During the 18th century the Accademia and the City of Bologna lived an extremely prolific period thanks to the simultaneous presence of three exceptional personalities of the time: the singer Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli, Father Giovanni Battista Martini, one of the most famous scholars and composers of the century, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
The influence of Farinelli, the most renowned opera singer of all times, the formation of a solid tradition of historical and theoretical studies through the definition of precise composition rules for sacred music and the collection of a remarkable musical library – all of these innovations can be directly connected to Father Martini and his school – and finally, the stay of the young Mozart, who aspired at being admitted to the institute of Bologna, underline the importance of the musical and artistic life that revolved around the city, and the enormous prestige reached by the Accademia.
Carlo Broschi, known as Farinelli
Farinelli (1705-1782) performed for the first time in Bologna in the summer of 1727, when he was only 22 years old, interpreting the role of Cerastes in the Antigone by Orlandini. Afterwards, in 1730 he was admitted, together with his brother Riccardo, to the Accademia, as honorary member.
Farinelli received the citizenship of Bologna in October 1732 and, after a long stay in Spain at the court of king Philip V, he settled definitely in Bologna in 1761, remaining there for more or less 20 years until he died on the 16th of September 1782. Among the most significant recent initiatives concerning the famous singer, it is necessary to mention the restoration of his grave, carried out by the Farinelli Study Centre in collaboration with the Royal College of Spain.
Furthermore, in the context of the events organised for Bologna 2000, European City of Culture, the exhibition Farinelli a Bologna (Farinelli in Bologna) was mounted in the seat of the Soprintendenza per i Beni Ambientali e Architettonici dell’Emilia-Romagna (Environmental and Architectural Heritage Office of the Emilia-Romagna Region), and a city Park dedicated to the famous singer was inaugurated near where his villa stood. Furthermore, in 2005, on the occasion of the third centenary of his birth, a special philatelic cancellation was issued at the international Museum and Library of Music of Bologna, representing the villa of the renowned singer in Bologna. Among the documents found in Bologna concerning the life of Farinelli, the most important are his will (20th February 1782) and the complete inventory of his immense fortune (2nd May 1783), preserved in the State Archives of Bologna; 139 autograph letters by Metastasio to Farinelli (written between 1747 and 1782) donated to the University Library of Bologna and the autograph aria Che chiedi? Che brami? (What do you ask for? What do you crave for?), preserved at the Musical Bibliographical City Museum.
Giovanni Battista Martini
Giovanni Battista Martini is without any doubt the most complex music figure of the 18th century owing to his erudition, his counterpoint knowledge and the artistic relevance of his rich production.
Father Martini became famous in the whole of Europe as a prolific composer, renowned theoretician and excellent music teacher, and he studied also mathematics and acoustics. This is demonstrated, among other things, by the assiduous correspondence (more or less 6000 letters) he kept with admirers, important figures, people of culture, well-known singers and musicians of his times.
He was only 19 years old when he was appointed Choir Master in the church of San Francesco in Bologna and at that time he was already famous as excellent teacher and music expert; during the years, he continued studying music, establishing himself as great composer until, in 1758, he became member of the Accademia. He wrote more than 700 sacred choir compositions and many pieces of secular and theatre music. He also committed himself to instrumental music: he wrote 12 concerts, 24 chamber symphonies, besides 100 sonatas, 1273 canons and other chamber compositions. Martini’s works underline how he wasn’t a nostalgic lover of the past, on the contrary, especially in the concertato style, he was willing to learn and assimilate new expressive languages and the new homophonic trends projected towards the classical style.
Father Martini established a prestigious composition school that formed, according to the rules of the so called “observed” style and the counterpoint mechanisms, a good hundred pupils from Jommelli, to Johan Christian Bach, Gluck, André Grétry, and Giuseppe Sarti up to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who studied with Martini in 1770.
Father Martini’s collection is one of the most important ones thanks to its printed repertoire, which stretches from the 16th to the 18th century, the incunabula, the precious manuscripts, the opera librettos, the portraits and the particular collection of autographs and letters, result of the correspondence he accurately kept with important personalities, scholars and musicians of the time. Saved form Napoleon’s confiscations thanks to the intervention of Stanislao Mattei, pupil and successor of Martini, in 1816 the immense bibliographic heritage (at the time made up of around 17.000 volumes) was donated to the Liceo Musicale del Comune di Bologna (Music High School of the City Council of Bologna) – today called G. B. Martini Conservatory – established in 1804 near the former Convento degli Agostiniani (Augustinian convent) by the church of San Giacomo Maggiore.
Wolfang Amadeus Mozart
This year the city of Bologna is going to celebrate the third centenary of the birth (1706) of the great musicologist.
Mozart reached Bologna in 1770, when he was fourteen years old; he got in contact with the cultural environment of Bologna, performing at the Earl Gian Luca Pallavicini’s and prepared for the entry examination at the Accademia, under the tutorship of Father Martini. The composition for the entry examination of the young Mozart is preserved in the archives of the Accademia. There exists also another version – it too autograph – judged incorrect by Father Martini and preserved in the Musical Bibliographical City Museum of Bologna. He got his diploma on the 9th of October 1770 and became member alla forastiera (that is a member not residing in Bologna and therefore not subject to certain duties).
The stay of Mozart in Bologna is linked to many figures, from the famous Farinelli to the composers Vincenzo Manfredini and Joseph Myslivecek, to the English music historian Charles Burney.
In 1763 the biggest city theatre, the wonderful Teatro Comunale, built according to the project of Antonio Galli Bibiena, was opened with an opera by Gluck, The triumph of Clelia. In opposition to the national opera tradition, this theatre finds its own personality within the Italian context by becoming a showcase for novelties coming especially from abroad, until it rose to sacred temple of Wagnerianism in Italy.
In the Sixties of the 19th century, under the direction of Angelo Mariani, the theatre opened to the grand opéra with the lucky national “first stagings” of the African by Meyerbeer (1865) and of Don Carlo by Verdi (1867); then, in line with the intellectual attitude of the city that appointed Wagner honorary citizen, it performed nearly all the Italian “first stagings” of the German composer, starting with Lohengrin (1st of November 1871, “first staging” in Italy of an opera by Wagner) up to Parsifal, on which the curtain rose at 3 p.m. on New Year’s Day of 1914, which made it the “first European staging”. Following its progressive vocation, the Teatro Comunale staged in 1875 the Mefistofele by Arrigo Boito, with a brilliant cast of voices that included, among the others, Erminia Borghi Mamo.
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