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Giovanni Pacini

Rossini Thought Him Italy’s Best Composer

by Stefan Zucker

Giovanni Pacini was born in Catania on February 17, 1796. His father, Luigi, was a well-known tenor who became a basso buffo, creating Geronio in Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia. An uncle was a ballet dancer, another a choreographer as well. Giovanni studied singing with the celebrated castrato Marchesi in Bologna. Turning to composition, he studied harmony and counterpoint with Rossini’s teacher Padre Mattei, later with the composer Furlanetto. His first performed farsa, Annetta e Lucindo, 1813, was a success, and over the next four years he composed about a dozen others. His 1817 opera semiseria Adelaide e Comingio established him as a major composer. The opera of his 1818 La Scala debut, Il barone di Dolsheim, ran 47 performances. In 1820 he helped Rossini meet a deadline by ghosting three scenes for Matilde di Shabran. He entered into a liaison with Napoleon’s sister Princess Pauline Borghese, which he escaped by precipitately marrying one Adelaide Castelli in 1825. His Cesare in Egitto, 1821, was well received in Rome, and his Alessandro nelle Indie and L’ultimo giorno di Pompei triumphed wildly at the San Carlo in 1824 and ’25. Appointed music director of that theater then, he had dealings with Bellini, who came to dislike him. Pacini’s Niobe, 1826, Gli Arabi nelle Gallie, 1827, and I fidanzati, 1829, were highly successful. Nevertheless, looking back on this period of his career 40 years later, he wrote in Le mie memorie artistiche:

Everyone followed the same school, the same veins, as a consequence they were imitators . . . of the great star. But, good God! What else was to be done but imitate Rossini if there was no other means by which to sustain oneself. If I was therefore a follower of the supreme Pesarese [that is to say, of Rossini, who was born in Pesaro], the others [the other composers active in Italy through the mid-1820s] were my equals. . . . I had to fight always and always again with that colossus, yet if you wanted to sustain yourself, there was no other road to take. . . . Rossini was always for me a fountain of indefinable admiration; but I well recognized that following him I would not be other than a most servile imitator.

His wife having died in 1828, Pacini had an affair with the wealthy and powerful Russian countess Giulia Samoilov, who consequently connived against Bellini—so it was believed—at the first performances of Norma. Several Pacini operas premiered 1830-33 met with mixed receptions. In his memoirs he says, “I began to be aware that I ought to withdraw from the arena: Bellini, the divine Bellini, and Donizetti had surpassed me.” Bellini—to the extent that he ever really was under it—and then Donizetti had succeeded in throwing off the Rossinian yoke.

In Viareggio Pacini founded a music school, for which he built an opera theater and wrote sacred music, a harmony treatise and other theoretical works. In 1842 he became the first director of a new music institute in Lucca, uniting all the music schools of the duchy. After a first attempt at a return to opera with the tragedy Furio Camillo (dedicated to the Countess Samoilov), 1839, he subjugated Naples with his best-remembered work, Saffo, 1840. His music from this period manifests Bellini’s influence, though he himself did not admit it. In his words, “My style from Saffo on didn’t suffer alteration, and my tendencies that looked always to the impassioned—tendencies that were pronounced in me from my first years—were developed thanks to the reading of the classics of every school.” La fidanzata corsa, 1842, and, in 1843, Maria, regina d’Inghilterra and Medea were all successful. Palermo erected a statue to him alongside that of the dead Bellini.

Notwithstanding a marriage to singer Marietta Albini, he remained intimate with the Countess Samoilov. Her pro-Austrian sympathies and Verdi’s rapid rise turned Milan against him, but his 1845 operas Lorenzino de’ Medici and Buondelmonte succeeded in Venice and Florence. Another triumph, La regina di Cipro, Turin, 1846, embodied, by his account, despite his just-quoted statement, a partial return to his earlier manner. Verdi’s rivalry increasingly embittered his later years, his last major success, Il saltimbanco, Rome, 1858. His second wife died and he married again, spending the remainder of his life in Pescia writing instrumental music and the memoirs. He died on December 6, 1867, survived by five of nine children (three by each wife) and a brother, Emilio, 1810-98, a librettist.

