Personalities | Antonio Caldara | Late Baroque | Opera
c. 1670–1736, Italian
Caldara was probably taught by Giovanni Legrenzi (1626–90) and was a choirboy at St Mark’s in Venice. His earliest operas were composed for Venice, while he was working as a cellist at St Mark’s. He was appointed maestro di cappella at Mantua to the last Gonzaga duke until about 1707, and then worked at Rome for Prince Ruspoli until about 1716. His most fertile years were spent in Vienna, where he was vice-Kapellmeister to Emperor Charles VI, and produced more than 35 dramatic works at the Habsburg court across 20 years. Meanwhile, the prolific Caldara also composed several operas for Salzburg. He was the first composer regularly to set libretti by reformers Apostolo Zeno (1669–1750) and Metastasio.
Caldara was one of the few composers of the era who regularly used choral forces in his operas, although his musical style for Vienna was required to be more conservative than it had been in Venice and Rome. Other composers must have admired Caldara’s work: his lost setting of Stampiglia’s La partenope (1708) for Venice probably impressed Handel, who was in Venice at the time, and composed his own setting for London many years later. Many of Caldara’s operas have survived, but have not yet been adequately explored.
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