Farinelli’s composers: A L E S S A N D R O S C A R L A T T I (1660-1725)
Alessandro Scarlatti was an Italian Baroque composer, especially famous for his operas and chamber cantatas. He is considered the founder of the Neapolitan school of opera. He was the father of two other composers, Domenico Scarlatti and Pietro Filippo Scarlatti.
Scarlatti was born in Palermo, then part of the Kingdom of Sicily. He was the second son of the tenor Pietro Scarlata (the form Scarlatti was used from 1672 onwards) and Eleonora d'Amato, who were both involved in Palermo musical life. It was there that Alessandro began the studies that later facilitated his entry into musical life in Rome. He is generally said to have been a pupil of Giacomo Carissimi in Rome, and some theorize that he had some connection with northern Italy because his early works seem to show the influence of Stradella and Legrenzi. The production at Rome of his opera Gli Equivoci nell sembiante(1679) gained him the support of Queen Christina of Sweden (who at the time was living in Rome), and he became her Maestro di Cappella. In February 1684 he became Maestro di Cappella to the viceroy of Naples,
perhaps through the influence of his sister, an opera singer, who might
have been the mistress of an influential Neapolitan noble. Here he
produced a long series of operas, remarkable chiefly for their fluency
and expressiveness, as well as other music for state occasions.
In 1702 Scarlatti left Naples and did not return until the Spanish
domination had been superseded by that of the Austrians. In the interval
he enjoyed the patronage of Ferdinando de’ Medici, for whose private theatre near Florence he composed operas, and of Cardinal Ottoboni, who made him his maestro di cappella, and procured him a similar post at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome in 1703.
After visiting Venice and Urbino
in 1707, Scarlatti took up his duties in Naples again in 1708, and
remained there until 1717. By this time Naples seems to have become
tired of his music; the Romans, however, appreciated it better, and it
was at the Teatro Capranica in Rome that he produced some of his finest operas (Telemaco, 1718; Marco Attilio Regolò, 1719; La Griselda, 1721), as well as some noble specimens of church music, including a mass for chorus and orchestra, composed in honor of Saint Cecilia for Cardinal Acquaviva in 1721. His last work on a large scale appears to have been the serenata Erminia
for the marriage of the prince of Stigliano in 1723. An extensive account of the
performance in the Gazzetta di Napoli provides
interesting insight into its performance. The young Carlo Broschi,
already known as Farinello, sang the role of Erminia, while the
distinguished bass Don Antonio Manna created the role of Pastore. Scarlatti died in Naples in 1725.
I have become enamored with Italian opera. When I first moved out on my own I had the habit of putting on any one of a half dozen budget opera cds on the stereo, every time I’d make a sauce on weekends. It cured my frequent homesickness by reminding me of my nonna, from whom I learned how to cook some of my favorite italian dishes. Puccini, Verdi and Rossini became my composers of choice because, well, italian. The love affair deepens with this recent thrift store find. It was part of a bigger lot of mostly italian records that I’ve imagined once belonged to a first generation italian immigrant who must have recently passed on. His kids didn’t need the records any more so they dumped them off at the local Value Village so that they could clear away his house for final sale. I’ll never know whether my story is true enough but it sounds plausible enough and it links up well with my earliest memories of cooking my first italian meals while playing my small batch of opera cds.