Showing posts with label Milan Duomo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Milan Duomo. Show all posts

4 April 2019

Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli - composer

Neapolitan who snubbed Napoleon wrote 37 operas

Niccolò Zingarelli was one of the most  successful composers of his time
Niccolò Zingarelli was one of the most
successful composers of his time
The composer Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli, who wrote 37 mainly comic operas and more than 500 pieces of sacred music, was born on this day in 1752 in Naples.

His success made him one of the principal composers of opera and religious music of his time. At various points in his career, he was maestro di cappella - music director - at Milan Cathedral, choir master at the Sistine Chapel and director of the Naples Conservatory.

Many of Zingarelli’s operas were written for Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Early in his career he worked in Paris, which held him in good stead later when he was arrested after refusing to conduct a hymn for the newly-born son of the Emperor Napoleon, who at the time was the self-proclaimed King of Italy.

Sometimes known as Nicola, the young Zingarelli studied from the age of seven at the Conservatorio di Santa Maria di Loreto, which was the original conservatory of Naples, dating back to 1537. He was tutored by Fedele Fenaroli, whose pupils also included Domenico Cimarosa and, later, Giuseppe Verdi, and also by Alessandro Speranza.

As a young man, Zingarelli earned a living as a violinist, while also composing. His first opera, Montezuma, was successfully produced at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples in 1781. Four years later Alsinda was staged at La Scala, the first of a series of his operas produced there until 1803.

Zingarelli refused to conduct a service for Napoleon's new son at the Sistine Chapel
Zingarelli refused to conduct a service for
Napoleon's new son at the Sistine Chapel
In 1789, he was invited to Paris to compose Antigone to a libretto by Jean-François Marmontel for the Opéra. He might have stayed longer in Paris had the French Revolution not driven him to Switzerland.

From there he returned to Milan, where in 1793 he became music director at the Duomo.

A year later, Zingarelli moved again, to take up the post of maestro di cappella at the Basilica della Santa Casa in Loreto, in Marche, an important and prestigious position at the time. He stayed there for 10 years, composing a large number of sacred works, at the same time continuing to write operas for La Scala and other theatres.

When he left Loreto, it was to become music director and choir master at the Sistine Chapel in Rome, where he composed cantatas on poems by Torquato Tasso and Dante.

It was in Rome that he wrote Berenice (1811), an opera that achieved great popularity, although two operas he composed for La Scala, Il mercato di Monfregoso (1792), based on a play by Carlo Goldoni, and Giulietta e Romeo (1796), inspired by William Shakespeare’s play, are said to be his finest work.

It was in 1811 that he was asked to conduct a Te Deum - a short religious service, held to bless an event or give thanks, which is based on the Latin hymn of the same name - for Napoleon, to celebrate the emperor’s new-born son.  As an Italian patriot, however, he felt he could not and, as a consequence of his public refusal, was arrested.

As it happened, though, Napoleon was a fan of his music and not only allowed Zingarelli to go free, he also awarded him a state pension.

In 1813, he left Rome to return to Naples, where he became director of the Conservatorio di San Sebastiano, before moving to the current site, the Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella, in 1826. By then, he had also replaced Giovanni Paisiello as choir master of Naples Cathedral, a position he held until his death, in 1837, in Torre del Greco, just along the coast.

The huge Basilica della Santa Casa sits at the highest point of Loreto and therefore dominates the skyline
The huge Basilica della Santa Casa sits at the highest point
of Loreto and therefore dominates the skyline
Travel tip:

The hill town of Loreto, about 5km (3 miles) inland from the Adriatic coast about 25km (16 miles) south of Ancona and a similar distance north of Civitanova Marche, is easily identified from a distance away by the dome of the basilica, which stands taller than anything else in the area. The Basilica della Santa Casa takes its name from the rustic stone cottage that once occupied its site - and indeed is preserved inside the structure of the cathedral - which was said to be the place of refuge to which angels brought the Madonna as a safe haven after the Saracens who had invaded the Holy Land. The beautiful basilica itself is a late Gothic structure upon which Giuliano da Maiano, Giuliano da Sangallo and Donato Bramante all worked at different times. Inside, there are artworks by Luca Signorelli and Lorenzo Lotto, who died there in 1556.

Torre del Greco was once a thriving upmarket seaside resort, as depicted in this late 19th century postcard
Torre del Greco was once a thriving upmarket seaside
resort, as depicted in this late 19th century postcard
Travel tip:

Torre del Greco was once part of Magna Graecia – Great Greece – in the eighth and seventh centuries BC but its name is thought to originated in the 11th century AD when a Greek hermit was said to have occupied an eight-sided coastal watch tower called Turris Octava. From the 16th century it became popular with wealthy families and even Italian nobility, who built elaborate summer palaces there. The area is largely run down these days but in the 19th century and early 20th century Torre del Greco enjoyed its peak years as a resort to which wealthy Italians flocked, both to enjoy the sea air and as a point from which to scale Vesuvius via a funicular railway. A thriving café scene developed, and the art nouveau Gran Caffè Palumbo became famous across the country.  Since the 17th century it has been a major producer of coral jewellery.

