Costa, Sir Michael


Dramatic composer and eminent conductor and a member of a musical family. He was born at Naples, and was the son and pupil of Pasquale Costa, then at the Conservatory of St. Sebastian, Naples. He studied singing with his grandfather, Giacomo Tritto, and composition with Zingarelli. When only fifteen he composed a cantata, L'Immagine; and also a grand mass for four voices; three symphonies; and an oratorio, La Passione. He won a scholarship from Ferdinand, King of the two Sicilies, and in 1829 went to London. In that same year he wrote an opera, Malvina, for Barbaja, the impressario of San Carlo, Naples, and also went to Birmingham to direct a cantata of Zingarelli's. In 1830 Costa was engaged by LaPprte, as master of the piano at the King's Theatre and in 1833 as director and conductor. The following year he wrote music for the grand ballet, Kenilworth, and in 1832 was engaged by Monck Mason, the impressario, as director of music. At this time he wrote a ballet and several other works, among them concert pieces. The Italian Orchestra was that year placed under his direction, and in 1833, while director and conductor of the King's Theatre, he composed the ballet Sir Huon, for Taglioni. Costa was naturalized in 1839 and became conductor of the Philharmonic Society in 1846. Prior to that he composed the ballet music of Alma and an opera, Don Carlos. He wrote additional accompaniments for Soloman, Tudas and other of Handel's oratorios, for the Sacred Harmonic Society, also n opera, Malek Adhel, which is considered by musicians as a thoroughly conscientious work, with much melodius music in it. With the season of 1854 he gave up the baton of the Philharmonic Society and was succeeded for one year by Richard Wagner. Costa was knighted in 1868 by the Queen and was decorated by many countries. His fame rests chiefly upon his powers as a conductor and leader. His tact, firmness and ability as a conductor were generally acknowledged and his success was, up to that time, unprecedented. His compositions are occasionally brought forward by musicians, but they never brought him the fame that his powers as a leader did. He died in London in 1884 and was buried in the catacombs of Kensel Green.