Mercadante, (Giuseppe) Saverio (Raffaele )
- Michael Wittmann
(b Altamura, bap. Sept 17, 1795; d Naples, Dec 17, 1870). Italian composer, conductor and teacher. A leading opera composer who also encouraged the revival of Italian instrumental music.
Mercadante was an illegitimate child whose parents did not marry because of their different social rank; his father belonged to the local nobility, and his mother was a maidservant in his household. Instead, Saverio was adopted by his father as a foundling. The looting of Altamura in 1799 in retaliation for its republicanism dissipated the family finances, and Mercadante’s youth was spent in poverty, with no educational prospects. The family’s circumstances did not improve until after the French occupation in 1806, when his father took an administrative post in Naples.
Mercadante had shown early musical promise, learning the guitar and clarinet from his half-brother, and the move to Naples made a professional training at the conservatory possible. A forged birth certificate was obtained, enabling him to take up a state bursary, and he entered the Conservatorio di S Sebastiano in ...