Giovanni Pacini

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Giovanni Pacini, lithograph by Josef Kriehuber , 1827

Giovanni Pacini (born February 11, 1796 in Catania , † December 6, 1867 in Pescia ) was an Italian opera composer .


Childhood and adolescence

Pacini had his family roots in Tuscany and was a son of the famous bass - Buffo Luigi Pacini ; his mother Isabella Paulillo was also a singer. Two of his uncles were ballet dancers, one of whom was also a choreographer , and Giovanni also received dance training as a child (against his will) before he turned to composition . He also had a brother Francesco and two sisters Claudia and Giuseppina.

He received his first musical lessons from his father. He then went to the Conservatory in Bologna , where he became a student of the famous castrato Luigi Marchesi (singing) and Padre Stanislao Mattei ( counterpoint ). Later he moved to Venice , where he learned from Bonaventura Furlanetto .

First career

Only 16 years old, Pacini made his debut in 1813 with the opera Annetta e Lucindo at the small Teatro di Santa Radegonda in Milan . In the beginning he composed opera buff or semiseries , in which his father often appeared. After a series of more or less major failures, he wanted to give up composing, but then had unexpected success with the Semiseria Adelaide e Comingio , which he wrote for the Carnival 1815-16 at the Teatro Re in Milan. The operas La sacerdotessa d'Irminsul (1817, Trieste ; a predecessor of Bellini's Norma ) and L'Atala (1818, Padua ) were also successful. One of the most popular operas of his early career was Il barone di Dolsheim , an opera semiseria that premiered in 1818 at La Scala in Milan . The libretto was by Felice Romani and sang Raniero Remorini and Violante Camporesi.

1822 Pacini was of Maria Luisa of Bourbon to their maestro di camera e capella appointed, so he to Viareggio moved and Lucca chose as his "second home". His family, especially his parents, also lived in his new house in Viareggio.

Stage design for Pacini's L'ultimo giorno di Pompei (Milan 1827)

The first opera Pacini created for the important Teatro San Carlo in Naples ( Rossini's former place of work) was Alessandro nelle Indie (1824), which received no applause at the first performance, but was cheered in the second performance in the presence of the king. A year later he wrote L'ultimo giorno di Pompei for the same opera house , which premiered on November 19, 1825 with Adelaide Tosi , Giovanni David and Luigi Lablache in the leading roles, and which Pacini considered "the greatest triumph of my early career" designated. Subsequently, he received a nine-year contract from Impresario Domenico Barbaja as artistic director of his theaters (in Naples and Milan), with the commission to compose two operas a year - a contract similar to that of Rossini's earlier. Pacini also had enormous success
with Gli arabi nelle Gallie (1827): after its premiere at La Scala in Milan (again with Giovanni David), the opera was not only all over Italy, but also in Vienna (1827), Dresden (1829), and Madrid (1829), Barcelona (1830) and even New York (1834).
In 1827 Pacini traveled to Vienna with the Milan Scala Company, where four of his operas were performed, including L'ultimo giorno di Pompei and Gli arabi nelle Gallie . He also went to Paris in 1830 to perform L'ultimo giorno di Pompei , but the outbreak of the July Revolution disrupted all planning and Pacini had to return to Italy before the delayed premiere in October, where he had obligations in Rome .

Until 1835 all of his works were performed in major Italian theaters. After 1830, Pacini was pushed more and more into the third row by Bellini and Donizetti , and in 1835 his opera Carlo di Borgogna at the Teatro La Fenice (Venice) fell through with both audiences and critics. Pacini took this failure as an opportunity to withdraw from the opera stage and to found a private music school in Viareggio. He had great success with this school; later it established itself in Lucca.

