Costa, Sir Michael (Andrew Agnus) [Michele Andrea Agniello]
- Nigel Burton
- and Keith Horner
(Andrew Agnus) [Michele Andrea Agniello]
(b Naples, Feb 4, 1808; d Hove, April 29, 1884). British conductor and composer of Italian birth. His teachers included Niccolò Zingarelli and the castrato Girolamo Crescentino. While he was still a student four of his operas and a cantata were performed in Naples. In autumn 1829 Zingarelli sent Costa to Birmingham to direct his cantata on Isaiah xii, but in the event Costa only sang in it.
Costa made England his home for the following half-century, and rapidly became the director of London’s leading musical organizations through a combination of technical skill, a dominant personality and favourable circumstances. In 1830, as maestro al cembalo at the King’s Theatre, he encountered the customary divided leadership, the orchestra being ‘presided over’ by a pianist and ‘led’ by a violinist. His grand ballet Kenilworth was produced at the theatre in 1831 and in the following year he became director of music. At this time he probably introduced authoritative conducting with a baton and by ...