Showing posts with label Tivoli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tivoli. Show all posts

13 September 2023

Francesco Manelli – Baroque composer

Theorbo player staged the world’s first public opera

Manelli worked in Tivoli, Rome and Padua before settling in Venice
Manelli worked in Tivoli, Rome and
Padua before settling in Venice
Musician and opera composer Francesco Manelli, who is remembered for the important contribution he made to bringing commercial opera to Venice, was born on this day in 1595 in Tivoli in Lazio.

Manelli (sometimes spelt Mannelli) was also a skilled player of the theorbo, which is a plucked string instrument belonging to the lute family that has a very long neck.

From the age of ten, Manelli used to sing in Tivoli's Duomo, the Basilica Cattedrale di San Lorenzo Martire, and he was taught music by the various maestri di cappella working there at that time.

Manelli moved to Rome with the intention of studying for a career in the church, but after meeting and marrying a singer, Maddalena, he decided to dedicate himself exclusively to music.

In 1627, Manelli went back to Tivoli where he himself became a maestro di cappella at the Duomo, a post he held for two years. Then he returned to Rome to take up the post of maestro di cappella at the church of Santa Maria della Consolazione.

After going to Padua, where his wife sang in the opera Ermiona, Manelli and his family settled in Venice in order to be close to his patron.

In 1637, Manelli and another composer and theorbo player, Benedetto Ferrari, put together a company of singers to present an opera in a public theatre, which was the first time this had happened. The singers performed Andromeda, an opera, with music written by Manelli and a libretto written by Ferrari, at Teatro San Cassiano during that year’s Carnevale. Manelli himself sang two of the bass parts.  

A 17th century painting of an English woman playing the theorbo
A 17th century painting of an English
woman playing the theorbo
The following year, the company performed another opera by Manelli, La maga fulminata, with Manelli’s wife, Maddalena, singing the role of Pallade.

In 1639, Manelli composed La Delia, with a libretto by Giulio Strozzi, which premiered at Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Venice. This was followed by his operas, Adone in 1640 and L’Alcate in 1642, which were both performed at the same theatre.

Between 1639 and 1642, Manelli and Ferrari directed a company of Venetian singers in Bologna, which included Manelli’s wife, Maddalena, and their son, Constantino. In addition to Manelli’s own compositions, the singers performed Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria by Claudio Monteverdi.

In 1645, Manelli and his family went into the service of Ranuccio II Farnese, the Duke of Parma. Manelli composed five operas for the court, which were performed in the ducal theatre of Parma and Piacenza.

Manelli died in Parma in 1667 and his wife, Maddalena, died there in 1680.

A wooden model of how the theatre might have looked
A wooden model of how the
theatre might have looked
Travel tip:

Teatro San Cassiano, which was located in the San Cassiano parish of Venice’s Santa Croce sestiere, was the world’s first ever public opera house thanks to Francesco Manelli and Benedetto Ferrari. This sparked a global opera boom and established Venice as its capital. There is now a project to reconstruct the Teatro San Cassiano of 1637 as faithfully as modern scholarship and traditional craftsmanship will allow to deliver a fully functioning dedicated Baroque opera house and a centre for research into Baroque opera.

Tivoli's attractions include the gardens and fabulous fountains of the 16th century Villa d'Este
Tivoli's attractions include the gardens and fabulous
fountains of the 16th century Villa d'Este
Travel tip:

Tivoli, where Francesco Manelli was born, is a town in Lazio, situated about 30km (19 miles) northeast of Rome. The city offers a wide view over the Roman Campagna, a low-lying area of countryside surrounding Rome. Tivoli is famous for being the site of Hadrian’s villa, a large villa complex built around AD 120 by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, and the Villa d’Este, a 16th century villa, famous for its terraced hillside Renaissance garden and its abundance of fountains. Both villas are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Also on this day: 

1506: The death of painter Andrea Mantegna

1583: The birth of composer Girolamo Frescobaldi

1808: The death of writer Saverio Bettinelli 

1973: The birth of footballer Fabio Cannavaro



17 December 2017

Rome falls to the Ostrogoths

Sacking of city in 546 left city a shadow of its former self

Francesco Salviati's portrait of the Ostrogoth king Totila, painted in about 1549
Francesco Salviati's portrait of the Ostrogoth
king Totila, painted in about 1549
The Ostrogoths, the Germanic tribe that took over large parts of the Italian peninsula with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, achieved a symbolic victory on this day in 546 when an army under the leadership of King Totila captured and sacked Rome following a year-long siege of the Eternal City.

The event was part of the Gothic War between the Ostrogoths, who had originated on the Black Sea in the area now known as Crimea, and the Byzantine (Eastern) Empire, between 535 and 554.

Totila led a fightback by the Ostrogoths after the fall of the Gothic capital at Ravenna in 540 signalled the apparent reconquest of Italy by the Byzantines.

He had swept south with his forces and was based at Tivoli, east of Rome, as he plotted how he would recapture the region of Latium. In 545, he laid siege to the city.

Bessas, the commander of the imperial garrison charged with protecting the city, was stubborn but cruel to the Roman citizens.  Although he had a stock of grain, he would not let it be used to feed the population unless they paid for it, while at the same time refusing requests from citizens to leave the city.  He set grain prices impossibly high and many Romans starved.

Pope Vigilius, who had taken refuge in Syracuse in Sicily, sent a flotilla of grain ships in a bid to relieve the crisis but these were intercepted by Totila’s navy at the mouth of the Tiber and never reached the city.

A historical illustration said to show the army of Totila entering Rome
A historical illustration said to show the
army of Totila entering Rome
When Bessas relented and allowed citizens to leave, many were so weak with hunger they died en route to safety, either picked off by Ostrogoth soldiers or collapsing from malnutrition.

