Obscure Composers (2)
in 1737, the year in which the San
Carlo theater was opened, we find many names
connected with the so-called "Neapolitan School," a
period running roughly from 1700 to the early 1800s.
Many of the composers in that particular musical
tradition studied at one of the four conservatories in
Naples; indeed, many went on to teach at one or
more of those same schools. They composed widely in both
opera seria and
Domenico Sarro (1679-1744). The San Carlo
theater opened on St. Charles’ Day, November 4, 1737 (the
feast day of the king’s patron
saint). The largest and most lavish opera house in Europe
opened—the first “season,” as
it were—with Achille in Sciro by Sarro.
He is primarily remembered only (!) as
the composer of the opera that opened the new theater.
season also featured La Clemenza di Tito
by Leonardo Leo and L’olimpiade by Niccolò Porpora (below). All
of the operas featured in the first season had one thing
in common: they had libretti by the same person—Metastasio, the greatest
librettist (and probably greatest Italian poet) of the
1700s. His libretti were ubiquitous in Italian opera in
that century and any single work of his might be done and
redone by many musicians. His libretto, La
Clemenza di Tito, for example, was set to music by
about 40 composers (!), including Mozart
(in 1791). (This means that your version, mine, and that
of poor Leonardo Leo might not stand the test of time.)
Niccolò Porpora (1686-1768) probably shouldn’t be on this list. Again, I plead ignorance. He was a vocal coach and music teacher to the great castrato, Farinelli. Porpora travelled widely and was active and well received in London, Vienna, and Dresden. In London, he was somewhat viewed as the Italian competition of the German transplant, Georg Friedrich Haendel. Porpora was a graduate of the Naples conservatory of the Poveri di Gesù Cristo, one of the famed four conservatories in Naples of that period. He wrote 50 operas but is remembered primarily as a voice teacher.
( 1711-1788) crops up at San Carlo in the 1740s with his Adriano in Siria and Zenobia.
Latillo was born in Bari and composed many operas. He
traveled and worked and taught in Rome and at La
Pietà conservatory in Venice. He was also the
assistant Choir Master at Santa Maria
Maggiore in Rome. In terms of competition, he was up
against the preceding generation—the likes of Alessandro Scarlatti and Pergolesi—as well as other members
of the “Neapolitan school” already mentioned—Leo, Porpora,
Sarro, Jommelli, Vinci, and most
significantly, the great Niccolò Piccinni, the
most popular of all Italian composers between 1750-1770.
Indeed, opera in Naples in the last half of the 1700s is dominated by Piccinni and then Paisiello, and Cimarosa. Names that are no longer familiar to non-specialists, but whose works appeared at San Carlo in that period, include Baldassarre Galuppi (1706-1785), a Venetian and the composer of a number of instrumental sonatas as well as many operas; Davide Puca (1711-1778), whose opera Artaserse, Alessandro, and Tito Manlio were performed at San Carlo; and Nicola Sala (1713-1801), a composer and teacher at the Pietà dei Turchini conservatory for sixty years