More reading:

Why Carlo Goldoni is seen as the greatest Venetian dramatist

The story of the troubled Renaissance poet Torquato Tasso

How Domenico Cimarosa developed the model for comic opera

Also on this day:

1951: The birth of singer-songwriter Francesco De Gregori

1960: The birth of businesswoman Daniela Riccardi

1963: The birth of politician and journalist Irene Pivetti


18 March 2018

Bobby Solo - pop singer

Sixties star found fame after Sanremo disqualification

Bobby Solo was heavily influenced by his idol Elvis Presley
Bobby Solo was heavily influenced
by his idol Elvis Presley
Bobby Solo, who was twice winner of Italy's prestigious Sanremo Festival yet had his biggest hit with a song that was disqualified, was born Roberto Satti on this day in 1945 in Rome.

The singer and songwriter won the contest in 1965 and again in 1969 but it was the controversy over his 1964 entry that thrust him into the spotlight and sent him to the top of the Italian singles charts with the first record to sell more than one million copies in Italy.

To emphasise that the competition was to select the best song, rather than the best artist, each entry was sung by two artists, one a native Italian, the other an international guest star. In 1964, Solo was paired with the American singer Frankie Laine to showcase Una lacrima sul viso (A Tear on Your Face).

Laine performed the song in English but Solo was stricken with a throat problem. Rather than withdraw, he sang the song with the help of a backing track, only to be told afterwards that this was against the rules.

Solo celebrates his victory at Sanremo in 1965
Solo celebrates his victory at Sanremo in 1965
The song was disqualified but attracted such attention that it became a huge hit, topping the Italian singles chart for eight weeks. Sales in Italy and other countries eventually topped two million and set Solo on the way to a highly successful career.

On the back of the song's success, Solo - a rock and roll singer in the mould of his idol, Elvis Presley - starred in a movie, also entitled Una lacrima sul viso, in which he sang not only the title track but several other of his songs.

In 1965 he returned to Sanremo, where he was chosen to sing Se piangi, se ridi (If you cry, if you laugh), of which the American folk ensemble the New Christy Minstrels performed an English version, and this time won.  The song gave Solo his second No 1 in the Italian charts and gave him fifth place in the Eurovision Song Contest the same year.

Four years later, partnered with the Italian female star Iva Zanicchi, Solo achieved his third Sanremo triumph with Zingara.

Other 60s hits included Quello sbagliato,Cristina and La Casa del Signore, the Italian version of Elvis Presley’s Crying In The Chapel, his 1966 Sanremo entry Questa volta, which he sung with English group The Yardbirds,  Per far piangere un uomo, an Italian cover of the Tom Jones song, To Make A Big Man Cry, and an Italian cover of Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco.

In all, Solo participated in 12 Sanremo Festivals between 1964 and 2003 and in a recording career spanning six decades has made more than 40 singles and in excess of 30 albums.  His total record sales have been conservatively estimated at more than five million and he still performs today, well into his 70s.

Bobby Solo on stage in 2018
The son of an airline executive from Friuli and an Istrian mother, Solo acquired his love for music, especially American country and rock and roll, from his brother-in-law, an American serviceman who had married his sister and lived in Verona.

Blessed with a good voice, he taught himself to play the guitar and after watching Elvis Presley in the film Jailhouse Rock he was inspired to begin writing songs in his teens. After his father had been relocated to Linate airport in Milan, he earned an audition with the Milan company Dischi Recordi, who signed him up and would produce all his records until the early 1970s.

Solo acquired his stage name at around the same time, and there is a story - perhaps apocryphal - that he became Bobby Solo by accident, the intention having been that he would perform simply as Bobby. According to the story,  the secretary who took down the record label details for his first single mistook the instruction that he would be known as "solo Bobby" (only Bobby) and wrote down his name as Bobby Solo.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan
The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan
Travel tip:

Dischi Recordi, which operated from 1958 until the company was sold in 1994, had its headquarters right in the heart of Milan in Via Giovanni Berchet, a stone's throw from the Duomo and across Via Ugo Foscolo from the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the magnificent 1861 shopping arcade, with its central dome and arching glass and cast iron roof, which is the oldest shopping mall  in the world still in use and has become a Milan landmark.  The Palazzo Dischi is now the home of upmarket sports car manufacturer Ferrari's flagship merchandise store.

Milan hotels by

The harbour at Sanremo in Liguria
The harbour at Sanremo in Liguria
Travel tip:

Sanremo in Liguria, the Italian Riviera resort that has been home to the Sanremo Festival since 1951, expanded rapidly in the mid-18th century, when the phenomenon of tourism began to take hold, albeit primarily among the wealthy. Several grand hotels were established and the Emperor Nicholas II of Russia was among the European royals who took holidays there. The Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel made it his permanent home.

