Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801)

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01Training20160215

Donald Macleod explores Cimarosa's education, including at one of Naples's conservatoires.

He was showered with gifts by royalty and the nobility, and was more popular than Mozart in the world of opera, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Domenico Cimarosa. Born in Aversa, Cimarosa came from a very humble background, but he rose to become one of the most celebrated composers in Europe. Most of his career centred on Naples and the opera theatres there, but premieres of his stage works also took place in Venice, Milan, Rome and St Petersburg. He also accepted contracts away from Italy, working for the Empress Catherine the Great in Russia, and then later Emperor Leopold II in Vienna. His life ended rather abruptly at the age of fifty-one in Venice, tired and exhausted, and banished from his home of Naples for unwisely supporting the Parthenopean Republic against the Neopolitan King.

In Cimarosa's first music lessons with the monks from the Church of San Severo, he learnt to sing and accompany himself at the harpsichord. Cimarosa would later go on to lead the orchestra from the harpsichord at the the premieres of many of his operas. He also composed a number of sonatas for the keyboard, including the Sonata in A major R22.

Soon Cimarosa was being educated at one of the Neopolitan conservatoires, where he excelled in his skills as a keyboard player, violinist and singer. His earliest works from this period are mainly sacred, composed for the many churches around the city. Sacred music would remain an interest for Cimarosa throughout his career. Towards the end of his life, 1796, he composed his Dixit Dominus for three soloists, four-part choir and orchestra.

Cimarosa arr. Arthur Benjamin

Concerto for Oboe and Strings (Introduction: Larghetto and Allegro)

Brynjar Hoff, oboe

English Chamber Orchestra

Ian Watson, conductor

Sonata in A major R22

Victor Sangiorgio, piano

Quartet No 6 in A minor for Oboe and Strings

Paolo Pollastri, oboe

Members of L'Arte dell'Arco

Dixit Dominus (Virgam virtutis - Iuravit Dominus)

Cinzia Rizzone, soprano

Sylvia Rottensteiner, mezzo-soprano

Gregory Bonfatti, tenor

I Musici Cantori Choir of Trent

Voci Roveretane Choir

Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trent

Fabio Pirona, conductor

Armida Immaginaria (Act III Scene V-VI, Aria: Zengariello mio d'amore)

Alla Simonischvili (La Marchesa Tisbea), soprano

Anna Rosa Peraino (Ermidora), soprano

Giovanna Donadini (Stella), soprano

Domenico Colaianni (Mastro Giorgio), baritone

Piero Guarnera (Patro Caspero Spatachiatta di Vico), baritone

Simon Edwards (Battistino), tenor

Massimilano Chiarolla (Don Bernabo), tenor

Coro del Teatro Petruzzelli di Bari

Orchestra del Teatro Bellini di Catania

Eric Hull, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

02International Success20160216

Donald Macleod explores Cimarosa's years forging a career in the world of opera.

He was showered with gifts by royalty and the nobility, and was more popular than Mozart in the world of opera, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Domenico Cimarosa.

In 1772 Cimarosa made his debut as an opera composer in Naples with a comic work called Le stravaganze del conte (The Eccentricities of the Count). It was an immediate success and he went on to compose around sixty operas throughout his career. Cimarosa was also working as a freelance organist, keyboard player and director of the choir in one of the Neapolitan churches. By 1776, he was exceptionally busy with three operas being premiered in Naples, including La finta frascatana, which included the unusual addition of two flutes to the orchestra. Later, in 1793, he composed a concerto for two flutes.

By the late 1770s, Cimarosa had been commissioned to write an opera for Rome. This was called I'Italiana in Londra (the Italian Girl in London).Within two years it had also been produced in Dresden, Prague, Warsaw, Trieste, and Ghent. It then went on to Vienna, Versailles, Paris, St Petersburg and London. Cimarosa had now clearly made his mark on a world stage.

Le stravaganze del conte (Overture)

Nicolaus Esternázy Sinfonia

Alessandro Amoretti, conductor

Requiem (Introitus and Kyrie)

Elly Ameling, soprano

Brigit Finnilä, alto

Richard van Vrooman, tenor

Kurt Widmer, bass

Montreux Festival Choir

Chamber Orchestra of Lausanne

Vittorio Negri, conductor

Concerto for two flutes in G major

Aurèle Nicolet, flute

Christiane Nicolet, flute

Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra

Karl Münchinger, conductor

Sonata in A major R8

Victor Sangiorgio, piano

Sonata in B flat Major 'Perfida' R11

I'Italiana in Londra (Act II: Finale)

Patrizia Orciani (Livia), soprano

Maria Angeles Peters (Madama Brillante), soprano

Maurizio Comencini (Sumers), tenor

Armando Ariostini (Milord), baritone

Bruno Praticò (Don Polidoro), baritone

Symphony Orchestra of Piacenza

Carlo Rizzi, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

03Collaborating With Metastasio20160217

Donald Macleod explores the time around Cimarosa's vacation near Lake Como.

He was showered with gifts by royalty and the nobility, and was more popular than Mozart in the world of opera, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Domenico Cimarosa.

By 1780 Cimarosa was well established on the international opera stage. He was asked to compose a serious work for the opera season in Rome, which turned out to be his Cajo Mario. Commissions were coming in fast, and he was soon to set his first text by the famed poet and librettist, Pietro Metastasio. Metastasio's story of Alessandro nell'Indie had already been tackled by the likes of Hasse, Handel and J. C. Bach. Cimarosa was also appointed Director of Music for the Ospedaletto, where he taught the girls music and directed the choir. He may also have taught them chamber music, performing some of his own works such as his Quartet No 3 in D major.

