Antonio Cesti

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Antonio Cesti (also: Pietro Antonio Cesti ; * August 5, 1623 in Arezzo ; † October 14, 1669 in Florence ) was an Italian opera composer , court conductor in Innsbruck and a Franciscan.


Baptized as Pietro Cesti, he entered the Franciscan order at the age of fourteen and took the religious name Antonio. For him, as for many other young people of his time, entry into an order was the only way to receive a musical education. He was trained in Rome by Giacomo Carissimi and subsequently held various church music offices in Italy, for example, at the age of twenty he became organist of the cathedral and music master of the seminary in Volterra, but in 1647 he also appeared as a singer in the newly restored theater in Siena. In 1650 Cesti was in Florence, where, despite his religious vows, he soon made a name for himself in the theater world. He sang in Francesco Cavalli's opera Giasone in Lucca, which earned him a warning from the Order of the Minorites. Nevertheless, he felt strong enough to stage his first two operas in Venice in 1651 and 1652.

Scene from Cestis Il pomo d'oro with a singer on the stage and Jupiter and Juno in the clouds, decor by Ludovico Burnacini , Vienna 1668

In the years 1652 to 1657 Cesti was employed as the chamber music director of Archduke Ferdinand Karl's private band in Innsbruck. There he produced three performances together with the Arezzo-born librettist Giovan Filippo Apolloni, which were a great success even by Italian standards : Argia was performed in honor of Queen Christina of Sweden , who had recently converted to Catholicism , who was on her way to Rome in Innsbruck made. Orontea followed in 1656 on the occasion of the Carnival and La Dori in 1657.

In 1659, on the orders of the Franciscan Order, Cesti had to go to Rome, where, released from his vows, he sang and composed in the Sistine Chapel .

From 1665 to 1667 he worked as Kapellmeister at the court of Emperor Leopold I in Vienna , where he composed his most famous opera, Il pomo d'oro, for the emperor's wedding celebration . Ultimately, Cesti returned to Italy because he did not like the prescribed pomp in Vienna. In 1669 he worked at the court of the Archduke in Florence, in Siena he directed opera performances, and he also accepted commissions for Venice. Along with Francesco Cavalli, Cesti was the most important opera composer of his time.

The first name Marc'Antonio, which appears frequently in literature, was given to him by mistake.


The staging of Antonio Cesti's opera Orontea under director Walter Sutcliffe in the Frankfurt Opera in 2015 brought to mind why it was one of the most popular stage works in the 17th century.

Works (excerpt)

In addition to his operas, Cesti composed numerous secular cantatas and some church music vocal works.

  • Alessandro vincitor di se stesso (Venice 1651)
  • Cesare amante (Venice 1652)
  • La Cleopatra (1654, almost an Innsbruck version by Alessandro vincitor di se stesso )
  • L'Argia (Innsbruck 1655)
  • L'Orontea (Innsbruck 1656 , libretto: Giacinto Andrea Cicognini , edited by Filippo Apolloni)
  • La Dori, overo Lo Schiavo reggio (Innsbruck 1657, libretto: Apolloni)
  • Venere cacciatrice (Innsbruck 1659, libretto: Sbarra)
  • La magnanimità d'Alessandro (Innsbruck 1662, libretto: Sbarra)
  • La Semiramide (Innsbruck 1665, libretto: Moniglia)
  • Le nozze in sogno (Florence 1665, libretto: Pietro Susini)
  • Il Tito (Venice 1666, libretto: Nicolò Beregan )
  • Il pomo d'oro (Vienna 1668)


  • Lorenzo Bianconi:  CESTI, Pietro (in religione Antonio). In: Alberto M. Ghisalberti (Ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 24:  Cerreto – Chini. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 1980.
  • Antonio Cesti: Il Pomo d'Oro (Music for acts III and V from Modena, Biblioteca Estense, Ms. Mus.E.120 = Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era 42). Edited by Carl B. Schmidt. AR Editions, Madison WI 1982, ISBN 0-89579-168-4 .
  • Heinz Wieser: Baroque composer Antonio Cesti died 350 years ago . In: Der Schlern, vol. 95, 2020, issue 2, pp. 64–65.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Natascha Pflaumbaum: Opera L'Orontea by Antonio Cesti: Three and a half hours of garish confusion of love. In: Deutschlandradio Kultur . February 1, 2015 (review), accessed February 2, 2015
  2. The music of a setting of the libretto performed in Venice in 1649 is very likely by Francesco Lucio. Cf. Carl B. Schmidt:  Orontea. In: Grove Music Online (English; subscription required).