Cimarosa, Domenico


One of the most celebrated of Italian composers. He was born at Aversa, near Naples, was a son of parents in humble circumstances and orphaned at an early age. He received his first musical instruction from Polcano, the organist of the monastery where he was a charity pupil. His talent early manifested itself and, in  1761, he obtained a free scholarship in the Conservatory of Naples, which school he attended eleven years, acquiring a thorough knowledge of the Italian masters. In 1772 he produced his first opera in Naples and it immediately gave him an important place among the composers. For eight years he lived alternately at Rome and Naples, composing in that time about twenty operas, which were performed in various cities in Italy. Cimarosa was invited by Catherine II. of Russia to St. Petersburg, as chamber composer, where he made great progress in his musical studies. The rigors of the Russian climate, however, forced him to leave the court of the Empress, and some years later at the invitation of Leopold II. he succeeded Salieri as court chapelmaster at Vienna. It was here that he composed his most celebrated work, II Matrimonio Segreto, which is the only work by which he is known at present. In 1793, after the death of Leopold, he returned to Naples, where he was appointed chapelmaster to the King and teacher to the Princesses. Here he was received with every kindness, but his last days were anything but tranquil. Because of taking part openly in the Neopolitan revolutionary demonstration, on the entrance of the French army into the city he was imprisoned and sentenced to death, but King Ferdinand was prevailed upon to commute it to banishment. Cimarosa set out for St. Petersburg, but before he could reach his destination he died at Venice. At the time of his death he was at work on an opera, Artemesia. Opera seems to have been his forte, although he wrote other music. In twenty-nine years he wrote eighty operas, and excelled in representing a merry vivacity which distinguishes the genuine Italian opera buffa. Beside his operas, he composed oratorios, cantatas, psalms, motets, and much church music, principally masses, which were much admired and often sung. A bust of Cimarosa by Canova was placed in the Pantheon at Rome.