Known as “il maestro della cabaletta,” Pacini was a wellspring of melody. However, he himself declared, “I gave little thought to honoring myself and my art as I should have done. . . . My instrumentation was never careful enough. . . . I often neglected the strings, nor did I bother much about the effects that might be drawn from the other instrumental groups.” His autograph scores testify to his haste and carelessness, though, in his word, he fastidiously “tailored” his music to the abilities of his interpreters. At a performance of an earlier-manner Pacini opera, Donizetti exclaimed to Rossini, “It’s a pity he lacks the real technique of composing!” “It’s too bad, you say?” responded Rossini; “If he didn’t lack the technique, that one would have left all the others behind, with the ease he has of writing.” Bellini wrote that Rossini was reported to have said, “The composer with the most genius in Italy is Pacini, and for the working out of pieces Donizetti.” In Verdi’s judgment, “Pacini was a very prolific extemporizer, . . . good in appearances, but not always in content. It can be said of him that he was in music what in literature is called ‘an old versifier.’ In this respect he had many points in common with Petrella, to whom he always remained superior because of his dramatic power. In fact, in all his operas Petrella has not a single piece to compare with the finale of Saffo.” Pacini composed more than 90 operas, as well as a vast quantity of oratorios, masses, cantatas, requiems, a “Dante Symphony,” chamber music and songs. He wrote articles for the music gazettes of Florence, Milan and Naples as well as for the newspapers Boccherini, La scena. L’arpa and Il pirata.

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Saverio Mercadante

Liszt thought him Italy’s best composer

by Stefan Zucker

Who wrote an opera set against a priestly background, with a triumphal scene and the chief character dying in a tomb? Here’s a hint:


Well, yes, Verdi. But what’s this? The original words aren’t “Ritorna vincitor” but “De’Galli vincitor.” An earlier version, surely. No! The opera in question is Mercadante’s La vestale, the clamorously successful world premiere of which Verdi witnessed in Genoa in 1841. A critic, Amintore Galli, declared that Mercadante merely “served as Verdi’s footstool.” But as recent revivals have shown, his best works are genuinely compelling.

Giuseppe Saverio Raffaele Mercadante was born a bastard in Altamura, near Bari. The exact date is unknown; however, he was baptized September 17, 1795. He moved to Naples with his family at about age 11. In 1808, seeking free tuition at the city’s San Sebastiano conservatory but being too old and not a local citizen, he claimed his first name was Francesco and that he was born a Neapolitan in 1797–which he upheld for much of his life.

At the San Sebastiano he studied solfeggio, violin and flute, also figured bass and harmony with Furno and counterpoint with Tritto, who both later taught Bellini. From 1816-20 he became the prize student of Zingarelli, the conservatory’s director, who shortly thereafter became Bellini’s principal teacher. Rossini, then director of the San Carlo, wrote to Zingarelli, “My compliments: your young pupil Mercadante begins where we leave off.” Zingarelli thought Rossini’s musical influence so pernicious that he had forbidden the San Sebastiano composition students even to read the scores of his operas–a ban he had to rescind in late 1815 at the command of King Ferdinand, after the triumph of Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra. In Mercadante’s first operas the vocal lines seldom consist of coloratura lacking in melodic nucleus, as is sometimes true in Rossini. To my ears, however, his first major success, his seventh opera, the 1821 Elisa e Claudio,seems Rossinian but boring.

