Egidio Duni

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Egidio Duni, portrayed by Louis Carmontelle

Egidio Romoaldo Duni (born February 9, 1708 in Matera (southern Italy), † June 11, 1775 in Paris ) was an Italian opera composer of the late Baroque and is considered one of the founders of the French Opéra comique .


Egidio Duni was the fourth son of Francesco Duni (also called Francesco De Duno in the baptismal register), the maestro di capelle in Matera, who gave his sons, also Egidio's brother Antonio, the first music lessons. At the age of nine, Egidio entered the Conservatorio di S. Maria de Loreto in Naples ; he was there, contrary to the assertion of an eulogy published in 1775 after his death, probably not a student of Francesco Durante . He then studied at the Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchini . He had his first success at the age of 26 with his opera Nerone in Rome in 1735 ; thus he was a successful competitor of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi , who at the same time had a failure with his opera L'olimpiade . Duni then traveled to various cities inside and outside Italy to demonstrate his works, so that his operas were performed in Milan 1736, Florence 1744, Naples 1746, Genoa 1748, Lucca 1749, Bitonto 1749 and again in Florence 1751. During the Carnival of 1736 he stayed in London , where his opera Demofoonte as Demofontes, King of Thrace was performed in May 1737 at the King's Theater in English. Duni was appointed maestro di cappella at the Church of San Nicola in Bari on December 16, 1743 ; he held this office for about five years.

In 1748 Duni settled in Parma , where Philippe de Bourbon , Duke of Parma, hired him to be a maestro di cappella at court. He was also the music teacher of Isabella , daughter of the Duke and future Empress of Austria. Social life in Parma was based on the French court, and Duni got to know the artistic developments in Paris here, because the French Opéras comiques and Tragédies lyriques were performed in Parma under the influence of the theater director Guillaume Du Tillot . The composer wrote his last Opera seria ( Olimpiade 1755) and Opera buffa ( La buona figliuola 1756) here. After the poet and librettist Carlo Goldoni arrived in Parma in May 1756, a friendship and deepened collaboration developed with him. According to other sources, Duni is said to have set two French libretti to music, including Ninette à la cour (as Le Retour au village , 1756–1759), but this is not certain. In the following years, under Goldoni's influence, contacts came to the director of the Opéra-comique in Paris, Jean Monnet . At first he was not very enthusiastic about the idea of ​​entrusting the composition of a French opera to an Italian composer, but then he agreed and suggested a text by Louis Anseaume : Le Peintre amoureux de son modèle . The resulting Opéra comique Dunis premiered in July 1757 with brilliant success. The composer then finally moved to Paris, where he stayed until his death. Nevertheless, he received a lifelong pension of 2,400 livres a year from the Duchy of Parma . In 1759 Duni married Elisabeth-Catherine Superville, who was 23 years his junior.

The following year he got the position of directeur de la musique at the Théâtre-Italien in Paris , which was connected with a further annual salary of 1000 livres. In accordance with his new contract, he composed the opéra comique L'isle des foux (The Island of Fools) based on a libretto by Anseaume, a revision of the opera text L'Arcifanfano, re de 'matti by Goldoni (for the Venetian Carnival in 1750 with the music of Baldassare Galuppi ). After the success of two previous operas, this work was received very favorably by the Parisian public in 1760, confirming their preference for Duni's work and his Italianizing style. Further operas were created in the fruitful collaboration with Anseaume. Relations with the French poet and librettist Charles-Simon Favart , on the other hand, were tense , who had even tried to prevent a performance, but this did not affect Duni's success. After the success of the opera L'Ecole de la Jeunesse , the composer was rewarded by the Comédiens-italiens with an annuity of 800 livres. Between June 1766 and January 1768, Duni stayed in Italy for 18 months. The Italian comic opera had changed profoundly at that time through the works of Niccolò Vito Piccinni , Pasquale Anfossi and Giovanni Paisiello . After his return, Duni worked with the librettist Michel-Jean Sedaine ; the operas that followed were not very successful. With the composition of Thémire (first performance Passy 1770) Duni finished his operatic work and worked as a teacher in the last years of his life.

A brother of Egidio was the composer Antonio Duni (* around 1700 in Matera, † after 1766 perhaps in Schwerin ). Egidio's son, Jean-Pierre Duni (born September 21, 1759) composed a collection of Trois Sonates pour Clavecin ou forte-piano avec accompagnement de violon , published in Paris in 1778, which was dedicated to the Princess de Poix.


As a result of his solid training in Naples, Duni's extensive knowledge of tradition can be read from the works that have survived from his Italian period; They also give rise to a pronounced originality, especially in the treatment of the melodic material. Of much greater importance, however, is his French group of works. Against the background of the previous forms of Opéra comique, his operas immediately asserted themselves as a novelty, which was referred to as the new genre comédie mêlée d'ariettes . Duni's active French period began just after the Buffonist controversy of 1752–1754, in which, inspired by Jean-Jacques Rousseau , the "musicality" of the French language was at stake. Duni skillfully avoided any rivalry with Rousseau and supported those composers who sought ways to transfer the Italian intermezzi to French operas. The opera Le Peintre amoureux de son modèle , which was very successful not only in France, has been proven to be an original, not a parody of an earlier Italian opera; the Italian model exerted a strong effect, after the overture and an ariette take up earlier pieces by Duni. In this way, an ornate Italian style recurs in his French operas. His successful use of ensembles, which goes back to the collaboration with the librettist Anseaume, is also characteristic. Les Moissoneurs (Die Schnitter, 1768) has a particularly experimental character ; This opera stands out for its particularly virtuoso musical movement, its ornate cadences in the Italian style and its declamatory passages.

By the late 1760s, Duni's compositional style was becoming more and more out of date; the genre of the opera had changed its direction as a result of the works of Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny , François-André Philidor and André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry and overtook the earlier style. This also shows the lack of understanding that Duni showed towards the opera Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph Willibald Gluck . His retirement from the stage in 1770 was a natural consequence of this development.


  • Church music and other vocal music
    • Oratorio Gioas re di Giuda , 1749
    • Oratorio Giuseppe riconosciuto , 1759
    • Oratory Athalie
    • Oratory Le Sacrifice d'Isaac
    • Mass for five voices and orchestra
    • Kyrie and Gloria for four voices and instruments
    • Te Deum for four voices and orchestra
    • Litany for four voices and instruments
    • Tantum ergo for soprano, alto, two violins and organ
    • Aria La dolce campagna. Arie composte per il Regio Teatro , London 1737
    • Aria Cara ti lascio addio in D major for soprano and strings
    • Aria Dopo un tuo sguardo for voice, two violins and basso continuo
    • Aria La Belle Chose que la guerre, avec les accompagnement , without place or year
    • Arie Luci spietate voi m'insegnate for tenor and strings
    • Aria Minacci quell'altera sia fiera for voice and orchestra
    • Numerous other arias
  • Italian operas with the place and date of the premiere
    • Nerone (Rome, May 21, 1735)
    • Adriano in Siria (Rome, December 27, 1735)
    • La tirannide debellata (Milan, Carnival 1736)
    • Demofoonte or Demophontes, King of Thrace (King's Theater London, May 24, 1737)
    • Didone abbandonata ( La Didone abbandonata , Milan, January 1739)
    • Catone in Utica (Florence, Carnival 1740)
    • Bajazet ( Baiazette o Tamerlano , Florence, autumn 1743)
    • Artaserse (Florence 1744)
    • Ipermestra (Genoa, Carnival 1748)
    • Ciro riconosciuto (Genoa, spring 1748)
    • L'olimpiade ( Olimpiade , Parma, Carnival 1755)
    • La buona figliuola ( La Cecchina , Parma, December 26, 1756)
  • French operas with the place and date of the premiere
    • Le peintre amoureux de son modèle (Paris, July 26th 1757)
    • Le docteur Sangrado (Saint Germain, February 13, 1758)
    • La Fille mal gardée ou Le Pedant amoureux (Paris, March 4, 1758)
    • La Chute des Anges rebelles (Paris, March 16, 1758)
    • Nina et Lindor ou Les Caprices du coeur (Paris, September 9, 1758)
    • La Veuve indécise (Paris, September 24, 1759)
    • La Boutique du poète (October 8, 1760)
    • L'Isle des foux (Paris, December 29, 1760)
    • Mazet (Paris, September 24, 1761)
    • La Plaidreuse ou Le Procés (Paris, May 19, 1762)
    • La Nouvelle Italie (Paris, June 23, 1762)
    • Le Milicien (Versailles, December 29, 1762; Paris, January 1, 1763)
    • Les Deux Chasseurs et laitière (Paris, July 23, 1763)
    • Le Rendez-vous (Paris, November 16, 1763)
    • L'École de la jeunesse ou Le Barnevelt françois (Paris, January 24, 1765)
    • La Fée Urgèle ou Ce qui plaît aux dames (Fontainebleau, October 26, 1765)
    • La Clochette (Paris, July 24th 1766)
    • Les Moissonneurs (Paris, January 27, 1768)
    • Les Sabots (private performance Paris, October 26, 1768)
    • La Rosière de Salency (Fontainebleau, October 25, 1769)
    • Thémire (private performance Passy, ​​August 1770; Fontainebleau, November 26, 1770)
  • Stage works of dubious authenticity
    • Alessandro nelle Indie (1736?)
    • Armida , three arias
    • Demetrio (possibly by or with Georg Christoph Wagenseil , Florence, Carnival 1747)
    • La bonne fille (Paris, 1762)
    • La semplice curiosa ( La Chercheuse d'esprit , Florence, autumn 1751)
    • L'Embarras du choix (March 13, 1758), parody by Enée et Lavinie (Paris 1758)
    • Le Retour au village ( Le Caprice amoureux ou Ninette a la cour , not listed; Parma 1755)
    • L'Heureuse Espièglerie (1771 ?, not listed)
  • Instrumental music
    • 6 Sonata a tre (Trio Sonatas ) op.1 (Rotterdam 1738)
    • 30 Minuetti e contridanze (London 1738)

Literature (selection)

  • Eloge de Monsieur Duni. In: Le Nécrologe des hommes célèbres de France No. 6, 1775, pages 163–179
  • J. Tiersot: Lettres de musiciens écrites en francais di XVe au XXe siècle. In: Rivista musicale italiana No. 17, 1910, page 512; separate publication Turin 1924, volume 1, pages 505-553
  • G. Cucuel: Les Créateurs de l'opera-comique français , Paris 1914
  • L. de la Laurence: L'Opéra-comique de Duni à Dalayrac. In: Albert Lavinac (editor), Encyclopédie de musique et dictionaire du Conservatoire, 11 volumes, here volume 11, Paris 1931, pages 1476–1489
  • C. Brenner: The Theater Italien and Its Repertory, 1716–1793 , Berkeley / California 1961
  • Ch. E. Koch jr .: The Dramatic Ensemble Finale in the Opéra comique of the 18th Century. In: Acta musicologica No. 39, 1967
  • KM Smith: Egidio Duni and the Development of the Opéera-comique from 1753 to 1770 , Ann Arbor 1980
  • J. Kopp: The Drame Lyrique: a Study in the Esthetics of Opéra-Comique, 1762–1791 , dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania 1982
  • BA Brown: Durazzo, Duni and the Frontispice Orfeo ed Euridice. In: Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture No. 19, 1989, pp. 71-97
  • P. Artuso: La figura di Egidio Romualdo Duni tra scuola napoletana e opéra-comique , dissertation at the University of Rome 1990/91
  • G. Carli Ballola: Egidio Romoaldo Duni e il suo opéra-comique. In: Musica in scena, edited by A. Basso, Volume 2, Turin 1996, pages 203-208
  • A. Fabiano: I ›buffoni‹ alla conquista di Parigi. Storia dell'opera italiana in Francia tra Ancien Régime e Restaurazione (1752–1815) , Turin 1998
  • M. Noiray: L'opera italiana in Francia nel secolo XVIII. In: Storia dell'opera italiana, edited by L. Bianconi / G. Pestelli, Turin 2001

Web links

Commons : Egidio Romualdo Duni  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. The Music in Past and Present (MGG), Person Part Volume 5, Bärenreiter and Metzler, Kassel and Basel 2001, ISBN 3-7618-1115-2
  2. Marc Honegger, Günther Massenkeil (ed.): The great lexicon of music. Volume 2: C - Elmendorff. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau a. a. 1979, ISBN 3-451-18052-9 .
  3. Biografia Egidio Romualdo Duni on the website of the City of Matera , accessed on August 11, 2015