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Alessandri, Felicelocked

  • Sven Hansell
  •  and Marita P. McClymonds

(b ?Rome, Nov 24, 1747; d Casinalbo, nr Modena, Aug 15, 1798). Italian composer. According to Manferrari, he was born at S Damaso, near Modena. He studied in Naples and had his first large work, the oratorio Il Tobia, performed in Rome in 1765. Having gained recognition as a harpsichordist and conductor in Turin and in Paris at the Concert Spirituel, he visited Verona and Venice to prepare his first operas, Ezio and Il matrimonio per concorso, for Carnival 1767. At about this time he married the buffa singer Maria Lavinia Guadagni (b Lodi, 21 Nov 1735; d Padua, c1790), sister of the celebrated castrato Gaetano Guadagni; both were employed by the King's Theatre, London, for which Alessandri composed the comic operas La moglie fedele (1768) and Il re alla caccia (1769). Although he must have visited Vienna for the première of his opera L'argentino (1768), he was again in London as a harpsichordist in 1770.

Alessandri's career has not been thoroughly investigated. Simonetti stated that he was summoned from Genoa to Dresden in 1773 to direct his L'amor soldato, but this opera was probably written by a composer with whom he is sometimes confused: Alessandro Felici. From 1773 until April 1775 he was mainly in Turin, where he had three operas performed. A Medonte (Carnival 1774, Milan) is attributed to Luigi Alessandri in a printed libretto in the Brera library, Milan, but to Felice in the Gazzetta di Milano of 28 December 1774. Two comic operas composed for Venetian theatres (not for London as stated by Fétis) received first performances later in 1775, La sposa persiana and La novità, and another for Lucca, Sandrina (not composed with Sacchini as claimed by Gerber).

During the following summer Alessandri was invited by Joseph Legros to share his direction of the Concert Spirituel and to compose for the Concerts des Amateurs in Paris. He lived in Legros's house and served these organizations for two years (1777–8). In December 1778 his opera Calliroe was staged at Milan's new Teatro alla Scala; his ballet Venere in Cipro was performed there soon after. During the next few years he had other operas staged in various Italian cities, including Padua, where he was highly regarded by the director of the Teatro Nuovo. In 1783 the nobility of Padua commissioned him to set the cantata Le virtù rivali honouring Alvise Mocenigo, the retiring governor.

Hoping for an appointment as composer to the Russian court, Alessandri went to St Petersburg in 1786. As he found only the post of a singing teacher, he moved in autumn 1789 to Berlin where he was named assistant director of the court opera, reportedly at the instigation of the prima donna Luisa Todi. The works he composed were not well received, however. Gerber reported that his first opera, Il ritorno di Ulysse a Penelope (1790), was generally admired, and yet the composer encountered difficulties with J.F. Reichardt and other colleagues and displeased his patron Friedrich Wilhelm II with his second opera, L'ouverture du grand opéra italien à Nankin (1790). His next opera, Dario (1791), proved a disaster, as did his last effort, a pasticcio entitled Vasco di Gama (1792). Finally, the king withdrew the scrittura for another opera, Alboino, and dismissed him (4 July 1792).

Alessandri remarried and returned in autumn 1792 to Italy, where his opera Virginia was performed (1793, Venice). He rejected an offer to compose a Medea for the Paris Opéra, but travelled to Vienna and Berlin in 1794 in search of commissions. Later that year his operas Zemira and Armida received great applause in Padua, and he was named honorary member of the Accademia Filarmonica Modenese. His last opera, of unknown title, was given at the Teatro Rangoni, Modena, shortly before his death.

