Sacred Music in Venice
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1666 - 1733
1666 – 1733
Antonio Biffi (Venezia, 1666 – Venezia, 1733) è stato un compositore e contraltista italiano.
Studiò presumibilmente sotto l’insegnamento di Giovanni Legrenzi e il 6 luglio 1692 entrò come contralto nel coro della cappella della Basilica di San Marco. Dopo appena una settimana i procuratori gli affidarono il compito di assistere l’allora maestro di cappella Gian Domenico Partenio. Dopo la morte di quest’ultimo avvenuta nel 1701, Biffi presentò istanza per ottenere il posto vacante; oltre a lui gli altri pretendenti erano: il vice-maestro di cappella Carlo Francesco Pollarolo, Antonio Lotti e Benedetto Vinaccesi, allora ambedue organisti della Basilica. Venne scelto Biffi e fu ufficialmente nominato il 5 febbraio 1702; mantenne la carica di direttore della cappella sino alla morte. Inoltre succedette a Partenio nella posizione di direttore e maestro del coro del Conservatorio dei Mendicanti. Tra i suoi allievi ebbe Giovanni Battista Ferrandini e forse Daniel Gottlob Treu.
Le composizioni di Biffi, prevalentemente musica sacra, sono in genere influenzate dalla scuola veneziana, la quale è caratterizzata da una musica particolarmente espressiva e ricca di colore. Nonostante queste influenze siano “moderate” dalla più sobria scuola romana, egli tende all’uso dello stile concertato, ponendo in secondo piano l’uso del contrappunto.
1667 - 1740
Antonio Lotti (ca. 1667 – 5 January 1740) was an Italian composer of classical music.
Lotti was born in Venice, although his father Matteo was Kapellmeister at Hanover at the time.1 In 1682, Lotti began studying with Lodovico Fuga and Giovanni Legrenzi, both of whom were employed at St Mark’s Basilica, Venice’s principal church. Lotti made his career at St Mark’s, first as an alto singer (from 1689), then as assistant to the second organist, then as second organist (from 1692), then (from 1704) as first organist, and finally (from 1736) as maestro di cappella, a position he held until his death. He also wrote music for, and taught at, the Ospedale degli Incurabili. In 1717 he was given leave to go to Dresden, where a number of his operas were produced, including Giove in Argo, Teofane and Li quattro elementi (all with librettos by Antonio Maria Luchini).2 Other works written in Venice include Giustino; Trionfo dell’Innocenza; the first act of Tirsi, Achille Placato, Teuzzone, Ama più che non si crede, Il comando inteso e tradito, Sidonio, Isaccio tiranno, La forze de sangue, Il Tradimento traditore di sè stesso, L’Infedeltà punita, Poresenna, Irene Augusta, Polidoro, Foca superbo, Alessandro Severo, Il Vincitore Generossi. In Dresden, he wrote Odii del Sangue delusi. He returned to Venice in 1719 and remained there until his death in 1740.3
Lotti wrote in a variety of forms, producing masses, cantatas, madrigals, around thirty operas, and instrumental music. His sacred choral works are often unaccompanied (a cappella). His work is considered a bridge between the established Baroque and emerging Classical styles. Lotti is thought to have influenced Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, and Johann Dismas Zelenka, all of whom had copies of Lotti’s mass, the Missa Sapientiae.
Lotti was a notable teacher, with Domenico Alberti, Benedetto Marcello, Baldassare Galuppi, Giuseppe Saratelli and Johann Dismas Zelenka among his pupils. He was married to the noted soprano Santa Stella.
1670 - 1736
Antonio Caldara (1670 – 28 December 1736) was an Italian Baroque composer.