Further librettos by Metastasio came Cimarosa's way, including L'eroe cinesi, and in 1784 L'Olimpiade, which was another huge success. That same year saw Cimarosa, without his wife, having a break in a villa near Lake Como. It was here where he met Antonia, the daughter of a neighbouring family, and a holiday romance ensued. It was not to last as Cimarosa was soon back in Naples composing more works for the stage. It wasn't all operas around this time; he also composed a comic cantata called Il Maestro di Cappella, where the vocal soloist, playing the role of a pompous conductor, insults his orchestra by taking them through the music bar by bar.

Cajo Mario (Overture)

Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä

Patrick Gallois, conductor

Quartet No 3 in D major (Tempo di menuetto)

Laura Pontecorvo, flute

Members of L'Arte dell'Arco

L'Olimpiade (Act III Aria: Non sò donde viene)

Nicholas Phan (Clistene), tenor

Venice Baroque Orchestra

Markellos Chryssicos, conductor

Sonata in C major R.19

Victor Sangiorgio, piano

Sonata in G major R.20

Il Maestro di Cappella

William Berger, baritone

Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Nicholas McGegan, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

04The Russian Years20160218

He was showered with gifts by royalty and the nobility, and was more popular than Mozart in the world of opera, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Domenico Cimarosa.

With Cimarosa now an international celebrity, an offer of work arrived from the Empress Catherine the Great of Russia inviting him to be her Director of Music. In 1787 Cimarosa, with his family and servants, moved to St Petersburg. Not long after their arrival came news of the death of the Duchess of Serra, the wife of one of Cimarosa's Italian patrons. He composed a Requiem Mass in her memory, but Catherine the Great was not impressed with the work. Neither did she enjoy the operas Cimarosa composed whilst in Russia. She actively encouraged her Director of Music to enjoy the title of his job, take charge of music performances at court, but not to compose.

Whilst in Russia, Cimarosa did compose chamber music for the court, including his Sextet in G major. Fortunately, by 1791, his contract had come to an end and he decided to leave Russia. Travelling via Poland, Cimarosa and his family now made their way to Vienna where he was appointed Director of Music to the Imperial Court. Emperor Leopold II greatly appreciated Cimarosa's music, and commissioned him to write a new opera, Il matrimonio segreto, which has gone on to become the composer's most popular work for the stage.

Il sacrificio d'Abramo

Amanda Roocroft, (soprano)

Academy of St Martin-in-the-fields

Sir Neville Marriner, conductor

Requiem (Offertorium: Domine Jesu and Sanctus)

Montreux Festival Choir

Chamber Orchestra of Lausanne

Vittorio Negri, conductor

Sextet in G major

Members of L'Arte dell'Arco

Il matrimonio segreto (Act II: Final Scene)

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Geronimo), tenor

Julia Varady (Elisetta), soprano

Arleen Auger (Carolina), soprano

Julia Hamari (Fidalma), mezzo-soprano

Alberto Rinaldi (Il Conte Robinson), baritone

Ryland Davies (Paolino), tenor

English Chamber Orchestra

Daniel Barenboim, conductor

Producer Luke Whitlock.

Donald Macleod explores Cimarosa's time as Catherine the Great's director of music.

05Banished From Naples20160219

Donald Macleod explores Cimarosa's time on the wanted list.

He was showered with gifts by royalty and the nobility, and was more popular than Mozart in the world of opera, this week Donald Macleod explores the life and music of Domenico Cimarosa.

When the Emperor Leopold II died, Cimarosa found himself out of a job. He made his way back to Naples where his opera Il Matrimonia Segreto was produced in honour of his return, and then ran for an unprecedented one hundred and ten consecutive evenings. Cimarosa now got down to completing further opera commissions including Le astuzie femminili and in 1797, Artemisia, regina de Caria. This second opera was one of the composers favourites, but it angered the King of Naples who had the theatre impresario and other production staff thrown into jail.

By 1799 there was unrest in Naples. This year saw the rise of the Parthenopean Republic and the King and his family fled to Sicily. Cimarosa composed a patriotic anthem for the new regime but political change was short lived. With the aid of Russian troops and the British fleet, King Ferdinando returned to Naples and Cimarosa now found himself on the wanted list. He went on the run, but eventually gave himself up. It was only through the special pleading of Lady Hamilton that Cimarosa found himself pardoned and not executed. However, he was now banished from Naples for the rest of his life. His final days were spent in Venice where he worked on his last opera, Artemisia. Cimarosa never finished this work, and after his death it received its premiere. The audience in tribute requested that the curtain should be lowered at the point where Cimarosa had written his last note.

Le astuzie femminili (Overture No.1)

Sinfonia Finlandia Jyväskylä

Patrick Gallois, conductor

Le astuzie femminili (Scene II Act 4: Le figliole che so' di vent' anni)

Sesto Bruscantini, baritone

Orchestra della Radio Roma

Alberto Zedda, director

Requiem (Benedictus)

Montreux Festival Choir

Chamber Orchestra of Lausanne

Vittorio Negri, conductor

Artemisia, regina di Caria (Overture)

Artemisia (Entro quest'anima)

Amanda Roocroft, (soprano)

Academy of St Martin-in-the-fields

Sir Neville Marriner, conductor

Keyboard Concerto in B flat major

Andrea Coen, fortepiano

L'Arte dell'Arco

Federico Guglielmo, director

Producer Luke Whitlock.