Morlacchi, Francesco

1784-1841

 

Italian composer of dramatic and church-music; was born at Perugia. His father gave him violin lessons when he was seven, and when he was twelve sent him to Caruso, master of the local Cathedral, who taught him singing, thorough-bass and clavier He learned to play the organ with Mazetti and by an oratorio, Gli angeli al sepulchuro, attracted the interest of Count Pietro Baglioni who sent him to Loretto to study counterpoint with Zingarelli. The severity and strictness of this master's teachings were so little liked by him that after a year and a half he returned to Perugia, but soon went to Bologna, where he completed his studies under Padre Mattei, and in 1806 became a member of the Philharmonic Academy of that city. His unusual talent was recognized even during his student days, and in 1805 he was asked to write a cantata for Bonaparte's coronation as King of Italy. About this time he produced a Pater Noster, a Te Deum, a Miserere for sixteen voices and a cantata given at the Lyceum at Bologna. In 1807 he produced a musical farce entitled II Poeta in Campagna at the Pergola Theatre in Florence and the same year he was invited to Verona where he gave the opera bouffe, II Ritratto. His first real success came with the production of II Corrado, at Parma, in 1808. After this he wrote Enone a Paride, Oreste, Rinaldo d'Asti, La Principessa per ripiego, II Simoncino, La Aventure d'une Giornata and a grand mass and, lastly, Le Danaide, performed so successfully at the Argentine Theatre in Rome, in 1810, that his reputation was established as a writer of opera. He became chapelmaster of the Italian Opera at Dresden, where he composed a grand mass for the Royal Chapel of Saxony, and in 1812  he wrote the much admired Passion Oratorio. In 1813, when Dresden was the center of operations for the allied army against Napoleon, he was forcibly compelled to write a cantata for the Emperor of Russia's birthday, and soon after, when the Russian government ordered the abolition of the chapel at Dresden he had to entreat an audience before the Czar in order to get the decree countermanded. In 1814, when the King returned to Dresden, he composed a grand mass and a sprightly and charming oj)era buffa, II Barbiere di Siviglia, in honor of the occasion. Strangely enough, the same year he produced a triumphal cantata on the capture of Paris by the allies and a mass in Slavonic, for unaccompanied voices, for Prince Repuin who had been Russian governor at Dresden. In 1816 he returned to Italy on a visit and was everywhere greeted with enthusiasm; he was made a member of the Academy of Fine Arts at Florence, and at Perugia was honored by a special performance of Le Danaide and his Passion Oratorio, receiving from Pope Pius VII. the order of the Golden Spur and the title of Count Palatine. The same year he wrote La Villanella Rapita di Pirna for an opera at the Theatre at Pilnitz. Three of his compositions bear the date, 1817; they are the oratorio, Isacco, written with rhythmical instead of recitative declamation; the opera Laodicea, written for San Carlos at Naples, and Gianni di Parigi, for La Scala at Milan. During the years that followed he wrote many operas and much church-music, among which was the excellent requiem written on the death of the King of Saxony, 1827. In 1841 he died at Innsbruck. Some of his other compositions are La Morte d'Abel; II Colombo; La Gioventu di Enrico V.; Donna Aurora; La capricciosa pentita; II da d'Ayenellp; Tebaldo ed Isolma; I Saraceni in Sicilia; II Renigato; and II Disperato per eccesso di buon cuore; all operas. His churchmusic consisted of ten grand masses for the Dresden Chapel; ten offertories; a Miserere in three parts; six masses; twenty-three psalms and twelve antiphonies; he also wrote about twenty cantatas, six organ sonatas and some piano-music and songs.