Through 1818 Mercadante devoted himself to instrumental music almost exclusively. After the success of the third of his three 1818 ballets written for the San Carlo, ll flauto incantato, a critic urged him to renounce “sterile symphonies” in favor of vocal music. Naples applauded his first opera, L’apoteosi d’Ercole, San Carlo, 1819. In 1820 he wrote two operas for Naples and two for Rome. Elisa e Claudio with which he made his La Scala debut, ran for 30 successive nights and six months later for 28 more. His next work for La Scala was the 1822 melodramma semiserio Il posto abbandonato, ossia Adele ed Emerico, which he thought well enough of to revise for some Spanish performances six years later. He took charge of the Vienna premiere of Elisa e Claudio, in 1823, staying to write three operas, poorly received. His next big success was Caritea, regina di Spagna, 1826, in Venice. According to the Italian critic Rodolfo Celletti, Caritea “initiates the strain of Iyrical pathos later conspicuous in Il pirata, I Capuleti, Anna Bolena, Parisina, Lucia and subsequent works. It shows the first significant step Mercadante took away from Rossini’s style and the influence he would have on Bellini and Donizetti.”

For the next five years Mercadante’s activities centered on Spain and Portugal, with several of his projects thwarted by contractual and political difficulties. His Gabriella di Vergy, 1828, later enjoyed an Italian vogue in a revised version. Other works at this time included Don Chisciotte and Francesca da Rimini. In 1830 he was the director of Madrid’s Italian opera.

Rossini’s view was that attempts at slavishly capturing words in music resulted in music devoid of interest independent of the words. However, before 1830, Bellini in particular had become obsessed with composing so as to “express words with the utmost exactness.” Back in Italy in 1831 Mercadante also turned to word setting, premiering Zaira in Naples that year (to the same Romani libretto Bellini had used in 1829) and, to great acclaim, I Normanni a Parigi in Turin, the next. Also in 1832 he married Sofia Gambaro, a widow, in Genoa, fathering a daughter and two sons. In ’33 he succeeded composer Pietro Generali as maestro di cappella to the Novara Cathedral, for which over the next seven years he wrote a substantial amount of sacred music. In 1835 he journeyed to Paris at Rossini’s invitation to write an opera for the Théâtre-Italien. Romani didn’t furnish a libretto as scheduled, so Mercadante quickly composed to one supplied by Crescini. The result, I briganti, failed, though the lead singers were the “Puritani” quartet, Grisi, Rubini, Tamburini and Lablache. While in Paris, Mercadante is generally thought to have come under the spell of Meyerbeer, whose Les Huguenots was produced at the Opéra in February 1836.

On March 11, 1837, at La Scala, Mercadante premiered his most famous work, Il giuramento, to a libretto by Rossi based on Hugo’s Angelo (on the same subject as Ponchielli’s La Gioconda). Mercadante’s next operas consolidated his fame, Le due illustre rivali, Elena da Feltre, Il bravo–a brilliant triumph at La Scala in 1839–and La vestale. During the composition of Elena da Feltre, he wrote to Florimo,

I have continued the revolution begun with Il giuramento: varied the forms, banished trivial cabalettas, exiled [Rossinian] crescendos, short tessitura, fewer repeats, some novelty in the cadences, care with the dramatic part, orchestra rich without covering the singing, no long solos in the ensembles, which force the other parts to be cold to the detriment of the action; little bass drum and still less brass band.

About this time Mercadante lost the sight of one eye. He became totally blind in 1862, after which he dictated his many compositions. In 1839 he became music director of Lanciano Cathedral. Rossini offered him the directorship of Bologna’s Liceo Musicale; he accepted, only to renege to become director of the San Pietro a Majella–the former San Sebastiano in 1840, succeeding Zingarelli. (Rossini then offered the Bologna post unsuccessfully to Donizetti and Pacini.) Among Mercadante’s most notable later operas are Orazi e Curiazi, a sensation at the San Carlo in 1846, Pelagio, a hit there in 1857, and a favorite of mine, Virginia, composed in 1850, proscribed by the censors because of its theme of political corruption and finally given with revised music at the San Carlo in 1866, to ecstatic acclaim.