Second career

After a five-year absence from the opera stage, during which he devoted himself to studying dramaturgy and music theory, he returned to the opera stage in 1839 with Furio Camillo (Rome 1839). The time for a new beginning was relatively favorable, because Bellini had died in 1835 and Donizetti had left Italy shortly before. In the second phase of his career that followed, Pacini followed a new, highly romantic style of music and opera, which accommodated the now modern aspirations for a romantic and as realistic as possible musical drama, as had been attempted by Bellini and Donizetti before him. Pacini's following new operas are characterized by a denser, rich instrumentation and very colorful harmony. Together with Salvadore Cammarano , he created the Tragedia lirica Saffo (premiere on November 29, 1840) for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples , which was an enormous success and became his most famous opera. Others of the operas composed in the 1840s were also successful and are often considered his most mature works, including La fidanzata corsa (Naples 1842), Maria regina d'Inghilterra and Medea (both 1843), and Allan Cameron (1848). After 1850, like Mercadante , Pacini was finally pushed into the second row by the new star in the opera sky, Giuseppe Verdi . Nevertheless, he did not give up (like Rossini had long before), but continued to compose operas regularly. He also wrote a Sinfonia Dante , which was performed on May 15, 1865 in Florence at the celebrations of the famous poet's 600th birthday.

Pacini's last opera Berta premiered seven months before his death .

Private life

The daughters Pacini, Paolina and Amazilia. Oil painting by Karl Brjullow , 1832

Pacini had as a young man glamor eyelet affairs with Paolina Borghese (a sister of Napoleon ), and - with the - after the death of his first wife, Russian en Countess (aka Yuliya.) Giulia Samoylova.

He was married three times and had five surviving children (four others died early). He married his first wife, Adelaide Castelli, in 1825, just eight days after meeting her; they initially lived in his in-laws in Portici . Adelaide gave him three children, the first two daughters Paolina and Amazilia. Adelaide died of puerperal fever as early as the spring of 1828, three days after the birth of a little boy Lodovico . The baby did not survive long either and Pacini had to retreat to Viareggio with his family out of grief.
His second wife was the opera singer Marietta Albini, who sang the role of Gulnara in the 1832 premiere of Pacini's Il corsaro . Marietta and Pacini had a daughter Giulia, but his wife died in 1849.
Around 1852/53 he married his third and last wife Marianna Scoti, who gave him three more children: Isabella, Luigi and Paolina.


Pacini was particularly hostile in his early career by his competitors en Meyerbeer , Bellini and Donizetti , who portrayed him in their letters partly as a schemer, partly as a mere imitator of Rossini (or Bellini). Meyerbeer, who himself was clearly an imitator of Rossini in his Italian time (like others), also mocked the fact that Pacini got help from his father Luigi in his early years in the opera business. Much of such hostility was probably based on mere competition envy. The press (especially abroad, such as Germany and Austria, which was generally more critical or ironic about Italian opera ) often portrayed Pacini as a kind of appendage to Rossini.

Pacini himself writes in his memoirs that he had a good collegial relationship with Bellini and Donizetti. Bellini, on the other hand, expressed himself particularly jealous and hostile in letters about Pacini (similar to that against Donizetti) and claimed in a letter of December 28, 1831 that Pacini's mistress Giulia Samoylova had engaged a claque for the premiere of his Norma (December 26, 1831) , which caused a fiasco for the opera.

In his later days there were voices who did not understand Pacini's “brave” perseverance when writing operas, and who thought he should make room for young composers.


The eruption of Vesuvius in Pacini's L'ultimo giorno di Pompei (Milan 1827)

In addition to his main work, the approximately 74 operas of various genres, Pacini composed 35 oratorios and masses . His Messa di Requiem from 1864 was performed during the transfer of the remains of Vincenzo Bellini from Paris to Catania. In his smaller occasional work there is an emphasis on cantatas . His Sinfonia Dante (1864) and some late string quartets should be mentioned in the instrumental area . He has also published some works on music theory and an autobiography .

Pacini's operas span a period from 1813 to 1867 and consequently belong to very different musical epochs, from the late classical to the high romantic . In his youth he was a great admirer of Rossini , but can not be seen as a mere imitator, but found his own style. Before retiring from the stage in 1835, he had success with many of his operas, not only in Italy but also on other European theaters (Vienna, Munich, Dresden, Paris). After Rossini left Italy in 1822, Pacini was for a time probably the most successful opera composer in Italy, until the appearance of Bellini, who was five years his junior (from Il pirata , 1827). Donizetti , who was only a year younger , was only able to establish himself from around 1830 (with Anna Bolena ). Pacini was nicknamed “Master of Cabalettes ” by his contemporaries because he designed them to be particularly imaginative and lively.

Upon his return to the opera stage, Pacini's style had changed dramatically, especially with a richer instrumentation and more complex harmonics . His operas from the 1840s are stylistically somewhere between the late works of Gaetano Donizetti and Giuseppe Verdi . The occasional juxtaposition of old and new stylistic devices is attractive at Pacini. Many of his operas often show astonishing care in the ensembles (as early as the 1820s, e.g. in Alessandro nelle Indie and L'ultimo giorno di Pompei ). Pacini is considered the most interesting rhythmist before Verdi among bel canto composers; here he is more variable than Donizetti. Its melody is also remarkable.

Given the current state of knowledge (2019), an assessment of his late work (after 1850) is difficult.

At the beginning of the 21st century, most of Pacini's music is still forgotten, even if some operas were performed again from the end of the 20th century, such as Saffo , which is always regarded as his "masterpiece" , as well as Medea and L'ultimo giorno di Pompei . A certain interest in his work emanated from England in particular , where Opera Rara performed the opera Maria regina d'Inghilterra as early as the 1980s and recorded and published excerpts from other works. In the meantime, there are also CD recordings by Alessandro nelle Indie (1824) and Carlo di Borgogna, who failed in 1835 . In 2013, the Free Opera Company Zurich brought Pacini's chamber music version of Don Giovanni (1832), originally written for a private performance with his family, to the stage. Singers like Cecilia Bartoli , Joyce DiDonato and Julie Fuchs have included individual, forgotten arias in their aria programs.

Operas (selection)

Set design for Pacini's Gli Arabi nelle Gallie by Alessandro Sanquirico

Pacini had great or at least moderate success with many operas, especially before 1830 and into the 1840s. With the exception of his first performed opera Annetta e Lucindo and the momentous failure Carlo di Borgogna, only his successful operas are mentioned in the following list:

