Skip to main content

Scarlatti, Alessandro


Important composer of the baroque period; b. Palermo, May 2, 1660 (christened Pietro Alessandro Gasparo);d. Naples, Oct. 24, 1725. As a boy of 12 he became a student of carissimi in Rome, where his first known opera was produced in 1679 and where he was for a time in charge of music for Queen Christina of Sweden. He was again in Rome (170309) as maestro di cappella at St. Mary Major. In 1710 he was appointed maestro to the royal court at Naples, a post he held for life. Scarlatti wrote more than 115 operas (50 of which are extant) and more than 500 chamber cantatas for one or two voices and harpsichord. He founded the so-called Neapolitan school of opera, whose chief stylistic characteristics are florid and elegant melodic lines, extensive use of the da capo aria form, and rapid, staccato recitatives. He also influenced the development of the Italian overture (fast section, slow section, fast section). Most, though not all, of his church music is inferior to his operas and cantatas. It is set in either of two styles: the "old style" in imitation of Palestrinian counterpoint; or the prevalent operatic style of Scarlatti's day. Research by Beekman C. Cannon of Yale University indicates that Scarlatti was apparently the first composer to set the complete, unaltered text of the St. John Passion. Because he composed in great haste his music is of uneven quality, but his best works rank among the baroque masterpieces.

Bibliography: e. j. dent, Alessandro Scarlatti, ed. f. walker (rev. ed. London 1960). e. hanley, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949) 11:14821506. f. a. d'accone, The History of a Baroque Opera: Alessandro Scarlatti's 'Gli equivoci nel sembiante' (Hillsboro 1985). l. damuth, "Interrelationships between the Operas and Datable Cantatas of Alessandro Scarlatti" (Ph.D. diss. Columbia University, 1993). u. d'arpa, "La famiglia Scarlatti: nuovi documenti biografici," Recercare 2 (1990), 243248. d. j. grout, e. hanley, and m. boyd, "(Pietro) Alessandro (Gaspare) Scarlatti" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 16, ed. s. sadie (New York 1980) 549567. g. g. jones, "Alessandro Scarlattis Il Ciro, " Hamburger Jahrbuch für Musikwissenschaft 1 (1978), 225237. d. poultney, "Alessandro Scarlatti" in International Dictionary of Opera 2 vols. ed. c. s. larue (Detroit 1993) 11841187. d. swale, "The Judith Oratorios of Alessandro Scarlatti," Miscellanea Musicologica 9 (1977), 145155.

[w. c. holmes]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Scarlatti, Alessandro." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 15 Aug. 2018 <>.

"Scarlatti, Alessandro." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (August 15, 2018).

"Scarlatti, Alessandro." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 15, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.