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date: 27 January 2020

D’Alessandro (Alexandre, Allexandro, D’Alessandri, D’Allessandria), Gennarofree

  • Giovanni Tribuzio

(b Naples, 1717 (?); d Naples, after July 28, 1778). Italian harpsichordist, composer, and maestro di cappella. Son of Giuseppe D’Alessandro, Gennaro studied with Leonardo Leo, according to tenor Anton Raaff. Fétis’ statement that D’Alessandro was born in 1717 is unsourced. On August 21, 1739 he was hired as maestro di coro at Venice’s Ospedale della Pietà, a position he retained until May 13, 1740. He was the first in a distinguished cohort of Neapolitan choirmasters who served at the Pietà during the 18th century, following a local trend started in 1726 by Nicola Porpora at the Ospedale degli Incurabili.

Of the sacred music D’Alessandro composed for the Pietà only incomplete vocal partbooks of a Miserere and a Missa brevis survive in the Fondo Correr of the Conservatorio ‘Benedetto Marcello’ in Venice, bearing the names of the soprano (Michielina) and the alto (Placida) among the figlie di coro who sung them. In 1739, for the benefit of other figlie, D’Alessandro set to music three secular cantatas by Carlo Goldoni: La ninfa saggia, Gli amanti felici, and Le quattro stagioni.

D’Alessandro’s collaboration with Goldoni continued with Ottone, a dramma per musica that opened the 1739 winter season at Venice’s Teatro di S Giovanni Grisostomo; the libretto was an adaptation of Antonio Salvi’s Adelaide (music: Giuseppe Maria Orlandini; same theatre, 1729). After attending 16 nights, the electoral prince of Saxony, Friedrich Christian, credited Ottone with ‘very good music’, albeit performed by ‘very bad musicians both for their acting and their voices’. Among the few extant arias, Se per me tu senti amore (composed for Gli amanti felici as Se hai pietà del mio tormento and reused for Il coro delle muse as Se pietoso il fato arride), sung by Giustina Gallo, is fashioned after Si penzassemo a li guaje from Leonardo Leo’s Onore vince amore (Naples, 1737). Another surviving aria, Se brami la mia morte, sung by Giuseppe Santarelli, was reworked as Fra stupido e pensoso in the pasticcio Tito Vespasiano ovvero La clemenza di Tito by Giovanni Battista Casali (Bologna, 1741). Further adaptations of Ottone were staged by Pietro Mingotti’s touring company in 1744, now as Adelaide, in Prague, Leipzig, and Hamburg. A complete score, acquired in 1746 by the Cologne elector Clemens August and stemming from the Hamburg run, is preserved at the Biblioteca Estense of Modena as Adelaide, regina d’Italia (Breitkopf’s catalogue of 1765 lists the opera as Adelaide ‘di Genaro’).

On March 21, 1740 D’Alessandro’s serenata Il coro delle muse (libretto: Goldoni) was performed at the Pietà in honour of Prince Friedrich Christian, together with a sinfonia and three concertos by Vivaldi. All of D’Alessandro’s music was borrowed from his 1739 cantatas; nevertheless, the dedicatee found that the piece ‘worked out really well’. In time, D’Alessandro’s sacred output for the Pietà decreased, perhaps due to his many other commitments. His negligence did not go unnoticed, causing frustration among the governors of the Ospedale. After his contract expired on April 29, 1740, he was given a fortnight’s notice to hand over all the music he had composed for the Pietà. Yet he never complied with the request, and on 13 May he was dismissed with six votes out of eight. On August 26, 1740 Germain-Anne Loppin de Gemeaux, a nobleman from Dijon who had heard D’Alessandro’s music in Venice, engaged him as harpsichord tutor from October 1, 1740, at a monthly fee of 30 sequins.

Once in France, D’Alessandro’s reputation grew to the point that Charles de Brosses and the Abbé Le Gouz de Saint-Seine called him ‘divine’, ranking him above Jean-Philippe Rameau. On January 23, 1741 D’Alessandro played some of his ‘fantasies’ for harpsichord and arias for Madame Burteur in a private concert in Dijon. In 1743 D’Alessandro moved to Paris as harpsichord teacher of Madame de La Pouplinière, thus sparking the envy of Rameau, who declined to meet him in person. According to Loppin de Gemeaux, for each lesson D’Alessandro charged considerably more than Rameau. While in Paris he also befriended the Neapolitan diplomat-cum-composer Giacomo Francesco Milano, prince of Ardore, heard music by Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville and Michel Blavet at the Concert spirituel, and planned to settle down in London, albeit to no effect. D’Alessandro’s Sinfonia (Ouverture) for strings in G major, arguably composed during his stay in Burgundy, was copied in 1744 by Pierre-Philibert de Blancheton for his collection of Sinfonie a quattro stromenti dei più celebri autori d’Italia. The piece was printed by Jean-Baptiste Venier in 1755 and appeared in Breitkopf’s catalogue of 1762, although attributed to Andrea Bernasconi. After 1749 D’Alessandro’s traces in France are lost.