The relationship between Mercadante and Verdi was complex and stormy. Verdi enlisted Mercadante to oversee the casting of the first Naples Macbeth in 1848. In 1853 Mercadante unsuccessfully endeavored to have the Neapolitan censors prohibit the last two acts of Il trovatore. Nevertheless, in 1868, when Verdi was attempting to organize a multi-composer requiem in memory of Rossini, he put Mercadante at the top of the list of contributors, “even for a few measures.” (The project foundered.)

Mercadante died in Naples, December 17, 1870, greatly venerated. His output totaled about 60 operas, four ballets, much chamber music, 21 masses, and a great quantity of other sacred works, orchestral fantasies, funeral symphonies to Donizetti, Bellini, Pacini and Rossini, selections for violin and piano, solfeggios and a substantial outpouring of songs.

Mercadante didn’t always carry out his reforms with invention. In some cases, as the German musicologist Friedrich Lippmann remarks, he simply omitted the cabalettas, without replacing them with new structures. Lippmann holds that Mercadante was best at ensembles, dialogue between characters, colorful harmonic background and slancio (surge, vehemence, sometimes ferocity) but generally average as a melodist and therefore unconvincing as a reformer. I agree that many of his melodies are of no great distinction, though there are notable exceptions. The reforms tended to fall by the wayside in the later operas. Some commentators accuse them of sometimes lapsing into bombast and harmonic contrivance. According to British musicologist Michael Rose, they “can be impressive, beautiful, passionate and physically exciting, but seldom spontaneous or directly personal.”

Many of Mercadante’s contemporaries felt differently–and it is important to remember they heard more of his music in actual performance than any of us. In response to the Giuramento world premiere, as Opera Rara’s Don White has noted, the critic of Il lucifero extolled the “majestic simplicity” of the orchestration, calling the work “a perfect blend of French declamation, German harmony and Italian melody.” Liszt, castigating Italian composers in 1838, stated,

Exception must always be made for Mercadante. He has the wisdom to write slowly and revises his compositions with care. . . . Several of the ensemble pieces are really remarkable. The latest works of Mercadante are without question the most carefully thought out of the contemporary repertory.

Scudo wrote in 1858, “One finds in [Giuramento] the elements that Verdi based his own style upon.” Rossini declared in 1862, “I can’t say more than that [Mercadante] makes good music, but I don’t at all care for his very rough character or his manners, which are almost boorish at times.”

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Federico Ricci

He and his brother composed an opera once as popular as Barbiere or Elisir 

by Stefan Zucker

Born in Naples, October 22, 1809, Federico Ricci was the son of Pietro Ricci, pianist, and the brother of Luigi Ricci, composer, Gaetano Ricci, piano teacher, and Adelaide and Vincenzo Ricci, singers. After lessons with his father, in 1818 he entered the San Sebastiano conservatory, studying under Zingarelli and Raimondi, as well as his brother Luigi and Bellini, then maestrini (assistant teachers). After composing two masses and a symphony, he dropped out of school, following Luigi to Rome. Florimo urged Bellini to try to secure a contract for Federico at La Scala, without result. To compose his first opera, Federico teamed up with Luigi, already established, for the comedy Il colonnello, Naples, 1835. On his own later that year he composed Monsieur de Chalumeaux for Venice. The 1838 La prigione di Edimburgo, Trieste, was a smash hit, with Rita Gabussi creating a furor as the mad seconda donna, the baritone barcarolle “Nella poppa del mio brick” remaining popular for years. Federico’s La Scala debut, Un duello sotto Richelieu, 1839, evoked little enthusiasm; however, Luigi Rolla e Michelangelo, Florence, 1841—written for and dedicated to tenor Napoleone Moriani—redeemed his fortunes. Also in 1841, Federico’s major triumph with a tragedy premiered in Milan, Corrado d’Altamura. As a result the king of Savoy commissioned him to furnish a cantata for the wedding of Crown Prince Vittorio Emmanuele. Two operas written for Milan, two for Venice and one for Trieste, 1842-50, all foundered. Another collaboration between the brothers, their most enduring success, together or separately, Crispino e la comare, Venice, 1850, came to rival Il barbiere di Siviglia and L’elisir d’amore in popularity, in the second half of the century. Federico’s Il marito e l’amante, a melodramma comico, inebriated the Viennese, beginning June 9, 1852, at the Kaertnerthor-theater; given there and in St. Petersburg the following season, Il marito was revived in Paris in 1872 as Une Fête à Venise, with added selections by the composer. However, Il paniere d’amore, Vienna, 1853, failed.