Caldara was born in Venice (exact date unknown), the son of a violinist. He became a chorister at St Mark’s in Venice, where he learned several instruments, probably under the instruction of Giovanni Legrenzi. In 1699 he relocated to Mantua, where he became maestro di cappella to the inept Charles IV, Duke of Mantua, a pensionary of France with a French wife, who took the French side in the War of the Spanish Succession. Caldara removed from Mantua in 1707, after the French were expelled from Italy, then moved on to Barcelona as chamber composer to Charles VI of Austria, the pretender to the Spanish throne who kept a royal court at Barcelona. There, he wrote some operas that are the first Italian operas performed in Spain. He moved on to Rome, becoming maestro di cappella to Francesco Maria Marescotti Ruspoli, 1st Prince of Cerveteri. While there he wrote in 1710 La costanza in amor vince l’inganno (Faithfulness in Love Defeats Treachery) for the public theatre at Macerata. In 1716, he obtained a similar post in Vienna to serve the Imperial Court, and there he remained until his death.
Caldara is best known as a composer of operas, cantatas and oratorios. Several of his works have libretti by Metastasio.
1678 - 1741
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741), nicknamed il Prete Rosso (“The Red Priest”) because of his red hair, was an Italian Baroque composer, Catholic priest, and virtuoso violinist, born in Venice. Recognized as one of the greatest Baroque composers, his influence during his lifetime was widespread over Europe. Vivaldi is known mainly for composing instrumental concertos, especially for the violin, as well as sacred choral works and over forty operas. His best known work is a series of violin concertos known as The Four Seasons.
Many of his compositions were written for the female music ensemble of the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned children where Vivaldi had been employed from 1703 to 1715 and from 1723 to 1740. Vivaldi also had some success with stagings of his operas in Venice, Mantua and Vienna. After meeting the Emperor Charles VI, Vivaldi moved to Vienna, hoping for preferment. The Emperor died soon after Vivaldi’s arrival.
Though Vivaldi’s music was well received during his lifetime, it later declined in popularity until its vigorous revival in the first half of the 20th century. Today, Vivaldi ranks among the most popular and widely recorded of Baroque composers.
1686 - 1768
Nicola (Antonio) Porpora (or Niccolò Porpora) (17 August 1686 – 3 March 1768) was an Italian composer of Baroque operas (see opera seria) and teacher of singing, whose most famous singing student was the castrato Farinelli. Other students included composers Matteo Capranica and Joseph Haydn.
Porpora was born in Naples. He graduated from the music conservatory Poveri di Gesù Cristo of his native city, where the civic opera scene was dominated by Alessandro Scarlatti.
Porpora’s first opera, Agrippina, was successfully performed at the Neapolitan court in 1708. His second, Berenice, was performed at Rome. In a long career, he followed these up by many further operas, supported as maestro di cappella in the households of aristocratic patrons, such as the commander of military forces at Naples, prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt, or of the Portuguese ambassador at Rome, for composing operas alone did not yet make a viable career. However, his enduring fame rests chiefly upon his unequalled power of teaching singing. At the Neapolitan Conservatorio di Sant’Onofrio and with the Poveri di Gesù Cristo he trained Farinelli, Caffarelli, Salimbeni, and other celebrated vocalists, during the period 1715 to 1721. In 1720 and 1721 he wrote two serenades to libretti by a gifted young poet, Metastasio, the beginning of a long, though interrupted, collaboration. In 1722 his operatic successes encouraged him to lay down his conservatory commitments.
After a rebuff from the court of Charles VI at Vienna in 1725, Porpora settled mostly in Venice, composing and teaching regularly in the schools of La Pietà and the Incurabili. In 1729 the anti-Handel clique invited him to London to set up an opera company as a rival to Handel’s, without success, and in the 1733-1734 season, even the presence of his pupil, the great Farinelli, failed to save the dramatic company in Lincoln’s Inn Fields (the “Opera of the Nobility”) from bankruptcy.
An interval as Kapellmeister at the Dresden court of the Elector of Saxony from 1748 ended in strained relations with his rival in Venice and Rome, the hugely successful opera composer Johann Adolph Hasse and his wife, the prima donna Faustina, and resulted in Porpora’s departure in 1752.
