Domenico Cimarosa
(1749-1801)

Domenico Cimarosa was regarded as the leading Italian opera composer until Rossini’s emergence in the nineteenth century. When Cimarosa’s father died in a work accident as a stonemason, the boy was admitted to the church school at San Severo de’ Padri Conventuali and began taking music lessons with the organist. From 1761 to 1772, he studied violin, keyboard, and composition at the Conservatorio di San Maria di Loreto.

After leaving the conservatory, his first comic opera, Le stravaganze del conte, was a success. As his reputation grew, his works were performed all across Europe. Aside from composition, he also took on other roles, such as organist at the Neapolitan Royal Chapel, director at the Ospedaletto Conservatory, and maestro di cappella at the St. Petersburg court. Among his travels on the way to Russia, Cimarosa strengthened his network of contacts, which proved to be useful later when he returned to Vienna. While in St. Petersburg, he wrote operas for the empress Catherine II, though this post only lasted about four years due to a financial crisis in 1791 which led to many musicians being let go.

Cimarosa became Kapellmeister upon his return to Vienna and later worked as organist in Naples. In 1799, he found himself in prison for four months and scarcely escaped death after getting swept up in a political tumult in the aftermath of the French Revolution.

After his release, he passed away in Vienna in 1801 due to health ailments. Towards the end of his life, Cimarosa revised some of his previous music and continued to compose, leaving his last work, the opera Artemisia, unfinished. His earliest works were sacred pieces, including motets and masses, along with various chamber works and concerti; however, Cimarosa will forever be remembered for writing over 50 stage works, most notably, comic operas.

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