Federico became the maître de chapelle of the imperial theaters at St. Petersburg, supervising vocal studies at the conservatory. Over the next 16 years, he wrote a cantata, vocal duets, songs and solfeggios but no operas. In 1869 Verdi asked him to compose a romanza for the Album Piave, to be published as a benefit for the paralyzed librettist, and with Verdi’s approval a Milan committee asked him to provide a Recordare for the projected Rossini requiem. His Une Folie à Rome ran for 77 consecutive performances, in Paris, in 1869.

He died in Conegliano, December 10, 1877, leaving Don Quichotte unfinished. His output totaled—not counting revisions—19 operas (four in collaboration with Luigi), seven volumes of songs as well as individual titles, three cantatas, two masses and other sacred works.


Thought to have been born in Naples, June or July 8, 1805, Luigi Ricci studied with his father, then at the San Sebastiano with Furno and Zingarelli as well as privately with Generali. His first opera, a student work, was the comic L’impresario in angustie, 1823, to a libretto previously set by Cimarosa. Eight years of checkered career followed. Then came his greatest early successes, Chiara di Rosemberg, Milan, 1831, and Un avventura di Scaramuccia, Milan, 1834 (later arranged for the French stage by Flotow). Between 1831 and ’38 Chiara di Rosemberg was performed at La Scala 70 times, more often than Norma, premiered there the same year. However, his Le nozze di Figaro, Milan, 1838, was hissed. Rossini told him, “My dear, it had to go like that for you; you wanted to be too learned.”

Luigi wrote no operas for seven years, serving as maestro di cappella at Trieste and maestro concertatore at the Teatro Grande, in 1848 directing the premiere of Verdi’s Il corsaro. He directed the 1844-45 Odessa opera season, living openly with twin sopranos Franziska and Ludmilla Stolz, causing confusion and scandal. He is said to have fallen in love with them both at first sight. For them he premiered La solitaria delle Asturie there, in 1845. After trips à trois to Copenhagen and Constantinople on account of the sisters’ careers, he married Ludmilla in Trieste, in 1849—maintaining the relationship with Franziska. Ludmilla’s daughter Adelaide, 1850-71, appeared at the Théâtre-Italien, in 1868-69. Franziska’s son Luigi Jr., 1852-1906, besides conducting, composed at least eight operas, sacred music, songs and a string quartet. After becoming the heir of soprano Teresa Stolz, his aunt and Luigi Sr.’s pupil, he took the name Luigi Ricci-Stolz.

Luigi Sr.’s later successes included Il birraio di Preston, Florence, 1847, Crispino, and La festa di Piedigrotta, Naples, 1852, given more than 300 times, the ending celebrating womens’ equality with men in love and flirtation. To me the opera seems like weak tea.

He died December 31, 1859, in a Prague asylum, of syphilis, like his idol Donizetti—over the years Luigi had said, “I’ll finish up like him.” He wrote 30 operas (including the four with Federico), at least 23 masses as well as other sacred music, two collections of vocal chamber music and songs, individual songs and the Gran concertore for the opening of Odessa’s Teatro Italiano, in 1844.