From Dresden he went to Vienna, where among other pupils he trained the young Marianne von Martinez, a future composer. As his accompanist and valet he hired the youthful Joseph Haydn, who was making his way in Vienna as a struggling freelancer. Haydn later remembered Porpora thus: “There was no lack of Asino, Coglione, Birbante [ass, cullion, rascal], and pokes in the ribs, but I put up with it all, for I profited greatly from Porpora in singing, in composition, and in the Italian language.” He also said that he had learned from the maestro “the true fundamentals of composition”.
In 1753 Porpora spent three summer months, with Haydn in tow, at the spa town Mannersdorf am Leithagebirge. His function there was to continue the singing lessons of the mistress of the ambassador of Venice to the Austrian Empire, Pietro Correr.
Porpora returned in 1759 to Naples.
From this time Porpora’s career was a series of misfortunes: his florid style was becoming old-fashioned, his last opera, Camilla, failed, his pension from Dresden stopped, and he became so poor that the expenses of his funeral were paid by a subscription concert. Yet at the moment of his death, Farinelli and Caffarelli were living in splendid retirement on fortunes largely based on the excellence of the old maestro’s teaching.
A good linguist, who was admired for the idiomatic fluency of his recitatives, and a man of considerable literary culture, Porpora was also celebrated for his conversational wit. He was well-read in Latin and Italian literature, wrote poetry and spoke French, German and English.
1686 - 1739
Benedetto Giacomo Marcello 31 July or 1 August 1686 – 24 July 1739) was an Italian composer, writer, advocate, magistrate, and teacher.
Born in Venice, Benedetto Marcello was a member of a noble family and his compositions are frequently referred to as Patrizio Veneto. Although he was a music student of Antonio Lotti and Francesco Gasparini, his father wanted Benedetto to devote himself to law. Benedetto managed to combine a life in law and public service with one in music. In 1711 he was appointed a member of the Council of Forty (in Venice’s central government), and in 1730 he went to Pola as Provveditore (district governor). Due to his health having been “impaired by the climate” of Istria, Marcello retired after eight years to Brescia in the capacity of Camerlengo where he died of tuberculosis in 1739.
Benedetto Marcello was the brother of Alessandro Marcello, also a notable composer. On 20 May 1728 Benedetto Marcello married his singing student Rosanna Scalfi in a secret ceremony. However, as a nobleman his marriage to a commoner was unlawful and after Marcello’s death the marriage was declared null by the state. Rosanna was unable to inherit his estate, and filed suit in 1742 against Benedetto’s brother Alessandro Marcello, seeking financial support.
Marcello composed a variety of music including considerable church music, oratorios, hundreds of solo cantatas, duets, sonatas, concertos and sinfonias. Marcello was a younger contemporary of Antonio Vivaldi in Venice and his instrumental music enjoys a Vivaldian flavor.
As a composer, Marcello was best known in his lifetime and is now still best remembered for his Estro poetico-armonico (Venice, 1724–1727), a musical setting for voices, figured bass (a continuo notation), and occasional solo instruments, of the first fifty Psalms, as paraphrased in Italian by his friend G. Giustiniani. They were much admired by Charles Avison, who with John Garth brought out an edition with English words (London, 1757).
The library of the Brussels Conservatoire possesses some interesting volumes of chamber cantatas composed by Marcello for his mistress. Although Benedetto Marcello wrote an opera called La Fede riconosciuta and produced it in Vicenza in 1702, he had little sympathy with this form of composition, as evidenced in his writings.
Benedetto Marcello’s music is “characterized by imagination and a fine technique and includes both counterpoint and progressive, galant features” (Grove, 1994).
With the poet Antonio Conti he wrote a series of experimental long cantatas – a duet, Il Timoteo, then five monologues, Cantone, Lucrezia, Andromaca, Arianna abandonnata, and finally Cassandra.
Marcello vented his opinions on the state of musical drama at the time in the satirical pamphlet Il teatro alla moda, published anonymously in Venice in 1720. This little work, which was frequently reprinted, is not only extremely amusing, but is most valuable as a contribution to the history of opera.
