Personalities | Amilcare Ponchielli | High Romantic | Opera
Amilcare Ponchielli, composer of nine operas, became famous for only one of them – La gioconda (‘The Joyful Girl’, 1876). Ponchielli was born at what was, for him, an unfortunate time. Verdi dominated the opera scene and Ponchielli was later overshadowed by one of his own pupils – Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924). Ponchielli’s first venture into composition was a joint effort with his fellow students in Milan – Il sindaco babbeo (‘The Simpleton Mayor’, 1851). His own first opera, I promessi sposi (‘The Betrothed’, 1856) was performed in Cremona but scored better success when revived in Milan in 1872. Two years later, I lituani (‘The Lithuanians’, 1874), which was commissioned from Ponchielli by Ricordi, the music publishers, was well received in Milan. Ponchielli had a great fondness for the exotic in music. In I lituani, he employed a Slavonic style, for Il figliuol prodigo (‘The Prodigal Son’, 1880) he opted for oriental harmonies, and for his last opera, Marion Delorme (1885), he came close to the style of opéra comique. Ponchielli married the soprano Teresina Brambilla (1845–1921), who belonged to a renowned family of Italian musicians and she sang in the revised version of I promessi sposi.
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