TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY
 

Loading
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
     
     
  Amilcare Ponchielli  
 
 
 
 
 
 
CONTENTS
  BACK NEXT    
 
 
     
 
 
 
 
Amilcare Ponchielli
 
 
 
 
Amilcare Ponchielli (31 August 1834 – 16 January 1886) was an Italian composer, mainly of operas. He was married to the soprano Teresina Brambilla.


Biography

Born in Paderno Fasolaro, now Paderno Ponchielli, near Cremona, Ponchielli won a scholarship at the age of nine to study music at the Milan Conservatory, writing his first symphony by the time he was ten years old.

Two years after leaving the conservatory he wrote his first opera—it was based on Alessandro Manzoni's great novel The Betrothed (I promessi sposi) -- and it was as an opera composer that he eventually found fame.

His early career was disappointing. Maneuvered out of a professorship at the Milan Conservatory that he had won in a competition, he took small-time jobs in small cities, and composed several operas, none successful at first. In spite of his disappointment, he gained much experience as the bandmaster (capobanda) in Piacenza and Cremona, arranging and composing over 200 works for wind band. Notable among his "original" compositions for band are the first-ever concerto for euphonium (Concerto per Flicornobasso, 1872), fifteen variations on the popular Parisian song "Carnevale di Venezia", and a series of festive and funeral marches that resound with the pride of the newly unified Italy and the private grief of his fellow Cremonese. The turning point was the big success of the revised version of I promessi sposi in 1872, which brought him a contract with the music publisher G. Ricordi & Co. and the musical establishment at the Conservatory and at La Scala. The role of Lina in the revised version was sung by Teresina Brambilla whom he married in 1874. Their son Annibale became a music critic and minor composer. The ballet Le due gemelle (1873) confirmed his success.

The following opera, I Lituani (The Lithuanians) of 1874, was also well received, being performed later at Saint Petersburg (as Aldona on 20 November 1884). His best known opera is La Gioconda, which his librettist Arrigo Boito adapted from the same play by Victor Hugo that had been previously set by Saverio Mercadante as Il giuramento in 1837 and Carlos Gomes as Fosca in 1873. It was first produced in 1876 and revised several times. The version that has become popular today was first given in 1880.

In 1876 he started working on I Mori di Valenza, although the project dates back to 1873. It was an opera that he never finished, although it was completed later by Arturo Cadore and performed posthumously in 1914.

After La Gioconda, Ponchielli wrote the monumental biblical melodrama in four acts Il figliuol prodigo given in Milan at La Scala on 26 December 1880 and Marion Delorme, from another play by Victor Hugo, which was presented at La Scala on 17 March 1885. In spite of their rich musical invention, neither of these operas met with the same success but both exerted great influence on the composers of the rising generation, such as Giacomo Puccini, Pietro Mascagni and Umberto Giordano.

In 1881, Ponchielli was appointed maestro di cappella of the Bergamo Cathedral, and from the same year he was a professor of composition at the Milan Conservatory, where among his students were Puccini, Mascagni and Emilio Pizzi.

He died of pneumonia in Milan and was interred there in the Cimitero Monumentale.

Legacy
Although in his lifetime Ponchielli was very popular and influential, in introducing an enlarged orchestra and more complex orchestration, the only one of his operas regularly performed today is La Gioconda. It contains the great tenor romanza "Cielo e mar", a superb duet for tenor and baritone "Enzo Grimaldo", the soprano set-piece "Suicidio!", and the ballet music "The Dance of the Hours", known even to the non-musical from its use in Walt Disney's Fantasia in 1940, Allan Sherman's novelty song, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh", and other popular works.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
 
 
 
 
La Gioconda - 1876
 
 
La Gioconda is an opera in four acts by Amilcare Ponchielli set to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Angelo, Tyrant of Padua, a play in prose by Victor Hugo, dating from 1835. (This is the same source as Gaetano Rossi had used for his libretto for Mercadante's Il giuramento in 1837).

First performed in 1876, La Gioconda was a major success for Ponchielli, as well as the most successful new Italian opera between Verdi's Aida (1871) and Otello (1887). It is also a famous example of the Italian genre of Grande opera, the equivalent of French Grand-Opéra.

Ponchielli revised the work several times; the version that is played today was first given in 1880. There are several complete recordings of the opera, and it is regularly performed, especially in Italy. It is one of only a few operas that features a principal role for each of the six major voice types.


Performance history

La Gioconda was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 8 April 1876. It was especially successful in its third and final version first seen at the same theatre on 28 March 1880. The opera had its American premiere at the Metropolitan Opera on 20 December 1883.





Synopsis

The opera's title translates as The Happy Woman, but is usually given in English as The Ballad Singer. However, as this fails to convey the irony inherent in the original, the Italian is usually used. Each act of La Gioconda has a title.

Place: Venice
Time: 17th century
The story revolves around a woman, Gioconda, who so loves her mother that when Laura, her rival in love for the heart of Enzo, saves her mother's life, Gioconda puts aside her own romantic love to repay her. The villain Barnaba tries to seduce Gioconda, but she prefers death.