1699 - 1783
Johann Adolph Hasse (baptised 25 March 1699 in Bergedorf, Germany – 16 December 1783 in Venice) was an 18th-century German composer, singer and teacher of music. Immensely popular in his time, Hasse was best known for his prolific operatic output, though he also composed a considerable quantity of sacred music. Married to soprano Faustina Bordoni and a great friend of librettist Pietro Metastasio, whose libretti he frequently set, Hasse was a pivotal figure in the development of opera seria and 18th-century music.
Hasse was born in Bergedorf, near Hamburg.
Hasse’s career began in singing, when he joined the Hamburg Opera (his family, who were traditionally church musicians, came from near Hamburg) in 1718 as a tenor. In 1719 he obtained a singing post at the court of Brunswick, where in 1721 his first opera, Antioco, was performed; Hasse himself sang in the production.
He is thought to have left Germany during 1722. During the 1720s he lived mostly in Naples, dwelling there for six or seven years. In 1725 his serenata Antonio e Cleopatra, was performed at Naples; the principal roles were sung by Carlo Broschi, better known as Farinelli, and Vittoria Tesi. The success of this work not only earned Hasse many commissions from Naples’s opera houses, but also, according to Quantz, brought him into contact with Alessandro Scarlatti, who became his teacher and friend; Hasse also altered his style in several respects to reflect that of Scarlatti.
Hasse’s popularity in Naples increased dramatically and for several years his workload kept him extremely busy. In this period he composed his only full opera buffa, La sorella amante, in addition to several intermezzi and serenatas. He visited the Venetian Carnival of 1730, where his opera Artaserse was performed at S Giovanni Grisostomo. Metastasio’s libretto was heavily reworked for the occasion, and Farinelli took a leading role. Two of his arias from this opera he later performed every night for a decade for Philip V of Spain.
In 1730 Hasse married Faustina Bordoni, and was also appointed Kapellmeister at the Dresden court, though he did not arrive at Dresden until July 1731; earlier in the year he had been active at Vienna, supervising a performance of his oratorio Daniello at the court of the Habsburgs. Soon after the couple’s arrival in Dresden, Faustina performed before the court. In September Hasse’s Cleofide (set to a highly adapted Metastasio text) was given its premiere; it seems possible that J. S. Bach attended the performance; certainly C. P. E. Bach claimed that Hasse and his father had become good friends around this time.
In October Hasse left Dresden to direct premieres of his next operas at Turin and Rome, and he also wrote music for the Venetian theatres at this time. Come the autumn of 1732 and Hasse was at Naples again, though he spent the winter at Venice where his Siroe was first performed in particularly lavish style. In February 1733 Augustus the Strong of Poland and Saxony, Hasse’s early royal patron at Dresden, died. As the court went into a year of mourning, Hasse was permitted to remain abroad. Many of his sacred works, composed for Venice’s churches, date to this time.
For much of 1734 Hasse was at Dresden, but from 1735 until 1737 he was in Italy, largely at Naples. Faustina performed in the September 1735 premiere of Tito Vespasiano (another adapted Metastsio libretto) at Pesaro. Returning to the royal court in Dresden during 1737 Hasse composed five new operas, but when the court moved to Poland in the autumn of 1738 he and Faustina came back to Venice, where both of them were extremely popular. His next stay in Dresden was also his longest, between the first months of 1740 and January 1744. In this time he revised Artaserse, composing new arias for Faustina, and also wrote a couple of original intermezzi. His general avoidance of comic opera seems to have been due to Faustina, who feared that the style of singing demanded by opera buffa would damage her voice.