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Valentino Fioravanti

Cimarosa feared and admired him. Rossini thought him the last word in a buffo style

by Stefan Zucker

 Valentino Fioravanti was born in Rome, September 11, 1764. After studying literature and art, he took voice lessons from Toscanelli, a singer at St. Peter’s, and counterpoint from Jannacconi. He studied composition with Sala in Naples, 1779-81, where he was counseled by Fenaroli, Insanguine and Tritto, who later was one of Mercadante’s and Bellini’s teachers. From 1781 he conducted in various Roman theaters, composing the intermezzo Le avventure di Bertoldino in ’83 or ’84, followed by other comedies. Gl’inganni fortunati, Naples, 1788, established his success. During the next ten years he composed a spate of operas, mostly well received, for Rome, Naples, Venice, Florence and Milan. His most popular, Le cantatrici villane, premiered in Naples, in 1799. After the success of Camilla in Lisbon in 1801, he became musical director of the San Carlos there, remaining off and on for five years, ultimately leaving because of family and politics. His La capricciosa pentita, in which the singers imitate barnyard animals, intoxicated La Scala in 1802; repeated in Paris in 1805, it introduced the English horn to the French theater orchestra. Returning from Lisbon in 1807, he stopped in Paris to compose I virtuosi ambulanti, about the pretensions and jealousies besetting a traveling opera troupe. His second most successful work, Virtuosi, was performed the following season in London, as La virtuosa in puntiglio, then throughout Europe.

Fioravanti’s Adelson e Salvini premiered in Lisbon, in 1815, and was mounted unsuccessfully in Naples the following year with Giovanni Battista Rubini in the cast. (The libretto, by Andrea Leone Tottola, was used by Bellini for his first opera, Adelson e Salvini, Naples, 1825. In 1826-29, working from a drastic modification of the same libretto, Bellini composed the opera largely afresh. Owing to a plethora of vicissitudes, the fourth version was never performed until September 12, 1972, when it was presented by The Association for the Furtherment of Bel Canto, at New York’s Town Hall, with me as Salvini.)

In 1816 Fioravanti succeeded Jannacconi as maestro di cappella of the Sistine Chapel and wrote a copious quantity of masses and motets, a Miserere and a Stabat Mater. He premiered a trilogy of melodramas, Adelaide e Comingio, in Naples in 1817—a Sturm-und-Drang, Romeo-and-Juliet story with comic ingredients, to a Tottola libretto. Though hailed in Naples, like many of Fioravanti’s works containing the local dialect, the trilogy resisted export. Only the second opera, Adelaide maritata e Comingio pittore, enjoyed an extra-Neapolitan career, in Italian translations. The last of his more than 77 operas was Ogni eccesso e vizioso, Naples, 1824, after which he concentrated on sacred and chamber works. He died travelling from Capua to Naples, where he intended to retire to be near his son Vincenzo.

Born in Rome in 1799, Vincenzo Fioravanti himself became a celebrated opera buffa composer, writing 35 stage works. His father wanted him to become a doctor, but on the sly he studied composition with Jannacconi, later with his father. His second opera found favor, La pastorella rapita, Rome, 1820. To marry, he agreed to his wife’s family’s demand that he abandon the theater; some years after her death he made a return with Robinson Crusoè nell’isola deserta, to a Tottola libretto, Naples, 1828. His most popular opera was Il ritorno di Pulcinella da Padova, Naples, 1837, in which the hero is locked up in an asylum for lunatic musicians. It was performed in various countries in adaptations, holding the boards for over 80 years. Vincenzo Fioravanti died in poverty in Naples, in 1877. Thought to be of notable brio, his works beckon for a rehearing. Valentino Fioravanti’s other son, Giuseppe, a baritone, later a buffo, created the roles of Capellio in Rossini’s Bianca e Falliero, Milan, 1819, and Aliprando in his Matilde di Shabran, Rome, 1821, and appeared in the premieres of Donizetti’s Enrico di Borgogna, Venice, 1818, La zingara, Naples, 1822, Il fortunato inganno, Naples, 1823, Emilia di Liverpool, Naples, 1824, Otto mesi in due ore, Naples, 1827, and Betly, Naples, 1836.

