Personalities | Leonardo Leo | Late Baroque | Opera
Leo was born near Brindisi, studied music in Naples at the Conservatorio San Maria della Pietà dei Turchini, and spent most of the rest of his life in the city. He held various organist and church music positions, and his first opera, Il pisistrato (1714), was staged before he was 20 years old. In 1723, he composed his first opera for Venice, but soon started to develop the new genre of Neapolitan comic opera. He was promoted to organist of the vice-regal chapel at Naples in 1725, but it was only after the death of Vinci and departure of Hasse from Naples that Leo became a leading opera composer.
In addition to Naples, Leo provided operas for Turin, Milan and Bologna, and acquired a reputation as an oratorio composer. Leo’s music was considered to be cerebral and more grounded in counterpoint than that of his more liberal Neapolitan contemporaries, and his operatic style was more conservative than Hasse, Vinci and Porpora. In 1737, Leo set Metastasio’s L’Olimpiade, but he mostly devoted his talents towards comic opera, and was one of the first to establish it as a respected art form.
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