Between the winter of 1744 and late summer 1745, Hasse was in Italy, but then returned to Dresden for a year. Frederick the Great, a keen flute player, visited the court in December 1745, and it is likely that many of Hasse’s flute sonatas and concertos that date to this time were written for Frederick. The King of Prussia was also present at a performance of one of Hasse’s Te Deums, and himself ordered a performance of the composer’s opera Arminio. Soon after Hasse visited Venice and Munich, returning to Dresden in June 1747 to stage his opera La spartana generosa, performed to celebrate multiple royal weddings at this time. Also at this time the hierarchy at Dresden was restructured; Nicola Porpora was named Kapellmeister, while Hasse himself was promoted to Oberkapellmeister.
In 1748 Hasse performed two of his operas, Ezio and Artaserse, in Bayreuth in the half finished Markgräfliches Opernhaus, because of the marriage of Elisabeth Fredericka Sophie of Brandenburg-Bayreuth, the daughter of Wilhelmine of Bayreuth. The marriage of princess Maria Josepha of Saxony to the French Dauphin gave Hasse the opportunity to journey to Paris in the summer of 1750, where his Didone abbandonata was performed.
The 1751 Carnival in Dresden saw the retirement of Faustina from operatic performance. Hasse continued to produce new operas throughout the decade, including a setting of Metastasio’s Il re pastore, a text later used by Mozart. In 1756 the Seven Years’ War compelled the court at Dresden to move to Warsaw, though Hasse himself lived mostly in Italy, travelling to Poland solely to supervise productions of his operas, if at all. In the autumn of 1760 he moved to Vienna, where he stayed for the next two years, returning to Dresden in 1763 to find much of his home destroyed and the musical apparatus of the court opera wrecked. Hasse’s main patron at Dresden, king Augustus III of Poland and Saxony died soon after and his successor, who also died quickly, deemed elaborate musical events at the court superfluous. Hasse and Faustina were paid two years’ salary but given no pension.
In 1764 Hasse travelled to Vienna, where the coronation of Joseph II was marked by a performance of his festa teatrale Egeria, again set to a libretto by Metastasio. For the most part, he remained at Vienna until 1773. Mozart was present at a performance of his Partenope in September 1767.
At this time operatic style was undergoing significant change, and the model of opera seria that Hasse and Metastasio had settled found itself assailed by the threat of the reforms of Christoph Willibald Gluck and Ranieri de’ Calzabigi, as laid down in the music and libretto for Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice. Charles Burney, visiting Vienna in 1773, reported on the debate.
Party runs as high among poets, musicians and their adherents, at Vienna as elsewhere. Metastasio and Hasse, may be said, to be at the head of one of the principal sects; and Calsabigi and Gluck of another. The first, regarding all innovations as quackery, adhere to the ancient form of the musical drama, in which the poet and musician claim equal attention from an audience; the bard in the recitatives and narrative parts; and the composer in the airs, duos and choruses. The second party depend more on theatrical effects, propriety of character, simplicity of diction, and of musical execution, than on, what they style flowery description, superfluous similes, sententious and cold morality, on one side, with tiresome symphonies, and long divisions, on the other.
Finding his music under siege from an avant-garde surge in a new direction, Hasse left Vienna in 1773 and spent the final ten years of his life in Venice, teaching and composing sacred works. Faustina died in November 1781, and Hasse himself, after a long period of suffering from arthritis, just over two years later. He was almost completely ignored after his death, until F. S. Kandler paid for his gravestone in Venice, where he is buried, and authored a biography of Hasse in 1820.
1706 - 1785
Baldassare Galuppi (18 October 1706 – 3 January 1785) was an Italian composer, born on the island of Burano in the Venetian Republic. He achieved international success, spending periods of his career in London and Saint Petersburg, but his main base remained Venice, where he held a succession of leading appointments.
Galuppi was born on the island of Burano in the Venetian Lagoon, and was widely known as “Il Buranello.” His father was a barber, who also played the violin in theatre orchestras, and is believed to have been his son’s first music teacher. At the age of 15 he composed his first opera, Gli amici rivali, which was performed unsuccessfully at Chioggia and equally unsuccessfully in Vicenza under the title La fede nell’incostanza.
