Cimarosa, Domenico, famous Italian composer; b. Aversa, near Naples, Dec. 17, 1749; d. Venice, Jan. 11, 1801. He was the son of a stonemason. After his father’s death, his mother placed him in the monastery school of the church of S. Severo dei Padri Conventuali in Naples, where he began his musical training with Father Pol-cano, the monastery organist. He then enrolled at the Cons, di S. Maria di Loreto (1761), where he studied voice, violin, and keyboard playing with Fenaroli, P.A. Gallo, and Careáis. Following his graduation in 1771, he studied voice with Giuseppe Aprile. His first opera, Le stravaganze del conte, was staged in Naples in 1772. From 1776 he composed operas at a prolific rate, producing about 65 works for the major Italian opera centers as well as those abroad. In 1779 he was named supernumerary organist of the Royal Chapel in Naples; in 1785 he became its second organist. He also served for a time as maestro of the Ospedaletto, a cons, for girls in Venice. In 1787 he was given the post of maestro di cappella to the court of Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg. During his Russian sojourn, he wrote three operas and various other works for the court and the nobility. However, the court cut back on its funding of music and Cimarosa’s contract was allowed to lapse in 1791. He proceeded to Vienna, where Emperor Leopold II appointed him Kapellmeister. He then composed his masterpiece, II matrimonio segreto, which was premiered with great acclaim at the Burgtheater on Feb. 7, 1792. The Emperor was so taken by the opera that he ordered that it be repeated that evening, undoubtedly the most elaborate encore in operatic annals. The opera’s fame spread throughout Europe, and Cimarosa returned to Italy in 1793 as one of the most celebrated musicians of the age. In 1796 he was appointed first organist of the Royal Chapel in Naples. In 1799 he welcomed the republican movement in Naples by composing a patriotic hymn for the burning of the royal flag; however, the monarchy was restored later that year and Cimarosa’s efforts miscarried. In consequence of this, he was arrested in Dec. 1799 and sent to prison for four months.
He was released only after the intervention of several prominent individuals. He then went to Venice, where he died while working on his opera Artemisia. It was rumored abroad that he had been poisoned by order of Queen Caroline of Naples; the rumor was so persistent, and popular feelings so pronounced, that the Pope’s personal physician, Piccioli, was sent to Venice to make an examination; according to his sworn statement (April 5, 1801), Cimarosa died of a gangrenous abdominal tumor.
Cimarosa was an outstanding composer of Italian opera buffa in his day. His melodic inventiveness, command of form, superb vocal writing, and masterly orchestration were unexcelled until Rossini arrived upon the scene.
DRAMATIC: Opera: Le stravaganze del conte (Naples, Carnival 1772); La finta parigina (Naples, Carnival 1773); I sdegni per amore (Naples, Jan. 1776); I matrimoni in ballo (Naples, Carnival 1776); La Frascatana nobile or La finta frascatana (Naples, 1776); / tre amanti (Rome, Carnival 1777); II Fanatico per gli antiche romani (Naples, 1777); L’armida immaginaria (Naples, 1777); Gli amanti comici, o sia La famiglia in scompiglio (Naples, 1778?); Il ritorno di Don Calandrino (Rome, Carnival 1778); Le stravaganze d’amore (Naples, 1778); // matrimonio per raggiro or La Donna bizzarra (Rome, 1778–79?); L’Italiana in Londra (Rome, Carnival 1779); L’infedeltà fedele (Naples, 1779); Le Donne rivali (Rome, Carnival 1780); Cajo Mario (Rome, Carnival 1780); I finti nobili (Naples, Carnival 1780); II Falegname (Naples, 1780); II capriccio drammatico (Turin, 1781?); Il Pittor parigino (Rome, Carnival 1781); Alessandro nell’Indie (Rome, Carnival 1781); L’Amante combattuto dalle donne di Punto (Naples, 1781); Giunio Bruto (Verona, 1781); Giannina e Bernardone (Venice, 1781); II convito (Venice, Carnival 1782); L’amor costante (Rome, Carnival 1782); L’Eroe cinese (Naples, Aug. 13, 1782); La Ballerina amante (Naples, 1782); La Circe (Milan, Carnival 1783); I due baroni di Rocca Azzurra (Rome, Carnival 1783); La Villana riconosciuta (Naples, 1783); Oreste (Naples, Aug. 13, 1783); Chi dell’altrui si veste presto si spoglia (Naples, 1783); I matrimoni impensati or La bella greca (Rome, Carnival 1784); L’apparenza inganna, o sia La villeggiatura (Naples, 1784); La vanità delusa or II mercato di Malmantile (Florence, 1784); L’Olimpiade (Vicenza, July 10, 1784); I due