On January 27, 1768 his presence is recorded in Naples as the recipient of 30 ducats for taking part with violinist Emanuele Barbella in an accademia di musica (private concert) at Villa Angelica, Sir William Hamilton’s residence. At that time he probably served the British diplomat in the capacity of harpsichord tutor of his first wife, Catherine Barlow. On July 28, 1778 D’Alessandro is mentioned by the painter Willem Carel Dierkens as the singing teacher of Madame Seimandy, wife of the Naples-based Pierre Teissier, a merchant from Marseilles.

Works

Stage

Ottone (dramma per musica, 3, A. Salvi adapted C. Goldoni), Venice, S Giovanni Grisostomo, 26 Dec 1739–Jan 31, 1740, D-Dl (score destroyed in World War II), 2 arias D-DO, KA; I-Bc (1 aria in pasticcio Tito Vespasiano ovvero La clemenza di Tito, Bologna, Formagliari, Jan 28, 1741). As Adelaide, further reworked by P. Scalabrini for P. Mingotti’s company (with intermezzos by P. Chiarini, F. Finazzi, and G.B. Pergolesi): Prague, Divadlo v Kotcích, carn. 1744, music lost; Leipzig, Theater im Reithaus, April 26, 1744 (Jubilatemesse), 8 arias (6 by D’Alessandro and 2 attrib. Scalabrini), AUS-CAnl; US-BLl; Hamburg, Gänsemarkt, July 23, 1744, complete score (9 arias by D’Alessandro with music attrib. G.N. Albertis, A. Bernasconi, B. Galuppi, Scalabrini, and D. Terradellas) as Adelaide, regina d’Italia, I-MOe; 1 aria B-Bc; 2 arias and full score listed as Adelaide in Breitkopf 1760 and 1765 catalogues

Serenatas

Il coro delle muse (2, Goldoni), Venice, Pietà, March 21, 1740, music lost; sinfonia (rv 149) and 3 concs. (rv 552, 540, 558) by A. Vivaldi, D-Dl

Secular cantatas and lost arias

La ninfa saggia (SS), Gli amanti felici (SSA), and Le quattro stagioni (SSSA), Venice, Pietà, 1739, texts Goldoni, music lost

Doux zéphyr, c1740–49, formerly B-Bc, lost

Non sperar tiranno ?Dijon, 1741, lost

Più per te non sento amore (Paris, Érard, after 1798), based on the aria Già per te non sento amore from Adelaide, regina d’Italia, formerly B-Bc, attrib. Felice Alessandri, lost

Sacred music

Missa brevis (Kyrie, Gloria, and Credo), partbooks for SAB, I-Vc

Miserere, partbooks for SA, I-Vc

Deus, ego amo te (contrafactum from Ottone), D-DO

Instrumental music

Ouvertura Del Sig.r Gennaro D’allesandro A 4.o Stromenti (1744), F-Pn (Fonds Blancheton, op.5, n. 209), attrib. ‘Allexandro’ on title-page but to Alessandro Manna on partbooks in VI Ouverture a piu stromenti composte da varri autori, op.1 (Paris, J.-B. Venier, 1755) and to Bernasconi in Breitkopf 1762 catalogue

Sinfonia (1742), US-BEm, attrib. Alessandro Manna. The name seems a conflation of Gennaro D’Alessandro and Gennaro Manna

Bibliography

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  • C. de Rosa, Marchese di Villarosa: Memorie de’ compositori di musica del Regno di Napoli (Naples, 1840)
  • Y. Bézard: Lettres du Président de Brosses à Ch.-C. Loppin de Gemeaux (Paris, 1929)
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  • P.G. Gillio: L’attività musicale negli ospedali di Venezia nel Settecento. Quadro storico e materiali documentari (Florence, 2006)
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  • G. Tribuzio: ‘L’opera ritrovata di Gennaro D’Alessandro e Carlo Goldoni: dall’Ottone per Federico Cristiano Leopoldo di Sassonia (Venezia, 1739–1740) all’Adelaide della compagnia di Pietro Mingotti (Praga, Lipsia e Amburgo, 1744)’, O celeste armonia di lieta sorte. Lectures, lezioni e ricerche di musicologia, ed. G. Ciliberti and G. Tribuzio (Perugia, 2019), 25–140

This article supersedes an older article.

Canberra, National Library of Australia
Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Modena, Biblioteca Estense e Universitaria
Donaueschingen, Fürstlich Fürstenbergische Hofbibliothek
F.-J. Fétis: Biographie universelle des musiciens
Brussels, Conservatoire Royal, Bibliothèque, Koninklijk Conservatorium, Bibliotheek
Berkeley, University of California at Berkeley, Music Library
Bologna, Civico Museo Bibliografico Musicale
Venice, Conservatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello, Biblioteca
R. Eitner: Biographisch-bibliographisches Quellen-Lexikon
Dresden, Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats- und Universitäts-Bibliothek, Musikabteilung
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Bloomington (IN), Indiana University, Lilly Library