According to Cimarosa’s son, Paolo Cimarosa, his father “feared the comic touch of his competitor [Valentino Fioravanti] and the quickness, lightness and beautiful manner of his concerted pieces, particularly because of the secure effect they exercised on the public.” Cimarosa especially admired the exhilarating effect of his “parlati” over ostinato orchestral figures. According to Stendhal, Rossini maintained that “in the particular buffo style known as ‘nota e parola,’ there is no further progress possible after Fioravanti. I have heard him add that he could imagine nothing more absurd in all the world than the fatuousness of presuming to meddle with opera buffa, after the unsurpassed state of perfection to which this form had already been raised by Paisiello, Cimarosa and Guglielmi.”

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Nicola Vaccai

Malibran preferred part of his Romeo to Bellini’s

by Stefan Zucker

Nicola Vaccai was born in Tolentino, March 15, 1790, into a family of doctors. As a youth he studied music with Fabbri of Pesaro, also law and poetry. One of his verse tragedies was professionally performed there. In Rome, in 1807, he abruptly interrupted his university studies to enroll in Jannacconi’s school, studying harmony, counterpoint and composition. After receiving the diploma di maestro from L’accademia di Santa Cecilia, in 1811, he studied dramatic composition with Paisiello in Naples and wrote liturgical music for churches and, anonymously, insert arias for Valentino Fioravanti and others. His I solitari di Scozia, Naples, 1815, was well received. But in Venice his Malvina, 1816, was withdrawn after one night, his Il lupo di Ostenda, 1818, declared imitation Rossini. For six years he composed no operas. Better regarded were four ballets for La Fenice, 1817-20. That year he translated the libretto to Méhul’s Joseph, also revising Handel’s Messiah. 

He turned to teaching singing, becoming popular in this capacity in Venice high society, in Trieste in 1821 and at the Frohsdorf residence of Murat’s widow, where he spent three months, in 1822. Rejecting the offer of Kapellmeister at Stuttgart, he returned to opera in 1824, with the dramma buffo Pietro il grande, ovvero un geloso alla tortura, at Parma’s Teatro Ducale, himself substituting for one of the singers. The work’s success led to Zadig ed Astartea, Naples, 1825, and his widely repeated Giulietta e Romeo, Milan, the same year, to the Romani libretto a modification of which Bellini set in 1830. However, Saladino e Clotilda, Milan, 1828, failed so miserably that his commission to compose an opera for the opening of Genoa’s Teatro Carlo Felice was revoked in favor of Bellini, who premiered Bianca e Fernando, 1828.

Again forsaking the stage to teach singing, in 1829 Vaccai went first to Paris, then London, in 1832 publishing a manual, Metodo pratico di canto italiano per camera—in part a codification of some of the period’s vocal practices—which remains a standard work. Among its maxims: “Whenever one encounters two similar notes at the end of a phrase or also more similar notes in the middle, that note on which the accent of the word falls must be converted entirely into an appoggiatura on the following.” (Though the dissonance and harmonic tension caused by appoggiaturas is essential to bel-canto-period music, this standard practice of the time is widely ignored by today’s performers.)