Galuppi took lessons in composition and harpsichord from Antonio Lotti, the chief organist at St Mark’s Basilica. From 1726 to 1728, he was harpsichordist at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence. On his return to Venice in 1728, he produced a second opera, Gl’odi delusi dal sangue, written in collaboration with another Lotti pupil, Giovanni Battista Pescetti; it was well received when it was presented at the Teatro San Angelo. The collaborators followed it with an opera seria, Dorinda, the next year. This, too, was modestly successful, and Galuppi began to receive commissions for operas and oratorios.
In 1740, Galuppi was appointed director of music at the Ospedale dei Mendicanti in Venice, where his duties ranged from teaching and conducting to composing liturgical music and oratorios. In his first year of service at the Mendicanti, he composed 31 works: 16 motets, 13 settings of the Salve Regina, and two psalm settings. Although he became internationally known as an operatic composer, he maintained a steady output of religious music throughout his career.
After Galuppi’s death his music was largely forgotten. Some of Galuppi’s pieces were occasionally performed in the 200 years after his death, but it was not until the last years of the 20th century that his works were extensively revived in live performance and on record.
In 1741 Galuppi was invited to work in London. He asked the Mendicanti authorities for leave of absence, to which they reluctantly agreed. He was in England for 18 months, supervising productions for the Italian opera company at the King’s Theatre. Of the 11 operas under his direction, three were his own compositions, Penelope, Scipion in Cartagen and Sirbace; a fourth was presented shortly after he left London to return to Venice. Handel attended one of these productions and was not greatly impressed. Galuppi also attracted attention as a keyboard virtuoso and composer. His contemporary, the English musicologist Charles Burney, wrote that “Galuppi had had more influence on English music than any other Italian composer”. However, in Burney’s view Galuppi’s skills were still immature during his spell in London. Burney wrote, “He now copied the hasty, light and flimsy style which reigned in Italy at this time, and which Handel’s solidity and science had taught the English to despise.”
On his return to Venice in May 1743, Galuppi returned to his employment with the Mendicanti, and to composing for the opera houses. The operatic fashion in Venice was on the point of changing from generally serious opera to a new style of comic opera, dramma giocoso. Full-length comic operas from Naples and Rome were becoming fashionable; Galuppi adapted three of them for Venetian audiences in 1744, and the following year composed one of his own, La forza d’amore, which was only a mild success. He continued to compose serious operas, sometimes in uneasy partnership with the librettist Metastasio.
In May 1748 Galuppi was appointed vice-maestro of the Doge’s chapel, St Mark’s. In time this would lead to a large body of religious compositions, but for the present Galuppi was chiefly engaged in operatic work. It is not clear why he accepted the post at St Mark’s. The musicologist Denis Arnold writes, “He was already a very successful opera composer and with his duties at the Mendicanti he must have had enough to do. The salary at St Mark’s was only 120 ducats. … At this time it was not a very distinguished cappella. The choir probably numbered about 30; but since their posts continued up to death, a fair proportion of the singers were old.”
Galuppi was fortunate that when he turned once more to comic opera in 1749 he collaborated with Carlo Goldoni. Although an established and eminent playwright by the time he worked with Galuppi, Goldoni was happy for his libretti to be subservient to the music. He was as warm in his regard for Galuppi as Metastasio was cold. Their first collaboration was Arcadia in Brenta followed by four more joint works within a year. They were enormously popular at home and abroad, and to meet the demand for new drammi giocosi and opere serie Galuppi had to resign his post at the Mendicanti in 1751. By the middle of the 1750s he was, in the words of his biographer Dale Monson, “the most popular opera composer anywhere”.
For the next ten years, Galuppi remained in Venice, with occasional sorties elsewhere for commissions and premieres, producing a series of secular and religious works. His operas, serious or comic, were in demand across Europe. Of the British premiere of Il filosofo di campagna in 1761 Burney wrote, “This burletta surpassed in musical merit all the comic operas that were performed in England, till the Buona Figliuola.”