  • 1813: Annetta e Lucindo, farsa comica (Teatro di Santa Radegonda, Milan)
  • 1817: Adelaide e Comingio, melodramma semiserio (Teatro Re, Milan)
  • 1817: La sacerdotessa d'Irminsul, melodramma eroico (Teatro Grande, Trieste); i.a. with Giovanni Battista Velluti
  • 1818: Il barone di Dolsheim (also: Federico di Prussia overo Il barone di Dolsheim ), melodramma (La Scala, Milan)
  • 1819: La sposa fedele, melodramma semiserio (Teatro San Benedetto, Venice)
  • 1819: Il falegname di Livonia (The carpenter from Livonia), melodramma (La Scala, Milan)
  • 1820: La schiava in Baghdad, melodramma (Teatro Carignano, Turin); with Giuditta Pasta and Luigi Pacini
  • 1820: La gioventù di Enrico V, melodramma giocoso (Teatro Tordinona, Rome)
  • 1821: Cesare in Egitto ( Caesar in Egypt), melodramma eroico; with Ester Mombelli and Domenico Donzelli
  • 1823: La vestale, melodramma serio (La Scala, Milan); with Teresa Belloc , Isabella Fabbrica and Luigi Lablache
  • 1823: Il Temistocle , dramma per musica (Teatro del Giglio, Lucca); with Rosmunda Pisaroni and Nicola Tacchinardi
  • 1824: Alessandro nell'Indie , dramma per musica (Teatro San Carlo, Naples); with Adelaide Tosi , Caterina Liparini and Andrea Nozzari
  • 1825: Amazilia, dramma per musica (Teatro San Carlo, Naples)
  • 1825: L'ultimo giorno di Pompei (The last day of Pompeii ), dramma per musica (Teatro San Carlo, Naples); with Adelaide Tosi, Giovanni David , Luigi Lablache , Michele Benedetti and others
  • 1827: Gli Arabi nelle Gallie ossia Il trionfo della fede, melodramma serio (La Scala, Milan); i.a. with Brigida Lorenzani, Stefania Favelli and Giovanni David
  • 1828: I crociati a Tolemaide, melodramma serio (Teatro grande, Trieste); with Rosa Mariani and Violante Camporesi
  • 1829: Il contestabile di Chester, melodramma romantico (Teatro San Carlo, Naples); with Adelaide Tosi, Luigia Boccabati , Luigi Lablache
  • 1831: Il corsaro, melodramma romantico (Teatro Apollo, Rome); with Rosa Mariani, Marietta Albini and others
  • 1832: Ivanhoe, melodramma (Teatro La Fenice, Venice); with Giuditta Grisi , Anna del Sere, Domenico Cosselli
  • 1835: Carlo di Borgogna (on Charles the Bold ), melodramma romantico (Teatro La Fenice, Venice); with Henriette Méric-Lalande , Giuditta Grisi and Domenico Donzelli
  • 1841: Saffo , tragedia lirica (Teatro San Carlo, Naples); i.a. with Francilla Pixis , Gaetano Fraschini and Gian-Orazio Cartagenova
  • 1842: La fidanzata corsa, melodramma tragico (Teatro San Carlo, Naples); i.a. with Eugenia Tadolini , Gaetano Fraschini and Giovanni Basadonna
  • 1843: Maria, regina d'Inghilterra (on Maria I ), tragedia lirica (Teatro Carolino, Palermo); with Antonietta Marini and Nicola Ivanoff
  • 1843: Medea , melodramma tragico (Teatro Carolino, Palermo)
  • 1845: Lorenzino de 'Medici, tragedia lirica (Teatro La Fenice, Venice)
  • 1845: Bondelmonte, tragedia lirica (Teatro della Pergola, Florence)
  • 1845: Stella di Napoli, dramma lirico (Teatro San Carlo, Naples); with Eugenia Tadolini
  • 1846: La regina di Cipro , dramma lirico (Teatro Regio, Turin); i.a. with Erminia Frezzolini
  • 1848: Allan Cameron (Teatro La Fenice, Venice)
  • 1855: Niccolò de 'Lapi, melodramma tragico (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
  • 1858: Il saltimbanco, dramma lirico (Teatro Argentina, Rome)


  • Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche. (Edite ed inedite). Autobiografia del maestro cav. Giovanni Pacini. Riscontrata sugli autografi e pubblicata da Ferdinando Magnani. Successori Le Monnier, Florence 1875 (reprint. A cura di Luciano Nicolosi e Salvatore Pinnavaia. Con un saggio critico di Stefano Adabbo. Presentazione di Gianandrea Gavazzeni . Pacini Fazzi, Lucca 1981). See also scan in Google Book Search. (Autobiography by Giovanni Pacini; Italian)
  • Pacini, 1) Giovanni . In: Meyers Konversations-Lexikon . 4th edition. Volume 12, Verlag des Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1885–1892, p. 597.
  • Alfred Baumgartner: Propylaea World of Music - The Composers - A lexicon in five volumes . tape 4 . Propylaen Verlag, Berlin 1989, ISBN 3-549-07830-7 , pp. 224 .
  • Saverio Lamacchia:  Pacini, Giovanni. In: Raffaele Romanelli (ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 80:  Ottone I-Pansa. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 2014.

Web links

Commons : Giovanni Pacini  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

References and comments

  1. a b c d e f g h i j According to the entry in the baptismal register (17 February can also be found in older literature). Saverio Lamacchia: Giovanni Pacini , in: Dizionario biografico degli italiani , Vol. 80, 2014, online on Treccani (Italian; accessed August 12, 2019)
  2. Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , GG Guidi, 1865, online as Google Book , p. 3 (Italian; viewed on August 10, 2019)
  3. Jeremy Commons: "Giovanni Pacini and Maria regina d'Inghilterra", text on the CD: Giovanni Pacini: Maria regina d'Inghilterra (with Nelly Miricioiu, Bruce Ford et al.), Opera Rara ORC 15, 1998, pp. 11-88, here: p. 13
  4. ^ Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ... 1865, online as Google Book , p. 46
  5. Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , GG Guidi, 1865, online as Google Book , p. 12 (Italian; seen on August 10, 2019)
  6. ^ Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , GG Guidi, 1865, online as Google Book , pp. 16-17
  7. ^ Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., pp. 16-17
  8. ^ Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., pp. 18-20
  9. There is evidence of at least 40 productions, including those in Munich (1819), Barcelona and Madrid. See the performance list of Il barone di Dolsheim on Corago , seen on August 10, 2019
  10. ^ Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., 1865, p. 22
  11. ^ Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., 1865, p. 32 f
  12. ^ Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., 1865, p. 36
  13. Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., 1865, pp. 40-46
  14. ^ " ... il maggior trionfo della mia prima epoca artistica ", in: Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , GG Guidi, 1865, pp. 49-50
  15. ^ Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., p. 50
  16. Jeremy Commons: "Giovanni Pacini and Maria regina d'Inghilterra", ..., Opera Rara ORC 15, 1998, pp. 11-88, here: 15
  17. A total of over 50 productions. See the performance list of Gli arabi nelle Gallie, ossia il trionfo della fede on Corago , as seen on August 10, 2019
  18. ^ "Bellini, il divino Bellini e Donizetti mi avevano sorpassato." In: Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., 1865, p. 82
  19. a b c Marino Pessina: “Saffo”, in: Piero Gelli & Filippo Poletti (eds.): Dizionario dell'opera 2008, Baldini Castoldi Dalai, Milan, 2007, pp. 1168–1169, online at (on the Web.archive , Italian; accessed August 4, 2019)
  20. Jeremy Commons: Giovanni Pacini and Maria regina d'Inghilterra , booklet text on the complete recording of Maria regina d'Inghilterra (with Nelly Miricioiu, Bruce Ford et al.), Opera Rara, 1998, pp. 11-88, here: p. 14
  21. Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., 1865, pp. 48–49
  22. ^ After the performance of his opera I cavalieri di Valenza at La Scala in Milan in the summer of 1828. Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., 1865, pp. 66–67
  23. Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., 1865, pp. 77-78
  24. ^ Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., 1865, pp. 123 and 125
  25. Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., 1865, pp. 124-25
  26. Recordings by Giovanni Pacini on the Opera Rara website (as of August 12, 2018)
  27. Arias by Pacini from Irene and for Rossini's Tancredi in the album Maria , with works for and by Maria Malibran, Decca 2007.
  28. ^ Arias from Stella di Napoli and Saffo on the album Stella di Napoli , Erato 2014.
  29. ^ Arias from La regina di Cipro on the CD album Mademoiselle , Deutsche Grammophon / Decca 2019
  30. The list is based on the information on opera performances by Pacini in the Corago information system of the University of Bologna (accessed on November 25, 2017). For this you have to enter the name "Pacini" in the Autore field under Eventi . Operas with only one or only a few more productions were rated as failures and are not mentioned here.
  31. ^ Giovanni Pacini: Le mie memorie artistiche , ..., 1865, p. 41
  32. Title reversed: Il trionfo della fede, ossia Gli Arabi nelle Gallie.