Showing posts with label Comic Opera. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Comic Opera. Show all posts

31 March 2024

Francesco Durante – composer and teacher

Musician devoted his life to passing on his composing skills to others

Francesco Durante numbered many famous pupils when he taught in Naples
Francesco Durante numbered many famous
pupils when he taught in Naples
An esteemed composer of religious and instrumental music, Francesco Durante was born on this day in 1684 at Frattamaggiore near Naples.

Durante was a highly regarded teacher at the Sant'Onofrio Conservatorio and the Santa Maria di Loreto Conservatorio and was also Chapelmaster at the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesú Cristo in Naples.

He had some famous pupils, among whom were Niccoló Jommelli, Niccoló Piccinni and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, who became leading composers of the Neapolitan School of 18th century opera.

Durante studied music in Rome and at Naples, where he was a pupil at San Onofrio and is believed to have studied under Alessandro Scarlatti. He began his own teaching career at the Sant'Onofrio Conservatorio in 1710.

Between 1728 and 1742 he also taught at Santa Maria Loreto and the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesú Cristo.  He succeeded Leonardo Leo as principal teacher at Sant'Onofrio Conservatorio in 1745.

There was always rivalry between Leo’s students and his own pupils, who at various times included the composers Giovanni Paisiello, Tommaso Traetta and Leonardo Vinci.

Durante’s own compositions included motets, masses, requiems and oratorios. A pastoral mass for four voices and a setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah are considered among his best works. He also composed for the harpsichord and for stringed instruments.

A collection of his works was presented to the Bibliothèque National in Paris by a Neapolitan collector of art and music and the Imperial library in Vienna also houses a collection of his manuscripts. He seems to have composed mainly sacred works and is considered by experts to have been one of the best composers of church music of his period.

Durante, who was married three times, died in Naples in 1755, aged 71.

The Piazza Umberto I in Frattamaggiore, with the campanile of the Basilica of San Sossio
The Piazza Umberto I in Frattamaggiore, with the
campanile of the Basilica of San Sossio 
Travel tip:

Frattamaggiore, where Durante was born, is a comune of Naples, about 15km (9 miles) north of the city, and 15 km southwest of Caserta. Known as Fratta to the locals, Frattamaggiore was named a Benedictine city in 1997 and was awarded the title of City of Art in 2008. It is thought to date back to before Roman times, but the first recorded mention of Frattamaggiore was in 921 AD. The patron saint of Frattamaggiore is Saint Sossius, or Sosius. His remains were first preserved at Miseno, but after the town was destroyed by the Saracens his followers moved to live in Frattamaggiore. The saint’s relics were recovered by Benedictines and preserved in a convent in Naples, but after the convent was suppressed during Napoleonic times, his relics were transferred to Frattamaggiore where they are preserved in a basilica dedicated to him.

The entrance to the Sant'Onofrio Conservatory at Porta Capuana
The entrance to the Sant'Onofrio
Conservatory at Porta Capuana
Travel tip:

The Conservatorio di Sant'Onofrio at Porta Capuana, where Durante taught at the beginning and end of his career, was one of the four original Naples music conservatories. Founded in 1588, it was developed first as an orphanage. Almost one fifth of the students at the Conservatorio di Sant'onofrio were castrati. Its popularity declined during the Napoleonic period, and only 30 students remained when the conservatory merged with that of Santa Maria di Loreto in 1797. Porta Capuana is now a free-standing gateway that was once part of the Aragonese walls of the city and is situated between the city’s main railway station and the Duomo. The Conservatorio di Sant'onofrio, which was in time absorbed into the Naples Conservatory, used to be close to the Castel Capuano, which was originally a 12th century fortress but has been modified several times. Until recently, the castle was home to the city’s Hall of Justice, also known as the Vicaria, which housed legal offices and a prison.

More reading:

The opera buffa genius of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

Why Domenico Cimarosa's Il Matrimonio Segreto is seen as one of the greatest comic operas

First night at Teatro di San Carlo

Also on this day: 

1425: The birth of Bianca Maria Visconti, Duchess of Milan

1675: The birth of Pope Benedict XIV

1941: The birth of cartoonist Franco Bonvicini

1958: The birth of crime writer Maurizio De Giovanni

1996: The death of car designer Dante Giacosa

(Picture credits: conservatory gate by Baku; via Wikimedia Commons)


5 August 2022

Leonardo Leo - composer

Baroque musician known for his sense of humour

Leonardo Leo wrote or contributed to more than 70 operas, mainly comic
Leonardo Leo wrote or contributed to
more than 70 operas, mainly comic
A prolific composer of comic operas, Leonardo Leo was born on this day in 1694 in San Vito degli Schiavoni (now known as San Vito dei Normanni) in Apulia.

