Ponchielli, Amilcare , celebrated Italian composer; b. Paderno Fasolaro, near Cremona, Aug. 31, 1834; d. Milan, Jan. 15, 1886. He studied with his father, a shopkeeper and organist at the village church, and entered the Milan Cons. as a non-paying student when he was 9; his mentors included Pietro Ray (theory), Arturo Angeleri (piano), Felice Frasi (composition), and Alberto Mazzucato (music history, aesthetics, and composition). While a student there he collaborated on the operetta Il sindaco babbeo (Milan Cons., March 1851) and also wrote the sym. Scena campestre (1852). After his graduation (1854), he went to Cremona as a church organist. He was named assistant to Ruggero Manna, director of Cremona’s Teatro Concordia (1855), where he brought out his opera I promessi sposi (Aug. 30, 1856). He was conductor of the municipal bands in Piacenza (1861–64) and Cremona (from 1864), where he also conducted opera; continued to pursue his interest in composing for the theater. He finally achieved notable success with the revised version of his I promessi sposi (Milan, Dec. 4, 1872), which was subsequently performed throughout Italy; his La Gioconda (Milan, April 8, 1876) secured his reputation. He was prof. of composition at the Milan Cons. in 1880 and again from 1881; also served as maestro di cappella at Bergamo’s S. Maria Maggiore (1881–86). He married Teresina Brambilla in 1874. His birthplace was renamed Paderno Ponchielli in his honor. La Gioconda remains his only work to have acquired repertoire status; it includes the famous ballet number Dance of the Hours. In addition to his numerous stage works, he composed many band pieces, vocal chamber music, chamber works, and piano pieces.
A. Mandelli, Le distrazioni di A. P. (Cremona, 1897); G. Cesari, A. P. nell’arte del suo tempo: Ricordi e carteggi (Cremona, 1934); U. Rolandi, Nel centenario ponchielliano: A. P. librettista (Corno, 1935); G. De Napoli, A. P. (1834–1886): La vita, le opere, l’epistolario, le onoranze (Cremona, 1936); A. Damerini, A. P. (Turin, 1940); N. Albarosa et al., eds., A. P. 1834–1886: Saggio e ricerche nel 1507 anniversario della nascità (Casalmorano, 1984); L. Sirch, Catalogo tematico delle musiche di A. P. (Cremona, 1989).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire