Antonio Sacchini

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Antonio Sacchini

Antonio Maria Gasparo Gioacchino Sacchini (born June 14, 1730 in Florence , Grand Duchy of Tuscany , † October 6, 1786 in Paris ) was an Italian composer .


Antonio Sacchini received his musical training in Naples , where his father was employed as a cook. There he attended the Conservatorio Santa Maria di Loreto at the age of ten and studied violin with Nicolò Fiorenza , singing with Gennaro Manna and composition with Francesco Durante , who believed that Sacchini would be "the composer of the century". The success of his first dramatic works, the Intermezzi Fra Donato and Il giocatore , which were performed by students in the Conservatory from 1756, led to further engagements for Neapolitan and Roman theaters. At the same time he advanced his career within the conservatory; first he became “maestro di capella straordinario”, then, after Manna's resignation in 1761, he became “secondo maestro”.

After a stopover in Venice , where he spent two serias composed, he had in 1763 in Padua with olimpiade L' , a Metastasio - Libretto , a great success, which made him known throughout Italy. He now concentrated on his compositional tasks and gave up his position at the conservatory. After a stay in Rome, where he succeeded with some comical works at the Teatro Valle , he went to Venice in 1768, where he quickly made a name for himself as a singing teacher - he taught, among others, Nancy Storace - and dedicated himself to church music . Over the next four years he combined these activities with a lot of work for the major Italian music centers. In 1770 he visited Munich and Stuttgart to perform three "serias" there.

In 1772 Sacchini moved to London , where he initially had great success over the next ten years. Charles Burney describes his Tamerlano from 1773 as

“Equal, if not superior, to any other musical drama I've heard anywhere in Europe in the past. The arias of the main actor Millico were written entirely in the fine and poignant style of this singer, and those of the main actress in the lively and nervous style of [singer] Girelli. And he supported the skills of the supporting actors in such a clever way that all their flaws were always concealed or hidden. "

Nevertheless, because of his dissolute way of life, which earned him many enemies, he got into difficulties, including financial ones . To avoid arrest, he went to Paris in 1781 , where he had made a name for himself with the earlier success of a reworked version of his Olimpiade . and was immediately placed on the side of the Piccinni supporters , who engaged in a bitter dispute with the representatives of Gluck's reform opera and hoped for support for their position of the opera seria Neapolitan character. He was introduced to Marie Antoinette and recommended by her brother Joseph II , who was in Paris at the time and an ardent advocate of Italian opera. The Queen, in an effort to keep Sacchini in France, then persuaded the directors of the Paris Opéra to accept his salary of 10,000 francs for each of the three planned operas.

But Sacchini quickly became entangled in various intrigues and ill-favors: the "Gluckists" tried to alienate him from his allies, the "Piccinnists", while the Queen made herself vulnerable because of her open preference for foreign composers. Between these poles of criticism, the premiere of his Renaud was a foreseeable failure, while his next opera, Chimène, suffered from comparison with Piccinnis Didon , widely regarded as a masterpiece. His next operas Dardanus and Œdipe à Colone were also premiered under unfortunate circumstances and were initially unsuccessful. The latter was intended to be performed by Marie Anoinette in Fontainebleau , but public opinion forced her to prefer the French Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne instead . It remains to be seen whether this disappointment contributed to the composer's death, as claimed by his esteemed student Henri Berton , or whether it was a result of his long-standing gout suffering and his unrestrained lifestyle. Only after Sacchini's death was Œdipe à Colone finally given justice and was able to establish himself as one of the most successful French operas of the time. Ultimately, the number of performances of Œdipe à Colone even surpassed that of Salieri's box office hits Tarare and Les Danaïdes , making Œdipe à Colone, with a total number of performances of 583 performances up to 1844, the most-performed opera at the Paris Opéra.

About 60 operas were written by Sacchini, mostly based on the Neapolitan school. The stay in Paris and the competition to Gluck brought him closer to the tragédie lyrique . Sacchini's style was graceful rather than sublime, and his music lacked creative power and originality. But the dramatic truth in his operas, especially in the later works, is above criticism, and he has never failed to work with the care of an experienced and accomplished musician. Besides the operas, Sacchini wrote chamber music , masses , oratorios and settings of psalms .

Works (selection)

  • Il Gioccatore , Intermezzo, 1756 Naples Conservatory
  • Andromaca , Opera seria, first performance: Naples May 30, 1761
  • Alessandro Severo , Opera seria in 3 acts, first performance: Venice Carnival 1763
  • Alessandro nell'Indie , Dramma per musica in 3 acts, world premiere: Venice Ascension 1763
  • L'olimpiade , Dramma per musica in 3 acts, first performance: Padua July 9, 1763; (as L'olympiade ou Le triomphe de l'amitie : Paris October 2, 1777)
  • Semiramide riconosciuta , Damma per musica, first performance: Rome January 7, 1764
  • Lucio Vero , Opera seria, first performance: Naples November 4, 1764 (as Vologeso : Parma 1772)
  • Montezuma , Opera seria in 3 acts, 1765
  • L'isola d'amore , Intermezzi per musica in 2 acts, first performance: Rome Carnival 1766; (as La Colonie : Paris August 16, 1775); (German versions: The Island of Love / The Colony )
  • Gioas re di Giuda , oratorio, first performance: Rome March 27, 1767
  • Artaserse , Dramma per musica in 3 acts, first performance: Rome January 9, 1768
  • Scipione in Cartagena , Opera seria, first performance: Munich January 8, 1770
  • L'eroe cinese , Dramma per musica in 2 acts, first performance: Munich April 27, 1770
  • Adriano in Siria , Dramma per musica, first performance: Venice Ascension 1771
  • Il Cid , Opera seria, first performance: London January 19, 1773
  • Tamerlano , Opera, first performance: London 6 May 1773
  • Nitteti , serious opera, first performed in London, April 19, 1774
  • Œdipe à Colone , Tragédie lyrique based on a tragedy by Sophocles , first performance: January 4, 1786


Sacchini's work has largely been forgotten today. Only available on CD:

  • ŒDIPE à COLONE . Manon Feubel, soprano, Fabrice Mantegna, tenor, Daniel Galvez-Vallejo, tenor, Sviatoslav Smirnof, bass-baryton.

Choir and Orchestra La Camerata de Bourgogne. Conductor Jean-Paul Penin . First world recording (June 2004). DYNAMIC 494 / 1-2

  • ŒDIPE à COLONE François Loup, Nathalie Paulin, Robert Getchell, Tony Bouttlé, Kirstin Blaise, Opera Lafayette Orchestra and Chorus, conductor: Ryan Brown, recording, May 2005, label: NAXOS 8.660196-97
  • Another recording of a Sacchini opera still exists, but is currently out of print: La Contadina in Corte (Opera buffa), published by Bongiovanni in 1997


  • Wolfgang Hochstein : Music research at the Ospedaletto in Venice at the time of Antonio Sacchini . In: Die Musikforschung Vol. 40, 1987, Issue 4, ISSN  0027-4801 , pp. 320-377
  • Franco Schlitzer: Antonio Sacchini. Schedule e appunti per una sua storia teatrale . Ticci, Siena 1955, ( Quaderni dell ' Accademia Chigiana 34).
  • Eldred A. Thierstein: Antonio Maria Gasparo Sacchini and his French operas . Cincinnati Oh., Univ., Diss., 1974.

Web links

Commons : Antonio Sacchini  - Collection of images, videos and audio files