Alessandri participated in efforts at a Franco-Italian synthesis through his opera Alcina e Ruggero (1775, Turin) and his setting of Verazi's revisionist libretto Calliroe for the opening of La Scala (1778). Alcina is a magic opera with dances, choruses and a multitude of special effects; it also contains an early action ensemble finale. His success with this opera may have recommended him for the La Scala commission. Typical of Verazi's librettos, Calliroe contains lavish spectacle with chorus and pantomime, extensive scene complexes unbroken by exit arias, and many ensembles, some of which fluctuate in number of personnel or incorporate action like a comic opera finale. The sinfonia is programme music for a city under seige and the entr'acte ballets are related to the plot. Probably as a result of his work with Verazi, Alessandri was called to Florence to do a refurbished Attalo re di Bitinia (1780), featuring yet another beseiged city, a finale with some action and an extensive aria with chorus. Two years later he returned to Milan to write an updated setting of the 50-year-old Metastasian libretto Ezio, which had been modernized with an introduzione and several new ensembles and choruses. His opere serie of the 1790s reflect the transformation taking place in the genre. Choruses, ensembles, scene complexes and even pantomime dance were becoming commonplace along with an increased tolerance for staged deaths and tragic endings. Pepoli's tragedy Virginia remains one of the more shocking of these plots, in which a father kills his daughter to save her from the tyrant Appius Claudius, who is then assassinated by her bridegroom with the approval of a crowd thirsty for vengeance. Alessandri's comic operas are drammi giocosi with semi-serious aspects. However, he was most widely known in northern Italy for buffo entertainments such as La finta principessa, with productions in about 27 cities within a decade, and Il vecchio geloso, with 15 productions in as many years. Alessandri's music shows a flair for the dramatic. He uses chromaticism, harmonic effects and modal contrasts more readily than most of his contemporaries and enlivens his scores with programmatic orchestral effects, wind colour and strong contrasts in dynamics and tempo.

Works

Operas

Ezio (os, 3, P. Metastasio), Verona, Filarmonica, carn. 1767, Milan, Scala, carn. 1782, F-Pn, I-Mc

Il matrimonio per concorso (ob, 3, G. Martinelli, after C. Goldoni), Venice, S Moisè, carn. 1767, A-Wn

La moglie fedele (ob, 2), London, King's, 27 Feb 1768, Favourite Songs (London, 1768)

Gli amanti ridicoli, London, 1768

L'argentino (ob, 2), Vienna, Burg, spr. 1768

Arianna e Teseo (pasticcio), London, King's, 11 Oct 1768

Il re alla caccia (ob, 3, Goldoni), London, King's, 1 March 1769, Favourite Songs (London, 1769)

Argea (os, 3, G. Boggio), Turin, Regio, carn. 1773, P-La (2)

Antigono (os, 3, Metastasio), Genoa, S Agostino, spr. 1773, I-Gl

Creso (os, 3, G. Pizzi), Pavia, Quattro Signori, spr. 1774, F-Pn

La cameriera per amore (ob, 2, F. Livigni), Turin, Carignano, aut. 1774

Medonte re d'Epiro (os, 3, G. de Gamerra), Milan, Ducale, 26 Dec 1774, P-La

Alcina e Ruggero (os, 3, V.A. Cigna-Santi, after L. Ariosto), Turin, Regio, carn. 1775, La

La novità (ob, 2, G. Bertati), Venice, S Moisè, aut. 1775, I-Mc

La sposa persiana (ob, 3, Goldoni), Venice, S Samuele, aut. 1775, MOe, D-Dl

Calliroe (os, 3, M. Verazi), Milan, La Scala, 26 Dec 1778, D-DS (copy in US-Wcm), F-Pn

Adriano in Siria (os, 3, Metastasio), Venice, S Benedetto, 26 Dec 1779, D-Mbs, GB-Lbl, P-La

Attalo re di Bitinia (os, 3, A. Salvi), Florence, Pergola, Sept 1780, F-Pn; Genoa, 1781, P-La

Erifile (os, 3, G.B. Neri or De Gamerra), Padua, Nuovo, 12 June 1781, I-Pl, P-La

Il vecchio [marito] geloso (ob, 2, Bertati), Milan, 1 Oct 1781, F-Pn, I-Bc, Fc (inc.), Tf, P-La, US-Wcm

Arbace (os, 3, G. Sertor), Rome, Argentina, 29 Dec 1781

La finta principessa, ossia Li due fratelli Pappamosca (ob, 2, Livigni), Venice, S Moisè, aut. 1782, D-DS, I-CRg, Mc, Tf

I puntigli gelosi (ob, 2, Livigni), Venice, S Samuele, carn. 1783

Demofoonte (os, 3, Metastasio), Padua, Nuovo, 12 June 1783, Pl, P-La

Artaserse (os, 3, Metastasio), Naples, S Carlo, 4 Nov 1783, I-Nc

Il ritorno di Ulysse a Penelope (os, 3, A. Filistri), Potsdam, court theatre, 25 Jan 1790, D-B (copy in US-Wc), GB-Ob

Il regno della moda (pasticcio), Desenzano, carn. 1790

L'ouverture du grand opéra italien à Nankin [La compagnia d'opera à Nanchino] (2, Filistri), Berlin, Kleines, 16 Oct 1790, GB-Ob

Dario (os, 3, Filistri), Berlin, Königliches, Jan 1791, D-B

Vasco di Gama (pasticcio, 3, Filistri), Berlin, Königliches, 20 Jan 1792

Virginia (os, 3, A. Pepoli), Venice, Fenice, 26 Dec 1793, arias I-Vlevi F-Pn (1794)

Zemira (os, 2, Sertor), Padua, Nuovo, 12 June 1794

Armida (os, 2, G.M. Foppa), Padua, Nuovo, 1 July 1794, I-Bc*, Pl, L marito geloso dg, Bertati), Livorno, Nuovo, carn. 1795 firta baroressa, Li; dve Fratellil ridicoli (ob), Lisbor, S Carlo, Sum. 1795 duets, PAc, Vnm

Il marito geloso (dg, ?Bertati), Liverno, Nuovo, carn. 1795

La finta baronessa, o Li due fratelli ridicoli (ob), Lisbon, S Carlo, sum.1795

I sposi burlati (ob, 2), Mantua, Nazionale, 26 Dec 1798

Other works

Cantatas

Cantata nella solenne apertura dell'Academia degli'Ingegnosi, Florence, 1770

Il tempio della fama, Milan, 1782

La virtù rivali (azione, 2, F. Pimbiolo degli Engelfreddi), Padua, Nuovo, 5 July 1783, I-Pl

Ballets

Venere in Cipro (scenario ?Verazi, choreog. G. Canziani), Milan, La Scala, 30 Jan 1779, perf. with Anfossi's Cleopatra; L'enlèvement des Sabines (S. Gallet), Alessandria, Città, Oct 1779, perf. with G. Ferrero's La disfatta di Dario

Orats

Il Tobia (2), Rome, 1767, Rf; Bethulia liberata, Venice, 1780, Padua, 1781, Pca

Instrumental

6 hpd concs., acc. 2 vn, vc (London, n.d.)

6 sonatas, 2 vn, bc (hpd) (London, n.d.)

sinfonie, CH-Zz, I-Mc; Hpd Sonata, D, OS

Bibliography

  • DBI (S. Simonetti)
  • ES (E. Zanetti)
  • GroveO (‘Calliroe (ii)’; M.P. McClymonds)
  • MGG1 (S. Simonetti)
  • L. Schneider: Geschichte der Oper und des königlichen Opernhauses in Berlin (Berlin, 1852)
  • L.F. Valdrighi: Felice Alessandri maestro di cappella di Federico Guglielmo II re di Prussia (1790–92) (Modena, 1896)
  • M. McClymonds: ‘Mattia Verazi and the opera at Mannheim, Stuttgart and Ludwigsburg’, Studia musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 7/2 (1982), 99–136
  • M. McClymonds: ‘La morte de Semiramide, ossia La vendetta di Nino and the Restoration of Death and Tragedy to the Italian Opera Stage in the 1780s and 1790s’,IMSCR 14: Bologna 1987, 285–92
  • M. McClymonds: ‘The Venetian Role in the Transformation of Italian Opera Seria during the 1790s’, I vicini di Mozart: Venice 1987, 221–40
  • M. McClymonds: ‘“La clemenza di Tito” and the Action Ensemble Finale in Opera Seria before 1791’, MJb 1991, 766–71
  • M. McClymonds: ‘Verazi's Controversial drammi in azione as Realized in the Music of Salieri, Anfossi, Alessandri and Mortellari for the Opening of La Scala, 1778–1779’, Scritti in memoria di Claudio Sartori, ed. M. Donà and F. Lesure (Lucca, 1997), 43–87
  1. See also from The New Grove Dictionary of Opera: Felice Alessandri; Calliroe

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