14 January 2018

Franchino Gaffurio – composer

Musician whose name has lived on for centuries in Milan

Da Vinci's Portrait of a Musician, of which Gaffurio is thought to have been the subject
Da Vinci's Portrait of a Musician, of which
Gaffurio is thought to have been the subject 
Renaissance composer Franchino Gaffurio was born on this day in 1451 in Lodi, a city in Lombardy some 40km (25 miles) southeast of Milan.

He was to become a friend of Leonardo da Vinci later in life and may have been the person depicted in Leonardo’s famous painting, Portrait of a Musician.

The oil on wood painting, which Da Vinci is thought to have completed in around 1490, is housed in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan.

Gaffurio was born into an aristocratic family, who sent him to a Benedictine monastery, where he acquired musical training.

He later became a priest and lived in Mantua and Verona before setting in Milan, where he became maestro di cappella (choirmaster) at the Duomo in 1484. He was to retain the post for the rest of his life.

Gaffurio was one of Italy’s most famous musicians in the late 15th and early 16th centuries and as such met composers from all over Europe while working in Milan and wrote books of instruction for young composers.

One of his most famous comments was that the tactus, the tempo of a semibreve, is equal to the pulse of a man who is breathing quietly, at about 72 beats per minute.

The entrance to the Franco Gaffurio Music School in Lodi
The entrance to the Franco Gaffurio
Music School in Lodi
During his years in Milan, Gaffurio wrote masses, motets and hymns, many for ceremonial occasions held by the Sforza family.

Some of his music shows the influence of Josquin des Prez, a French composer he became friends with, and also the many composers from the Netherlands, who were drawn to Milan, which was a centre of musical activity at the time.

The Duomo in Milan to this day has a school for choirboys known as The Franchino Gaffurio School, named after the choirmaster, composer and teacher, whose music had resounded in the Duomo 600 years before.

Gaffurio died in 1522 in Milan and was buried in the Church of San Marcellino at Porta Comasina, one of the gates to the city, which was renamed Porta Garibaldi in 1860.

The Piazza della Vittoria in Lodi
The Piazza della Vittoria in Lodi
Travel tip:

One of the main sights in Lodi, where Gaffurio was born, is Piazza della Vittoria, listed by the Italian Touring Club as one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, as it features porticoes on all four sides. Accademia Gaffurio in Via Solferino teaches music and dance and organises musical events and concerts. It was founded as the Franchino Gaffurio Music School in 1917.

The Duomo in Milan, where Gaffurio was maestro di cappella from 1484 until his death in 1522
The Duomo in Milan, where Gaffurio was maestro di
cappella from 1484 until his death in 1522
Travel tip:

The Duomo in Milan, where Gaffurio was maestro di cappella, was built in 1386 using Candoglia marble, which was transported along the Navigli canals. It was consecrated in 1418, yet remained unfinished until the 19th century, when Napoleon had the façade completed, before being crowned King of Italy there.

26 May 2016

Napoleon becomes King of Italy

French Emperor places Iron Crown of Lombardy on his own head

Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte by the Italian artist Andrea Appiani in 1805
Portrait of Napoleon Bonaparte by the Italian
artist Andrea Appiani in 1805
Napoleon Bonaparte was declared King of Italy on this day in 1805 in Milan.

He crowned himself at a ceremony in the Duomo using the Iron Crown of Lombardy.

The title King of Italy signified that Napoleon was the head of the new Kingdom of Italy, which was at that time a vassal state of the French Empire. The area controlled by Napoleon had previously been known as a republic, with Napoleon as its president.

But Napoleon had become the Emperor of France the year before and had decided Italy should become a Kingdom ruled by himself, or a member of his family.

Before the ceremony, the Iron Crown had to be fetched from Monza. The crown consisted of a circlet of gold with a central iron band, which according to legend was beaten out of a nail from Christ’s true cross, found by Saint Helena in the Holy Land. The crown is believed to have been given to the city of Monza in the sixth century.

During his coronation, Napoleon is reported to have picked up the precious relic, announced that God had given it to him, and placed it on his own head.

After the coronation there were celebratory fireworks in Milan and over the next few days there were horse races, public amusements in the streets and parks, and a grand concert and ball.

The new King appointed his stepson, Eugene de Beauharnais, as his viceroy in Italy. De Beauharnais was Josephine’s son from her previous marriage. Napoleon also later gave him the title of Prince of Venice.

The new Kingdom of Italy lasted till 1814 when Napoleon had to abdicate from the thrones of both France and Italy and go into exile on the island of Elba.

Photo of the Milan Duomo
The magnificent Duomo in Milan, where Napoleon
proclaimed himself as King of Italy in 1805
Travel tip:

Construction of the Duomo in Milan began in 1386 using marble brought into the city along the Navigli canals. Although it was consecrated as a Cathedral in 1418, building work was not finally completed until the 19th century when Napoleon had the façade finished before his coronation.

Travel tip:

The Iron Crown of Lombardy is kept in a chapel in the Cathedral of Saint John in Monza, a city about nine miles to the north east of Milan. Monza is now also famous for its Grand Prix motor racing circuit, the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, which hosts the Formula One Italian Grand Prix.