On the death of his father, in 1833, Vaccai returned to Italy, married and started a family. In ’33 and ’34 he performed in some of London’s best homes. Even with Malibran in the title role, his Giovanna Grey, Milan, 1836, flopped. In 1837 he joined with Coppola, Donizetti, Mercadante and Pacini in the composition of a cantata on the death of Malibran. In 1838 he had some success with Marco Visconti in Turin. That year he became the censore of the Milan conservatory, reorganizing the study of singing, inaugurating performances of student operas and starting a choir. Over the cancellation of a projected 1843 Holy Week performance of the Messiah, he resigned, effective 1844. Virginia, Rome, 1845, was modestly successful, after which he resided in Pesaro, composing chamber music and teaching, where he died on August 5, 1848. He composed 17 operas, five cantatas, four ballets, more than one hundred songs and vocal chamber pieces, instrumental and sacred music, counterpoint studies, 12 ariette per camera in chiave di violino per l’insegnamento del bel canto italiano and the Metodo pratico. During his last years he attempted unsuccessfully to found a conservatory in Rome.

Malibran, at Rossini’s suggestion, in her performances of Capuleti, replaced Bellini’s setting of Romeo’s final scene, “Ah, se tu non dormi,” with Vaccai’s, starting a tradition so widely observed that when, at Florence in 1834, Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis sang Bellini’s score intact, it was a novelty. In most Capuleti editions the Vaccai setting is given as an appendix. Rossini, in an 1851 letter, declared that Vaccai occupied “a very luminous place among composers of the best renown,” also terming him “a profound knower of the physiology of the voice, in order to keep students within the limits of art, applying to them a method that leads them to sing in that manner that is sensed in the soul.” That Vaccai’s name is perhaps better known today than some others here is because of his singing manual.

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A List of Composers Alive in 1810

by Stefan Zucker

Here is a list of composers alive in 1810, the year of La cambiale di matrimonio, the first-performed Rossini opera. I have included their ages, where I have been able to ascertain them:

Adam, 7, Auber, 28, Balducci, Balfe, 2, Beethoven, 40, Bellini, 9, Benedict, 6, Berlioz, 7, Berton, 13, Bishop, 24, Boieldieu, 35, Carafa, 23, Carlini, Cherubini, 50, Chopin, born, Clementi, 58, Coccia, 28, Conti, 14, Cardella, 24, Costa, 2, Diabelli, 29, Donizetti, 13, Dussek, 50, Farinelli, 41, Federici, 46, Field, 28, Valentino Fioravanti, 46, Vincenzo Fioravanti, 11, Florimo, 10, Frasi, Furlanetto, 72, Furno, 62, Gabussi, 10, Gagliardi, Gallenberg, 27, García, 35, Generali, 37, Glinka, 6, Gnecco, Gossec, 76, Grétry, 69, Guglielmi, 47, Gurowetz, 47, Halévy, 11, Hérold, 19, Herz, 7, Hummel, 32, Isouard, 35, Lanza, Lavigna, 34, Leseur, 50, Loewe, 14, L’vov, 12, Manfrocci, 19, Marschner, 15, Martini, 68, Mattei, 60, Mayr, 47, Majocchi, Marliani, Méhul, 47, Mendelssohn, 1, Mercadante, 15, Meyerbeer, 19, Militotti, Monsigny, 81, Morlacchi, 26, Mosca, 38, Moscheles, 16, Nicolai, born, Nicolini, 48, Niedermeyer, 8, Orgitano, 30, Orlandi, 33, Pacini, 14, Paër, 39, Paganini, 28, Paisiello, 70, Pavesi, 31, Persiani, 5, Portogallo, 48, Prota, c. 24, Pucitta, 32, Raimondi, 24, Rieschi, 30, Federico Ricci, 1, Luigi Ricci, 5, Righini, Rode, 36, Rolla, 53, Romagnesi, 29, Rossini, 18, Salieri, 60, Sampieri, Schubert, 13, Schumann, born, Spohr, 16, Spontini, 36, Staffa, Johann Strauss I, 6, Steibelt, 45, Tarchi, 50, Trento, 49, Tritto, 77, Vaccai, 20, Viganò, 41, Viotti, 57, Weber, 24, Wiegl, 44, Winter, 56, Zeiter, 52, Zingarelli, 58, Zumsteeg, 50.

The bel canto revival barely has scratched the surface.