An attempt by an imperial army led by renowned general Belisarius only narrowly failed to defeat the Ostrogoth forces, its efforts hampered when Belisarius was taken ill and handed command to less-able subordinates.

Totila entered Rome on December 17, 546 after his men scaled the walls at night and opened the Asinarian Gate - the Porta Asinaria supposedly with the help of treacherous Isaurian troops from the imperial garrison who had arranged a secret pact with the Goths.

As the Goths were advancing, not knowing what resistance they would encounter, many of Bessas’s supposed defenders of the city were making their escape through another gate, leaving only about 500 soldiers still inside the walls.

In the event, resistance was minimal, with reportedly only 26 soldiers and 60 civilians killed. Rome was plundered, but Totila, having vowed the reduce the once-great city to a sheep pasture, relented and contented himself with tearing down part of the defensive walls, before moving on in pursuit of Byzantine forces in Apulia.

Yet even with most it buildings still standing, Rome was left a barren ruin. Where it boasted more than a million inhabitants during the glory days of the Empire, its population had dwindled to only a few hundred.

The Porta Asinaria was a small entrance through which farmers could enter Rome with their livestock
The Porta Asinaria was a small entrance through which
farmers could enter Rome with their livestock
Travel tip:

The Porta Asinaria (Asinarian Gate) can be found about 1.6km (1 mile) southeast of the Colosseum along the route of the Via Appia Nuova, next to the Porta San Giovanni. When Emperor Aurelian built the walls that surround Rome, there was only a posterula - a small opening for the farmers who lived outside the walls – at this location, which explains its name Asinaria (of the donkeys). It was only after the nearby Lateran Palace became the official residence of the popes that a proper gate was built, by Emperor Honorius.

The Fountain of Neptune at the Villa d'Este
The Fountain of Neptune at the Villa d'Este
Travel tip:

Tivoli, situated in the Monti Tiburtini hills about 30km (19 miles) east of Rome. Its fresher climate made it an attractive area for moneyed Romans. Nowadays it is famous for the breathtaking gardens of the Villa d’Este, complete with its 51 fountains, designed to entertain guests of Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, who had the villa built in the 16th century.  Tivoli’s other major attraction is the enormous Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa), which is not so much a villa as a small town, incorporating an array of temples, lakes, fountains, baths and other buildings so extensive that visitors need a whole day to explore.

7 February 2016

Little Tony – pop singer

Star from San Marino enjoyed a long career 

Little Tony in a scene from the 1967 film Cuore Matto (Crazy Heart)
Little Tony in a scene from the 1967 film Cuore Matto...matto
 de legare.
His song Cuore Matto was a huge hit.
Singer and actor Little Tony was born Antonio Ciacci on this day in 1941 in Tivoli near Rome.

His parents were both born in the Republic of San Marino and so Little Tony was Sammarinese and never applied for Italian citizenship.

He became successful in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Britain as the lead singer of Little Tony and His Brothers.

He had formed a group with his brothers, Alberto and Enrico, in 1957, calling himself Little Tony after the singer, Little Richard.

The brothers were signed up by a record company, who released their versions of a series of American songs in Italy.

After being invited to appear on a British TV show, they released their first single in the UK , ‘I can’t help it’, which was their 11th in Italy. Their third single, ‘Too Good’, reached No 19 in the UK singles chart in 1960.

The group returned to Italy to appear at the Sanremo Festival where they came second. Then Little Tony began working as a solo singer and film actor.

Listen to Little Tony performing his hit song Cuore Matto

His hit song Cuore matto - Crazy Heart - was number one for nine consecutive weeks in 1967.

In 1975 he recorded an album Tony canta Elvis - Tony Sings Elvis - paying tribute to Elvis Presley.

Despite suffering a heart attack in 2006, he carried on singing and his last album, poignantly entitled Non finisce qui - This is Not the End, recorded in 2008, spent a week in the Top 100 chart.

Little Tony died in 2013 at the age of 72.

The Maritime Theatre in the remains of the Villa Adriana, a UNESCO world heritage site at Tivoli
The Maritime Theatre in the remains of the Villa Adriana,
a UNESCO world heritage site at Tivoli
Travel tip:

Tivoli, where Little Tony was born, is a town in Lazio about 30 kilometres north east of Rome. It is famous as the location for Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa), a large Roman archaeological site. The villa was built for the Roman Emperor Hadrian during the second century AD as a retreat from Rome. Now a UNESCO world heritage site, the ruins are a popular tourist destination.

Find a hotel in Tivoli with

The city of San Marino, overlooked by the spectacular  Guaita fortress.
The city of San Marino, overlooked by the spectacular
fortress of Guaita.
Travel tip:

Little Tony was a citizen of the Most Serene Republic of San Marino, an independent state within Italy, situated on the north east side of the Apennine mountains and surrounded by romantic battlements and towers, which can be seen from miles away against the skyline. San Marino claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world. It is allowed to use the euro as currency, but has its own postage stamps. The republic’s football team compete in the FIFA World Cup. Every year, a festival is held on 3 September to celebrate the founding of the republic in 301.

Find San Marino hotels with

More reading:

The enduring fame of pop singer Patty Pravo

How '60s star Bobby Solo found fame after Sanremo disqualification

Eros Ramazotti - the Sanremo winner with 65 million sales

Also on this day:

1622: The birth of Vittoria della Rovere, Grand Duchess of Tuscany

1497: Firebrand preacher Savanarola's Bonfire of the Vanities

1909: The birth of Amedeo Guillet, the last army office to lead a charge against the British

(Picture credits: San Marino panorama by Jernej Gosar; Villa Adriana by Marie-Lan Nguyen)