Composers of all types are presented to us in many forms. The Rolling Stones composed music just as successfully as Mozart in his day. Composing is creating and an artist that creates music she or he is a composer. From ballet composers to pop-ballad composers to opera composers.
Of course, some composers are loved and some are not. While some reach the heights of international stages other artists work never leave their homes. We want to look at composers of operatic works who a still celebrated around the world.
Born in 1813 Verdi could study music with some financial help from a friend. By the age of eight, he was earning money for playing the organ. At twelve Verdi began to train and learn from Ferdinando Provesi, who was the director of the local music school and the resident Philharmonic Society.
The next year he began composing and has been said to reference the pieces he created for the next five years as “a motley assortment.” These pieces consisted of band marches, concertos, serenades, cantatas, and church pieces. Verdi wouldn’t write his first operas until he was out of his teen years.
Verdi’s first opera was encouraged by Pietro Massini, who was the leader of the local chorus in which Verdi became associated. The piece was first titled Rocester. Beginning in 1842 Verdi would go on to write twenty operas over the following sixteen years. Some of these works are Nabucco, I Lombardi alla prima crociata, La traviata, Rigoletto, Macbeth, and Attila.
He composed many more works after this period including Don Carlos, Aida, Otello, and Falstaff, which was his last published opera. And some of these are available at Cennarium! Try out tonight with Falstaff.
Over the span of more than fifty years, the first of our four opera composers – who was most known for his work during the Romantic Period – wrote thirty-seven operas including Don Carlos, Aida, Otello, and Falstaff, which was his last published opera.
2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
One of the most influential composers of all time Mozart rose out of the Classical era to give us masterpieces as The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte. He was born in Austria, Salzburg to be exact, and was another child prodigy. By the age of five, he was composing complex pieces and playing these works on the keyboard and violin for the Royals.
Così fan tutte translates to “Thus do all [women}”. Still, in English, it’s typically interpreted as “women are like that.” Performed in two acts this Italian-language work held its premiere at the Burgtheater in Vienna, Austria on January 26, 1790.
Two officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, voicing their opinions to each other of their belief that their women, with whom they will soon be married, will always be faithful to them. Their superior, Don Alfonso, tells them they are wrong. He goes on to say that he does not believe any woman has the power to be trustworthy.
The Marriage of Figaro is the continuation of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, who is about to marry Susanna. Yet, the count wants to take advantage of a law that allows him to bed any woman the night before she marries. It opened at the Burgtheater in Vienna on May 1, 1786.
The last opera Mozart completed before he died was The Magic Flute, which would come to see immense success for more than two hundred years. Unfortunately, Amadeus was robbed of seeing the immediate success of this opera because he passed on two months after it premiered.
3. Giacomo Puccini
This composer has penned some of the most notable operas of all time. Born in Tuscany to an organist father Puccini was one of seven children. He began his musical training with is uncle Fortunato Magi.
By the age of fourteen, he was appointed organist at Lucca’s San Martino and San Michelle. Puccini studied at the Milan Conservatory and this is where he wrote his first opera Le Villi, which premiered in Milan in 1884. Its instant success helped move along Puccini’s career.
Puccini had an illegitimate son with a local merchant’s wife with whom he was having an affair and he married the woman years later after her husband died. The next opera he would pen would be Edgar and it was a box office failure. Manon Lescaut followed and this opera found great success when premiering in Turin. Manon Lescaut is on the cover photo, during the Baden-Baden 2014 performance.
Between the ages of thirty-six and forty-eight Puccini would compose his most successful and historical operas. La Bohéme in 1896, Tosca in 1900, and Madame Butterfly in 1904. All three of these pieces are still considered masterpieces of opera and composition today. They are produced, reproduced, and parodied in countless works of art all over the world.
At the age of fifty-one, there is a scandal when one of his servants commits suicide after his wife falsely accuses him of having an affair with the young girl. At the age of sixty-five Puccini was diagnosed with throat cancer after years and years of smoking tobacco. At this time, he was working on his final opera Turandot. Only one short year later a heart attack would take the life of the composer of some of the most beautifully written operas of all time.
4. Gioachino Rossini
Born in February, Gioachino Antonio Rossini’s father was a poor musician and his mother a singer. As fate would have it, Rossini grew up in the theater. Singing and music came easy to Rossini while his other school subjects were uninteresting to him.
He began studying music at Bologna’s Philharmonic School where he composed Demetrio e Poliboio, his first opera seria. By the age of fifteen, Rossini could play the violin, horn, and harpsichord all while continuing to sing in public, including some theaters, to earn money. Once his voice changed his singing career was over so Rossini accompanied musically and then became a conductor.
Rossini appreciated the German’s influence on opera composition, especially that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Rossini found himself drawn to the comic opera, or opera buffa, composing his first titled La cambiale di martimonio (The Bill of Marriage). It was performed in Venice in 1810 and was an instant hit.
After a few more hits Rossini decided to sway from traditional attempts of composing opera buffe, which resulted in lively finales and unorthodox rhythms. In 1813 Rossini broke away from comedy and tried his hand with opera seria, or serious opera. As with his comedies, works like Tancredi and L’Italiana in Algeri were instant successes.
It was in 1816 that Rossini composed il barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville), which is arguably his most notable opera. Doing very well in every other Italian city besides Rome, il barbiere di Siviglia is still performed and adored to this day.
After barbiere Rossini composed many operas, concertos, piano pieces and more until 1829 when he premiered William Tell, which first introduced the unmistakable William Tell Overture. This musical piece has been used in films and cartoons throughout history since it was first scribed.
Rossini settled in Paris in 1855. Wealthy, retired, and happily married Rossini relaxed into old age by having famous friends for dinner and amusing anyone who would listen with his astounding wit.