Born: February 17, 1796; Catania, Italy
Died: December 6, 1867
If it weren't for a period in 1840-1845 when he rose to the top of the heap, then Italian composer Giovanni Pacini would be remembered as an also-ran opera composer from the time of Giacchino Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti. Born to an operatic tenor, Pacini was placed on a path that would have led him to the service of sacred music and studied composition in Bologna from the tender age of 12. However, he composed his first opera at age 17 andRead more the second, Annetta e Lucindo, was heard in Milan in October 1813. These early efforts proved the first rivulets of an eventual flood of opera from Pacini's pen; by the time he finally laid it down 54 years later, Pacini had composed more than 80 of them.
Before 1820 Pacini primarily composed comic operas, but began to experiment with opera seria from about 1817 and after 1821 produced only the latter until the end. When his rival and idol Rossini dropped out of the Neapolitan theater in 1822, Pacini replaced him and enjoyed a taste of success with the serious operas Alessandro 'nell Indie (1824) and L'Ultimo Giorno di Pompei (1825). Nonetheless, by 1830, Pacini began to feel the heat of competition from Bellini and Donizetti and after a long string of failures he retired from opera to pursue the sacred composition he'd abandoned in his youth.
From 1839 Pacini went through a period of re-assessment, and in 1840 produced the opera Saffo in collaboration with librettist Salvatore Cammarano, which proved his greatest and most lasting success and strongly influenced the work of Giuseppe Verdi. In the following years, Pacini enjoyed several more hits, including Medea (1843) and Maria d'Ingelterre (aka, Maria Tudor, 1843). By 1846 Verdi's stocks were rising in the opera world, and by his own admission, Pacini began to fall back on older working methods about the same time. His last hit was Il saltimbanco (1858).
Pacini wrote a valuable autobiography, Le mie memorie artistiche (1865), and was renowned as a teacher, holding posts in Lucca and Parma even as he cranked out operas by the dozens. He composed oratorios, masses, cantatas, and other sacred choral works in abundance, and in his old age managed to find the time to turn his attention to instrumental music, as well, most significantly in the symphony Sinfonia Dante for piano and orchestra (1863). Read less
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