14 June 2024

14 June

NEW
- Francesco Morlacchi - composer


Umbrian popularised Italian opera in Dresden

The composer Francesco Morlacchi, who spent much of his career working for the Saxon court in Dresden and helped popularise Italian opera not only in Germany but further afield, was born on this day in 1784 in Perugia.  Morlacchi composed more than 20 operas, the most successful of which is Tebaldo e Isolina, a romantic melodrama around a love affair between members of rival families, which had its premiere in Venice in 1822.  A contemporary of Gioachino Rossini, Morlacchi had the opportunity in the same year to succeed Rossini as maestro di cappella of the royal theatres in Naples. However, he chose to remain in Dresden.  Morlacchi was born into a family of musicians. His father, Alessandro, was a violinist at Perugia’s Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, where his maternal great-uncle, Giovanni Mazzetti, was the organist.  He began composing at a young age, studying first under Mazzetti and later with the cathedral’s maestro di cappella, the Neapolitan Luigi Caruso. He furthered his education in Loreto in Marche with Niccol√≤ Zingarelli, another Neapolitan. Eventually, he secured a place at the school of Stanislao Mattei in Bologna, where he met Rossini.  Read more…

_____________________________________

Giovanni Borgia - murdered son of Pope

Killing still unsolved after 500 years despite plenty of suspects

Giovanni Borgia, the brother of Cesare and Lucrezia and son of Pope Alexander VI, was murdered on this day in 1497 in Rome.  There was no shortage of possible suspects but the murder was never solved. The grief-stricken Pope launched an immediate murder inquiry, but mysteriously closed down the investigation after just one week, leading to speculation that the perpetrator could have been a member of Giovanni’s own family.  The case has fascinated historians and writers for the last 500 years and been the subject of many books, including Mario Puzo’s historical novel, The Family, and it has featured in many films and televisions programmes. Giovanni was born in Rome in either 1474 or 1476 to the then Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia and his mistress, Vanozza dei Cattanei. He is thought to have been  the eldest of the children fathered by Pope Alexander VI with his mistress, but this is disputed.  He was married to Maria Enriquez de Luna, who had been betrothed to his older half-brother, Pedro Luis, who had died before the marriage could take place.  Read more…

_____________________________________

Antonio Sacchini - composer

Masterpiece widely acknowledged only after tragic death

The composer Antonio Sacchini, whose operas brought him fame in England and France in the second half of the 18th century and found favour with the Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, among others, was born on this day in 1730 in Florence.  His 1785 work Oedipe √† Colone, which fell into the opera seria genre as opposed to the more light-hearted opera buffa, in which he also specialised, has best stood the test of time among his works, although it did not achieve popularity until after his death after initially falling victim to the political climate in the French court.  Sacchini came from humble stock. His father, Gaetano, was thought to be a cook, and it was through his work that the family moved to Naples when he was four, Gaetano having been employed by the future Bourbon King of Naples, Don Carlos, then the Duke of Parma and Piacenza.  This provided the opportunity for Sacchini to receive tuition at the Conservatorio di Santa Maria di Loreto, under the supervision of the composer Francesco Durante, where he learned the basics of composition, harmony and counterpoint, also developing impressive skills as a violinist and studying singing.  Read more…

_____________________________________

Salvatore Quasimodo - Nobel Prize winner

Civil engineer wrote poetry in his spare time

Salvatore Quasimodo, who was one of six Italians to have won a Nobel Prize in Literature, died on this day in 1968 in Naples.  The former civil engineer, who was working for the Italian government in Reggio Calabria when he published his first collection of poems and won the coveted and historic Nobel Prize in 1959, suffered a cerebral haemorrhage in Amalfi, in Campania, where he had gone to preside over a poetry prize.  He was taken by car to Naples but died in hospital a few hours later, at the age of 66.  He had suffered a heart attack previously during a visit to the Soviet Union.  The committee of the Swedish Academy, who meet to decide each year’s Nobel laureates, cited Quasimodo’s “lyrical poetics, which with ardent classicism expresses the tragic experiences of the life of our times". The formative experiences that shaped his literary life began when he was a child when his father, a station master in Modica, the small city in the province of Ragusa in Sicily, where Salvatore was born in 1901, was transferred in 1909 to Messina, to supervise the reorganisation of train services in the wake of the devastating earthquake of December 1908.  Read more…

________________________________________

Giacomo Leopardi – poet and philosopher

The tragic life of a brilliant Italian writer

One of Italy’s greatest 19th century writers, Giacomo Leopardi, died on this day in 1837 in Naples.  A brilliant scholar and philosopher, Leopardi led an unhappy life in Recanati in the Papal States, blighted by poor health, but he left as a legacy his superb lyric poetry.  By the age of 16, Leopardi had independently mastered Greek, Latin and several modern languages and had translated many classical works. He had also written some poems, tragedies and scholarly commentaries.  He had been born deformed and excessive study made his health worse. He became blind in one eye and developed a cerebrospinal condition that was to cause him problems for the rest of his life.  He was forced to suspend his studies and, saddened by an apparent lack of concern from his parents, he poured out his feelings in poems such as the visionary work, Appressamento della morte - Approach of Death - written in 1816 in terza rima, in imitation of Petrarch and Dante.  His frustrated love for his married cousin, and the death from consumption of the young daughter of his father’s coachman, only deepened his despair. The death of the young girl inspired perhaps his greatest lyric poem, A SilviaRead more…

______________________________________

Battle of Marengo

Napoleon works up an appetite driving out the Austrians

Napoleon was victorious in battle against the Austrians on this day in 1800 in an area near the village of Marengo, about five kilometres south of Alessandria in Piedmont.  A chicken dish named after the battle, Pollo alla Marengo, keeps the event alive by continuing to appear on restaurant menus and in cookery books.  It was an important victory for Napoleon, who effectively drove the Austrians out of Italy by forcing them to retreat.  Initially French forces had been overpowered by the Austrians and had been pushed back a few miles. The Austrians thought they had won and retired to Alessandria.  But the French received reinforcements and launched a surprise counter-attack, forcing the Austrians to retreat and to have to subsequently sign an armistice.  This sealed a political victory for Napoleon and helped him secure his grip on power.  There are various stories about the origin of the chicken dish named after the battle. Some say Napoleon ate it after his victory, while others say a restaurant chef in Paris invented it and named it after the battle in Napoleon’s honour.  There is also a story that Napoleon refused to eat before the battle but eventually came off the field with a ferocious hunger.  Read more…

_____________________________________

Book of the Day: The Borgias: History's Most Notorious Dynasty, by Mary Hollingsworth

The Borgias have become a byword for pride, lust, cruelty, avarice, splendour and venomous intrigue. An inspiration for many works of fiction, most famously Mario Puzo's The Family, they have aroused abomination and fascination in almost equal measure, while their patronage of the arts created some of the great masterpieces of the Renaissance. From the powerful, merciless Rodrigo Borgia, better known as Pope Alexander VI, to the beautiful Lucrezia and the debauched and murderous Cesare, Mary Hollingsworth's The Borgias: History's Most Notorious Dynasty, provides an account of the dynasty's dramatic rise from its Spanish roots to the heights of Renaissance society and forms a compelling tale of brutality, incest, unparalleled corruption and extortionate greed.

Mary Hollingsworth’s doctoral thesis dealt with the role of the architect in Italian Renaissance building projects and led to research on the role of the patron in the development of Renaissance art and architecture.

Buy from Amazon


Home

No comments:

Post a Comment