Personalities | Giovanni Legrenzi | Early & Middle Baroque | Opera

1626–90, Italian

Giovanni Legrenzi composed his first operas at Ferrara, where he became maestro di cappella at the Accademia dello Spirito Santo in 1656. He began with Nino il giusto (‘Nino the Just’, 1662) and in the next three years produced Achille in Sciro (1663) and Zenobia e Radamisto (1665). Subsequently, Legrenzi led a nomadic life, travelling around Europe until 1677, when he was appointed director of the Ospedali dei Mendicanti (the Beggars’ Hospital) in Venice. Legrenzi wrote some 14 operas for the opera houses in Venice; many of these works have been lost. After becoming the first maestro di cappella at St Mark’s in 1685, he abandoned the theatre and instead confined himself to instrumental and church music.

The Venetian operatic tradition culminated with Legrenzi’s works, which were partly modelled on those of Monteverdi and Cavalli and included an ingenious genre, the heroic-comic opera, including Totila (1677), Giustino (1683) and I due Cesari (‘The Two Caesars’, 1683). In all these operas, Legrenzi provided elaborate musical treatment for historical themes, as well as dramatic and also comic scenes. One important innovation by Legrenzi was his emphasis on orchestral accompaniment and instrumental melodies, which anticipated practices later developed by the so-called Neapolitan school.

Introduction | Early & Middle Baroque | Opera
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