Mercadante, Francesco Saverio



Composer, who ranks high in the list of Italian opera-writers; born at Altamura, near Bari. When only twelve years old he was sent to the College of St. Sebastian at Naples, where under Zingarelli he studied composition, flute and violin, and after a time was made the leader of the orchestra. For about six years he composed only instrumental music, but, on being dismissed from the college, he turned to dramatic composition. In 1818 appeared his first work, a cantata for the Teatro del Fondo, and in 1819 his L'Apoteosi d'Ercole was produced at San Carlo Theatre with gratifying success. He composed industriously, producing the opera buffa, Violenza e costanzo, and Elisa e Claudio by which his reputation was established. He composed Andronico for the Venetian Carnival. The performance of some of his works at Vienna brought him into favor with the Viennese. In 1827 he went to Spain, returning to Naples in 1831. He was appointed to succeed Pietro Generali as maestro di cappella of the Novara Cathedral in 1833. In 1836 he went to Paris to superintend the production of his opera, I Briganti, and in 1837 II Giuramento was performed at Milan. The opera buffa, I due illustri rivali, produced in 1838, introduced an innovation in the use of brass instruments to mark the accent of the accompaniment, which proved a disagreeable characteristic of the instrumentation of Italian Opera of a later period. He was made director of music at the Cathedral at Lanciano in 1839, and in 1840 director of the Naples Conservatory. Owing to the loss of an eye at Novara, he became totally blind in 1862, and had to dictate his compositions. He died at Naples eight years later. Mercadante was a member of the Institute of France and the Italians ranked him very high as a dramatic writer. He is one of the best of the composers of the school headed by Rossini and is usually named with Bellini and Donizetti. He produced litanies; cantatas; psalms; vespers; about twenty masses; a hymn to Garibaldi in 1861, and one to Rossini in 1866; funeral symphonies to Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and Pacini; II lamento di Bardo, after he became blind, Messa solenne; Le sette parole di Nostro Signore; La Rimembrance; II Lamento dell' Arabo; besides his operas, which numbered about sixty. Of these, I Briganti, produced at Paris, and Elisa e Claudio and II Giuramento, both given at La Scala in Milan, are usually considered his best.