In April 1762 Galuppi was appointed to the leading musical post in Venice, maestro di capella of St Mark’s, and in July of the same year he was also appointed maestro di coro at the Ospedale degli Incurabili, at whose school he had been educated. At St Mark’s, he set about reforming the choir. He persuaded the Basilica authorities, the Procurators, to be more flexible in payments to singers, allowing him to attract performers with first-rate voices such as Gaetano Guadagni and Gasparo Pacchiarotti.
Early in 1764 Catherine the Great of Russia made it known through diplomatic channels that she wished Galuppi to come to Saint Petersburg as her court composer and conductor. There were prolonged negotiations between Russia and the Venetian authorities before the Senate of Venice agreed to release Galuppi for a three-year engagement at the Russian court. The contract required him to “compose and produce operas, ballets and cantatas for ceremonial banquets”, at a salary of 4,000 roubles and the provision of accommodation and a carriage. Galuppi was reluctant, but Venetian officials assured him that his post and salary as maestro di cappella at St. Mark’s were secure until 1768 as long as he supplied a Gloria and a Credo for the Basilica’s Christmas mass each year.
In June 1764 the senate granted Galuppi formal leave to go. He resigned his post at the Incurabili, made provision for his wife and daughters (who were to remain in Venice, while his son travelled with him), and set off for Russia. He made detours on his journey, visiting C.P.E. Bach and Giacomo Casanova, before arriving in Saint Petersburg on 22 September 1765.
For the empress’s court, Galuppi composed new works, both operatic and liturgical, and revived and revised many others. He wrote two operas there, Il re pastore (1766) and Ifigenia in Tauride (1768), and two cantatas, La virtù liberata (1765) and La pace tra la virtù e la belezza, the latter to words by Metastasio. In addition to the work for which he had been contracted, Galuppi gave weekly recitals at the harpsichord, and sometimes conducted orchestral concerts. To improve standards he was a hard taskmaster to the court orchestra, but was from the outset enormously impressed by the court choir. He is reported to have exclaimed, “I’d never heard such a magnificent choir in Italy”. Galuppi took pride in his prestigious appointments; the title page of his 1766 Christmas mass for St Mark’s describes him as: “First Master and Director of all the Music for Her Imperial Majesty the Empress of all the Russias, etc. etc. and First Master of the Ducal Chapel of St. Mark’s in Venice.” In 1768, as had been agreed, he returned to Venice, detouring again on his journey, this time to visit Johann Adolph Hasse in Vienna.
On his return to Venice, Galuppi resumed his duties at St Mark’s and successfully applied for reappointment at the Incurabili, holding the post until 1776, when financial constraints obliged all the ospedali to cut back their musical activities. In his later years he wrote more sacred than secular music. His output continued to be considerable in both quantity and quality. Burney, who visited him in Venice, wrote in 1771:
The last opera by Galuppi was La serva per amore, premiered in October 1773. In May 1782 he conducted concerts to mark a papal visit to Venice by Pope Pius VI. Thereafter he continued to compose, despite declining health. His last completed work was the 1784 Christmas mass for St Mark’s.
After a two-month illness, Galuppi died on 3 January 1785. He was buried in the church of S Vitale, and, much mourned, was commemorated by a requiem mass “solemnized in the church of S Stefano, paid for by professional musicians, at which the actors of the Teatro S Benedetto sang”.
Il teatro alla moda (The Fashionable Theater) is a satirical pamphlet in which its author, the Venetian composer Benedetto Marcello (1686–1739), vents his critical opinions on the milieu of the Italian opera seria in the first decades of the eighteenth century. It was first published anonymously in Venice, by the end of 1720. Virtually every aspect of opera seria and its social environment is mercilessly criticized by Marcello: the artificiality of plots, the stereotyped format of music, the extravagant scenography and machinery, the inability and venality of composers and poets, the vanity and vulgarity of singers, the avidity of impresarios, the ineptitude of musicians.
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