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Domenico Cimarosa

Domenico Cimarosa

The works of the Italian opera composer Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801) typify the style of Italian opera buffa, or comic opera, in the late 18th century.

Domenico Cimarosa was born in Averso near Naples, the son of a very poor family. At the age of 12 he entered the Conservatory of S. Maria di Loreto; he studied composition, voice, and keyboard and sang major parts in conservatory performances.

Cimarosa's first opera, Le stravaganze del cante, was produced in Naples in 1772, the year he left the conservatory. From then until 1780 he moved between Rome and Naples, composing 15 operas for the two cities. By the 1780s he was the rival of Giovanni Paisiello, until then the acknowledged leader among opera composers in Italy. Italian companies performed Cimarosa's works in London, Paris, Dresden, and Vienna.

In 1787 Cimarosa went to St. Petersburg, Russia, as chamber composer to Catherine II, joining a long line of Italians who had held posts there beginning in the early 18th century. He composed two operas, Cleopatra and La vergine del sole, as well as cantatas and vocal and instrumental works during his stay. His constitution was not strong enough to stand St. Petersburg's weather, so he left in 1791 to become conductor to Leopold II in Vienna. It was here that he composed his masterpiece, Il matrimonio segreto, in 1792. This, his most popular work, is the only one to remain in the repertory. When Leopold II died that year, Cimarosa lost his position and returned to Naples, where he became conductor to the king and music teacher to the royal children in 1793. In 1799 he was imprisoned for publicly expressing his sympathy for Napoleon. After his release he left Naples for St. Petersburg; on the journey he died in Venice in 1801.

In addition to 61 operas, many with two versions, Cimarosa composed oratorios, cantatas, miscellaneous vocal works, and instrumental works, including 32 one-movement piano sonatas. His melodic gifts so impressed Goethe that he wrote two texts, Die Spröde and Die Bekehrte, to be sung to Cimarosa's melodies.

Cimarosa's operatic style is similar to that of many of his Italian contemporaries. The speed at which he composed is reflected in his tendency to use conventional procedures. However, he wrote dramatic ensembles very well, both within acts and as finales, to carry forward the dramatic action. Although these ensembles do not show the breadth and depth of a Mozart, they are well above the standard of contemporary practice.

Further Reading

Both Paul Henry Lang, Music in Western Civilization (1941), and Donald J. Grout, A Short History of Opera (1947; 2d ed. 1965), survey the 18th-century Italian tradition and discuss Cimarosa. See also George T. Ferris, The Great Italian and French Composers (1883).

Additional Sources

Iovino, Roberto, Domenico Cimarosa: operista napoletano, Milano: Camunia, 1992. □

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Cimarosa, Domenico

Cimarosa, Domenico (b Aversa, Naples, 1749; d Venice, 1801). It. composer. Studied in Naples, where he wrote Le stravaganze del conti, first of his 65 operas. Worked in Rome and Naples until 1787 when he went to St Petersburg as court composer to Catherine II where his operas were less successful than those of his deputy, Soler. In 1791 succeeded Salieri as court Kapellmeister to Leopold II in Vienna, writing Il matrimonio segreto there. Returned to Naples 1792 as choirmaster to the king. Sentenced to death 1799 for supporting French republican army but reprieved on condition he left Naples. Wrote orch. works incl sym., ob. conc., and Sinfonia Concertante for 2 fl., and over 30 kbd. sonatas. Among his huge output of operas are: Le stravagante del conte (1772); Il tre amanti (1777); Il matrimonio per raggio (c.1778–9); L'italiana in Londre (1779); Il pittor parigino (1781, rev. as Il barone burlato, 1784, and as Le brame delusa, 1787); Chi dell'altrui si veste presto si spoglio (1783); I due baroni di Rossi Azzurra (1783); Artaserse (1784); I due supposti conti (1784); L'impresario in angustie (1786); Il fanatico burlato (1787); Il matrimonio segreto (1792); I traci amanti (1793); Le astuzie femminili (1794); Penelope (1795); Gli Orazi ed i Curiazi (1796); L'apprensivo raggirato (1798).

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Cimarosa, Domenico

Domenico Cimarosa (dōmĕ´nēkō chēmärô´zä), 1749–1801, Italian operatic composer. He wrote almost 80 operas, which were successfully produced in Rome, Naples, Vienna, and St. Petersburg. His works, of which Il matrimonio segreto (1792) is the best known, are good examples of pure opera buffa. He also wrote serious operas and church and instrumental music notable for its clear and Mozartean effect.

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Cimarosa, Domenico

Cimarosa, Domenico (1749–1801) Italian composer. He wrote more than 60 operas, his most famous being Il matrimonio segreto, which was first performed in Vienna in 1792. He also wrote seven cantatas and six oratorios.

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