boccherini is particularly known for a minuet from his String Quintet in E, which became popular after its use by characters posing as musicians in the 1955 film, The Ladykillers, which starred Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.  Though his works became neglected after his death in 1805 they enjoyed a revival after the Boccherini Quintet, which was formed in Rome, started performing them in the 1950s.  Boccherini’s father was himself a cellist and double bass player and sent the young Luigi to study in Rome.  In 1757 they went to Vienna together where the court employed them both as musicians in the Imperial Theatre orchestra.  In 1764 Luigi obtained a permanent position back in Lucca, playing in both the church and theatre orchestras.  But after the death of his father he moved to Paris where some of his early compositions were published.  Boccherini later moved to Spain, where for a time he enjoyed the patronage of the Royal family. But one day King Charles III of Spain ordered him to change a passage of his music.   Read more…


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