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Boito, Arrigo (baptismal name, Enrico)

Boito, Arrigo (baptismal name, Enrico)

Boito, Arrigo (baptismal name, Enrico), important Italian poet and opera composer; b. Padua, Feb. 24, 1842; d. Milan, June 10, 1918. He studied at the Milan Cons, with Alberto Mazzucato and Ronchetti-Monteviti. His 2 cantatas, II 4 Giugno (1860) and Le Sorelle d’Italia (1861), written in collaboration with Faccio, were performed at the Cons., and attracted a great deal of favorable attention; as a result, the Italian government granted the composers a gold medal and a stipend for foreign travel for 2 years. Boito spent most of his time in Paris, and also went to Poland to meet the family of his mother (who was Polish); he also visited Germany, Belgium, and England. He was strongly influenced by new French and German music. Upon his return to Milan, he undertook the composition of his first and most significant large opera, Mefistofele, which contains elements of conventional Italian opera but also dramatic ideas stemming from Beethoven and Wagner. It was performed for the first time at La Scala (March 5, 1868). A controversy followed when a part of the audience objected to the unusual treatment of the subject and the music, and there were actual disorders at the conclusion of the performance. After the 2nd production, the opera was taken off the boards, and Boito undertook a revision to effect a compromise. In this new version, the opera had a successful run in Italian cities; it was also produced in Hamburg (1880), in London (in Italian, July 6, 1880), and in Boston (in Eng., Nov. 16, 1880). It was retained in the repertoire of the leading opera houses, but its success never matched that of Gounod’s Faust. Boito never completed his 2nd opera, Nerone, on which he worked for more than half a century (from 1862 to 1916). The orch. score was revised by Toscanini and performed by him at La Scala on May 1, 1924. There are sketches for an earlier opera, Ero e Leandro, but not enough material to attempt a completion. Boito’s gift as a poet is fully equal to that as a composer. He publ, a book of verses (Turin, 1877) under the anagrammatic pen name of Tobia Gorrio; he wrote his own librettos for his operas and made admirable trs. of Wagner’s operas (Tristan una Isolde; Rienzi). He wrote the librettos of Otello and Falstaff for Verdi, which are regarded as his masterpieces; also for Gioconda by Ponchielli, Amleto by Faccio, etc. Boito also publ, novels. He held various honorary titles from the King of Italy; in 1892 he was appointed inspector-general of Italian conservatories; was made honorary D.Mus. by the Univ. of Cambridge and the Univ. of Oxford; in 1912 he was made a senator by the King of Italy. Boito’s letters were ed. by R. de Rensis (Rome, 1932), who also ed. Boito’s articles on music (Milan, 1931).


A. Boccardi, A. B. (Trieste, 1877); R. Giani, II Nerone di A. B. (Turin, 1901); M. Risolo, II primo Mefistofele di A. B.(Naples, 1916); A. Pompeati, A. B.(Florence, 1919); C. Ricci, A. B.(Milan, 1919); V. Gui, II Nerone di A. B.(Milan, 1924); A. Bonaventura, A. B.; Mefistofele (Milan, 1924); F Ballo, A. B.(Turin, 1938); R. de Rensis, A. B.; Aneddoti e bizzarrie poetiche e musicali (Rome, 1942); P. Nardi, Vita di A. B.(Verona, 1942; 2nd ed., Milan, 1944); M. Vajro, A. B.(Brescia, 1955); G. Mariani, A. B.(Parma, 1973); G. Scarsi, Rapporto poesia-musica in A. B.(Rome, 1973); G. Morelli, ed., A. B.(Florence, 1994); D. Del Nero, A. B.: Un artista europeo (Florence, 1995); H. Helbling, A. B.: Ein Musikdichter der italienischen Romantik (Munich, 1995).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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