Antonio Salieri, born Aug. 18, 1750, in Legnago, Republic of Venice [Italy], is the composer whose operas were acclaimed throughout Europe in the late 18th century.
At the age of 16, Salieri was taken to Vienna by F.L. Gassmann, the imperial court composer and music director (Hofkapellmeister), and was introduced to Emperor Joseph II. During the same period, Salieri also fostered important friendships with both Pietro Metastasio and Christoph Gluck. Salieri’s first opera, Le donne letterate, was produced at the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1770. Four years later, the emperor made him the court composer, and in 1788 he became Hofkapellmeister, a position Salieri held for 36 years. During his official career he composed operas not only for theatres in Austria but also for companies in France and Italy. From 1783 he was an influential supporter of—and frequent collaborator with—Lorenzo Da Ponte, who also became Mozart’s most important librettist. His best-known work was the French opera Tarare (1787), translated by Da Ponte into Italian as Axur, re d’Ormus, which the Viennese public preferred to Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Salieri’s last opera was performed in 1804, and he then devoted himself to composing sacred music. He was an important teacher as well; among his students were Beethoven, Franz Schubert, and Franz Liszt.
Opera, Blood, and Tears
The Life You Give: Antonio Salieri
in celebration of his life in music, with his opera
August 18 at 6pm
Throughout his life Salieri remained friendly with Joseph Haydn and with Ludwig van Beethoven, to whom he had given lessons in counterpoint and who dedicated the Three Violin Sonatas, Op. 12 (1797), to him. Salieri’s relationship with Mozart has been the subject of much speculation. Mozart himself commented in a letter on Salieri’s favourable reception of The Magic Flute. There is also no foundation for the belief that Salieri tried to poison Mozart—a legend that was the basis of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Mozart et Salieri (1898), itself based on the Pushkin short story of 1830.
operatic drama in three acts
Salieri’s opera is his take on the famous story by the Renaissace poet Torquato Tasso. “Armida,” which was written by librettist Marco Coltellini, is the love story of a Saracen (a medieval term for Arab Muslim) sorceress who falls in love with Rinaldo, a Christian warrior. In the midst of the Crusades, Armida plans to kill Rinaldo on the orders of the Saracen army, but instead falls in love with him.
Armida holds Rinaldo prisoner in an enchanted garden she creates. Rinaldo is rescued by his fellow Christian fighters, but is barely able to resist Armida’s longing for him to stay with her.
Tasso’s “Armida” was a popular story of the eighteenth century and was reinterpreted by composers such as Monteverdi, Handel, Vivaldi, Gluck, and Haydn. Later, Rossini, Dvorák, and Judith Weir also offered their own operatic interpretations
Source: opera wire