Alessandro Scarlatti, born Pietro Alessandro Gaspare Scarlatti, May 2, 1660, Palermo, Sicily, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies [now in Italy], was a composer of operas and religious works.
Scarlatti was sent to Rome at about the age of 12; there he met Bernardo Pasquini, by whom he was greatly influenced. The first of his 115 operas, Gli equivoci nel sembiante (1679) won him the protection of Queen Christina of Sweden, for whom he wrote L’honestà negli amori (1680) and in whose service he remained until 1684. These works brought him commissions for operas from Naples, where in 1684 he became maestro di cappella in the royal service. He remained there until 1702, writing more than 40 operas and musical entertainments for the court and its circle. Gli equivoci in amore (1690) is a typical example of his work during that period.
Opera, Blood, and Tears
The Life You Give: Alessandro Scarlatti
in celebration of his life in music
May 2 at 1:30pm EST
In 1702 Scarlatti went to Florence, where, over the next two years, he wrote four operas for the theatre of Prince Ferdinando III de’ Medici; the scores of these works have disappeared. In 1707 he was appointed maestro di cappella to Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni in Rome and was also elected to the Arcadian Academy there. The following year he held a like post at Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and also wrote two operas on a larger scale, Il trionfo della libertà and Il Mitridate Eupatore, for production during the carnival in Venice. The latter is considered one of his finest works. Scarlatti traveled to Venice to supervise the performances; in 1709 he returned to his old post at Naples. There followed a period of intense activity during which he wrote serenades and masses as well as operas. La principessa fedele (1710), Scipione nelle Spagne (1714), and Il Tigrane (1715) are among his principal operatic successes of this period. The ternary aria form is developed in these works, which are also noted for a bolder use of the orchestral stringed instruments. In 1716 he wrote a mass for Pope Clement XI and in the same year completed his first opera buffa, Il trionfo dell’onore (Naples, 1718). Between 1718 and 1721 he wrote more operas and religious works. On his return to Naples in 1723 he seems to have gone into retirement.
Scarlatti is noted for his thematic development and chromatic harmony, which he used with great mastery and in a way that anticipates the work of much later composers, among them W.A. Mozart and Franz Schubert. He is chiefly remembered for his operas, in which he established the form of the Italian overture (i.e., the opera overture in three sections, allegro-adagio-allegro), which was a forerunner of the classical symphony. His chamber music is equally characteristic and shows him to have had a commanding conception of form. More than 600 chamber cantatas from all periods of his life are extant. He wrote little orchestral music, but he contributed to the development of the opera orchestra. Whereas in his youth the strings were used mainly to play introductions and ritornelli (instrumental interludes), Scarlatti placed more emphasis on the orchestral accompaniment to the voices. His use of wind instruments was similarly novel: trumpets, flutes, oboes, and bassoons were used for particular effects, and horns were introduced into the orchestra.
Il Trionfo dell'onore is considered Scarlatti's only commedia en musica. It is not a comic opera in the style of La Serva Padrona of Pergolesi. The commedeja in musica was a complete three act opera and had its origins in the pastoral opera and "favolebuscareccie." The main character is a young profligate named Riccardo, and his part was sung not by a castrato, but by a woman, and the floridity shows us his intense self-centeredness. The plot resembles Don Giovanni, but the hero repents in the end, and all ends happily. Within the comedy of the opera, are comic scenes that parody opera. For instance, the comic duet "Or via dameggia" spoofs grand opera mercilessly.
By Rita Lawrence / Source:
Riccardo Albenori – soprano (en travesti)
Leonora Dorini – contralto
Erminio – soprano castrato
Doralice Rosetti – soprano
Flaminio Castravacca – tenor
Cornelia Buffacci – tenor (en travesti)
Rosina Caruccia – contralto
Capitan Rodimarte Bombarda – bass
Ricardo Albenori, a dissolute young man, and his friend, the soldier Rodimarte Bombarda, arrive in Pisa, having escaped from Lucca where they had run into trouble with the law. In Lucca, Riccardo had also seduced Leonora Dorini before rejecting her in favour of Doralice Rossetti. Leonora has followed him and takes refuge with Cornelia Buffacci, Doralice’s aunt. Doralice, too, is still pursuing Riccardo, who manages to convince her he loves her.
Erminio, Leonora’s brother who is in love with Doralice, arrives in Pisa. Leonora tells him how Riccardo, Erminio’s friend, seduced her. He vows to avenge her. Leonora and Doralice quarrel over Riccardo.
Riccardo plans to elope with Doralice but Erminio finds him and challenges him to a duel. Riccardo is wounded, repents his dissolute life and accepts Leonora’s hand in marriage