His most famous comic opera was Amor vuol sofferenza - Love requires suffering - which he produced in 1739. It later became better known as La finta frascatana, and received a lot of praise, but Leo was equally admired for his serious operas and sacred music. He has been credited with forming the Neapolitan style of opera composition.

He was enrolled as a young boy as a student at the Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchini in Naples and was a pupil first of Francesco Provenzale and later of Nicola Fago. It has been speculated that he may have been taught by Alessandro Scarlatti, but it has since been proved by music historians that he could not possibly have studied with the composer, although he was obviously influenced by his compositions.

Leo’s earliest known work was a sacred drama, L’infidelta abbattuta, which was performed by his fellow students in 1712, while he was still a teenager.

His first opera, Pisistrato, was produced at the court theatre in Naples in 1714 and was much admired.

As an adult Leo held various posts at the royal chapel in Naples while continuing to write for the stage and teach at the conservatory.

Leo was a major influence in the 
development of opera's Neapolitan school 
In 1722 he added comic scenes to Francesco Gasparini’s Bajazet for a performance in Naples. He then started to compose his own comic operas in Neapolitan dialect, such as La ’mpeca scoperta in 1723 and L’Alidoro in 1740.

His most famous serious operas were Demofoonte (1735), Famace (1737) and L’Olimpiade (1737). With L’Olimpiade he became the first composer to introduce the chorus into Neapolitan opera.

Handel was so impressed with Leo’s opera, Catone in Utica, that he used some of the music from it in a performance at the King’s Theatre in London in 1732.

Leo died of a stroke in 1744 while he was composing new arias for a revival of his acclaimed opera, La finta frascatana.

Experts believe Leo was the first composer of the Neapolitan School to achieve a complete mastery over modern harmonic counterpart and agree that in his comic operas he reveals a keen sense of humour. He was to be one of the last major Italian Baroque composers and was well regarded as a teacher, with Niccolò Piccinni and Niccolò Jommelli among his students.

Leo wrote or contributed to about 70 operas, as well as composing oratorios, masses and instrumental works, some of which are still performed and are available on contemporary recordings. His Miserere (🎵Listen 🎵) for double choir and orchestra is regarded as his signature piece.

The Corso Leonardo Leo in San Vito dei Normanni is typical of the town's quaint narrow streets
The Corso Leonardo Leo in San Vito dei Normanni
is typical of the town's quaint narrow streets
Travel tip:

San Vito dei Normanni, where Leonardo Leo was born, is a town with a population of around 20,000, situated about 24km (15 miles) west of Brindisi in the area of Puglia known as Salento. An attractive town of narrow streets lined with baroque-style churches and palaces and numerous restaurants and bars, it was formerly known as San Vito degli Schiavoni on account of a large number of Slavs - Schiavoni in Italian - who settled in the area after migrating from Dalmatia, on the opposite side of the Adriatic, to escape persecution by the Saracens in the 10th century. The town’s history, though, dates back much further, with archaeological remains discovered that show the area was inhabited during the Bronze Age. Things to see include the medieval Castello di Dentice Frasso, sometimes known as the Castello di San Vito, which overlooks the main piazza, and the beautiful Baroque church of San Giovanni Evangelista, built in soft Lecce stone.

Inside the Church of the Pietà dei Turchini, which dates back to the time of the conservatory
Inside the Church of the Pietà dei Turchini, which
dates back to the time of the conservatory
Travel tip:

Founded in 1583, the Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchini, where Leonardo Leo was a pupil, was the longest running of four Naples conservatories that were ultimately incorporated into the Real Collegio di Musica, which became the Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella. Like the Conservatorio di Sant'Onofrio a Capuana, another of the four, it had been a charitable institution for the care of orphans and abandoned children. The church of the Pietà dei Turchini, which was built at around the same time as the conservatory, stands in Via Medina in the centre of Naples, not far from the Teatro di San Carlo opera house.

Also on this day:

1607: The birth of cardinal and arts patron Antonio Barberini

1623: The birth of composer Antonio Cesti

1953: The birth of Felice Casson - politician and magistrate

2002: The death of novelist Franco Lucentini