Act 1 The Lion's Mouth
The courtyard of the Doge's Palace

During Carnival celebrations before Lent, while everyone else is preoccupied with a regatta, Barnaba, a state spy, lustfully watches La Gioconda as she leads her blind mother, La Cieca, across the Square. When his amorous advances are firmly rejected, he exacts his revenge by denouncing the old lady as a witch whose evil powers influenced the outcome of the gondola race. It is only the intervention of a young sea captain that keeps the angry mob at bay.

Calm is restored at the approach of Alvise Badoero, a member of the Venetian Inquisition, and his wife, Laura. Laura places La Cieca under her personal protection, and in gratitude the old woman presents her with her most treasured possession, a rosary. The sharp-eyed Barnaba notices furtive behaviour between Laura and the sea captain indicating a secret relationship. Recalling that Laura was engaged to the now banished nobleman Enzo Grimaldo before her forced marriage to Alvise, Barnaba realises that the sea captain is Enzo in disguise.

Barnaba confronts Enzo, who admits his purpose in returning to Venice is to take Laura and begin a new life elsewhere. Barnaba knows that Gioconda is also infatuated with Enzo and he sees an opportunity to improve his chances with her by assisting Enzo with his plan of elopement.

When Enzo has gone Barnaba dictates a letter to Alvise revealing his wife's infidelity and the lovers' plan of escape. He is unaware that he has been overheard by Gioconda. The act ends with Barnaba dropping the letter into the Lion's Mouth, where all secret information for the Inquisition is posted, while Gioconda laments Enzo's perceived treachery, and the crowd returns to its festivities.

Act 2 The Rosary
The deck of Enzo's ship

Enzo waits for Barnaba to row Laura out from the city to his vessel. Their joyful reunion is overshadowed by Laura's fears as she does not trust Barnaba. Gradually Enzo is able to reassure her, and he leaves her on deck while he goes to prepare for their departure.

La Gioconda has been following Laura with the intention of exacting revenge from her rival. Alvise and his armed men are also in hot pursuit, but as Gioconda is about to stab Laura she sees her mother's rosary hanging round her neck and has an instant change of heart. She hurries Laura into her boat so that she can evade her pursuers.

Enzo returns to the deck to find that Laura has fled leaving Gioconda triumphant. Furthermore Alvise's men are rapidly approaching. He sets fire to the ship rather than let it fall into the hands of his enemies before diving into the lagoon.

Act 3 The Ca' d'Oro (House of Gold)
Alvise's palace

Laura has been captured, and her vengeful husband insists she must die by poisoning herself (effectively committing suicide and condemning herself to Hell). Once again Gioconda has followed and has found her way into the palace, this time with the intention of saving her rival. Finding Laura alone Gioconda replaces the phial of poison with a powerful drug which creates the appearance of death.

The second scene begins with Alvise welcoming his fellow members of the nobility to the palace; Barnaba and Enzo are amongst those present. Lavish entertainment is provided and the act ends with the famous ballet number Dance of the Hours.

Act 4 The Orfano Canal
A crumbling ruin on the island of Giudecca

The mood of revelry is shattered as a funeral bell begins to toll and the body of Laura is revealed awaiting burial. A distraught Enzo flings off his disguise and is promptly seized by Alvise's men. In exchange for Enzo's release from prison, La Gioconda has agreed to give herself to Barnaba. When Enzo is brought in, he is initially furious when Gioconda reveals that she has had Laura's body brought from its tomb. He is about to stab her when Laura's voice is heard and Gioconda's part in reuniting the lovers becomes clear. Enzo and Laura make their escape, leaving La Gioconda to face the horrors awaiting her with Barnaba. The gondoliers' voices are heard in the distance telling that there are corpses floating in the city. When Gioconda tries to leave, she is caught by Barnaba. She then pretends to welcome his arrival, but under cover of decking herself in her jewellery, seizes a dagger and stabs herself to death. In frustrated rage Barnaba tries to perpetrate one last act of evil, screaming at the lifeless body “Last night your mother offended me. I drowned her!”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
 
 
 
Maria Callas - Amilcare Pochielli - La Gioconda (1959)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
La Gioconda - Vienna 1986
 
Gioconda Eva Marton
Enzo Placido Domingo
Barnaba Matteo Manuguerra
Laura Ludmilla Semtschur
Alvise Kurt Rydl
La Cieca Margarita Lilowa
Zuane Alfred Sramek
Un menestrello Alfred Burgstaller
Isepo Jorge Pita
Un pilota Goran Simic
Primo Gondoliere Benedikt Kober
Secondo Gondoliere Peter Koves
Un monaco Francisco Valls
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Amilcare Ponchielli - Dance of the Hours, La Gioconda
 
Hungarian State Orchestra - Janos Ferencsik
 
 
 
 
 
     
  Classical Music Timeline

Instruments Through the Ages

Classical Music History - Composers and Masterworks
     
 
 
 

 
 
CONTENTS
  BACK NEXT