supposti conti, ossia Lo sposo senza moglie (Milan, 1784); Artaserse (Turin, Dec. 26, 1784); II Marito disperato or II Marito geloso (Naples, 1785); La Donna sempre al suo peggior s’appiglia (Naples, 1785); II Credulo (Naples, Carnival 1786); Le trame deluse (Naples, 1786); L’Impresario in angustie (Naples, 1786); Vo-lodimiro (Turin, Carnival 1787); II Fanatico burlato (Naples, 1787); La felicità inaspettata (St. Petersburg, March 1788); La Vergine del sole (St. Petersburg, 1788?); La Cleopatra (St. Petersburg, Oct. 8, 1789); II matrimonio segreto (Vienna, Feb. 7, 1792); Amor rende sagace (Vienna, Aprii 1, 1793); I traci amanti (Naples, June 19, 1793); Le astuzie femminili (Naples, Aug. 26, 1794); Penelope (Naples, Carnival 1795); Le nozze in garbuglio (Messina, 1795); L’impegno superato (Naples, 1795); La finta ammalata (Lisbon, 1796); I Nemici generosi (Rome, Carnival 1796); Gli Or azi ed i Curiazi (Venice, Carnival 1797); Achille all’assedio di Troja (Rome, Carnival 1797); L’imprudente fortunato (Rome, Carnival 1797); Artemisia regina di Caria (Naples, 1797); L’apprensivo raggirato (Naples, 1798); II secreto (Turin, 1798); Artemisia (Venice, Carnival 1801; left unfinished); some 30 other stage works have been at tributed to Cimarosa, but many are doubtful. oratorios:Giuditta (Venice, 1782?); Absalom (Venice, 1782); II sacrificio d’Abramo (Naples, 1786); II trionfo delle fede (Naples, May 1794); II martirio (Naples, 1795); S. Filippo Neri che risuscita PaoloMassimi (Rome, 1797). other: Many masses and other sacred works; secular cantatas; a Harpsichord Concerto; a Concerto for 2 Flutes; chamber music; keyboard pieces.
M. Trevisan, Nel primo centenario di D. C.(Venice, 1900); R. Vitale, D. G, La vita e le opere (Aversa, 1929); G. Biamonti, II matrimonio segreto di D. G (Rome, 1930); F. Schlitzer, Goethe e C.(Siena, 1950); J. Johnson, D. C (1749–1801) (diss., Univ. Coll., Cardiff, 1976); R. Iovino, D. G: Operista napoletano (Milan, 1992); N. Rossi and T. Fauntleroy, D. G: His Life and His Operas (Westport, Conn., 1999).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire
Composer best known for his comic operas; b. Aversa (near Naples), Dec. 17, 1749; d. Venice, Jan. 11, 1801. He received his musical training at a Franciscan free school in Naples and then at the Conservatorio Santa Maria di Loreto (1761–72). His first opera, Le Stravaganze del Conte, was produced in 1772. Despite rivals in the field of Neapolitan opera (notably paisiello) Cimarosa was soon writing both comic and serious operas for various theaters throughout Italy. In 1787 he accepted an invitation to become chamber composer to Catherine II in St. Petersburg, but he left there in 1791 for the court of Leopold II in Vienna. There he wrote his best-known work, Il Matrimonio segreto (1792), a masterpiece of genuine buffo style, which received 67 consecutive performances the following year in Naples. Cimarosa helped welcome French revolutionary troops into Naples in 1799; on the return of the Bourbons he was sentenced to death, then pardoned. Setting out again for Russia, he fell sick in Venice and died shortly after. In addition to 75 operas, he wrote many motets and concerted Masses, several oratorios, cantatas, and shorter vocal and instrumental compositions, all of them largely forgotten.
Bibliography: r. vitale, Domenico Cimarosa (Aversa 1929). m. tibaldi chiesa, Cimarosa e il suo tempo (Milan 1939). comitato nazionale per le celebrazioni cimarosiane 1949, Per il bicentenario della nascita di Domenico Cimarosa, ed. f. de filippis (Aversa 1949). d. j. grout, A Short History of Opera 2 v. (New York 1965). h. wirth, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume 2: 1442–49. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, ed. n. slonimsky (New York 1958) 294–295. t. barfoot, "Domenico Cimarosa," in International Dictionary of Opera 2 v. ed. c. s. larue (Detroit 1993) 259–262; "Il Matrimonio Segreto [The Secret Marriage ]," ibid., 826–827. j. e. johnson, Domenico Cimarosa (1749–1801) (Ph.D. diss. Cardiff University, 1976); "Domenico Cimarosa," in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. s. sadie (New York 1980) 398-403. d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge, Mass. 1996) 162-163. n. slonimsky, ed. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, (New York 1992) 334–335.
[r. w. lowe]
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.
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).
Iovino, Roberto, Domenico Cimarosa: operista napoletano, Milano: Camunia, 1992. □