Antônio Carlos Gomes
Born: Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil, 11 July 1836
Died: Belém, Pará, Brazil, 16 September 1896
A Brazilian composer of mixed African, Portuguese, and Amerindian blood, Carlos Gomes was the first Latin American and non-European composer to make it big.
After making his name in Brazil with a couple of Portuguese-language, Italian-style operas, Emperor Dom Pedro II gave Gomes a scholarship to study in Milan.
Gomes’ first Italian work was Il Guarany, an opera-ballo (Italian version of French grand opera, with exotic setting, historical subject, choruses, and dancing).
It was his biggest success at La Scala, and a hit throughout Europe, performed almost everywhere except France, Germany, and Austria.
“This young man begins where I finish,” Verdi remarked; the opera was “true musical genius”. Liszt said that “it displays dense technical maturity, full of harmonic and orchestral maturity.”
The Milan premiere came three weeks after the Brazilians defeated Solano López in Paraguay. “To Brazilians, Il Guarany recalled Verdi’s popular midcentury operas, stemming from the Italian risorgimento, which were loaded with ideas of unification, and moments of patriotic display.” The opera was “a trademark of Brazilianness”.
“Gomes was the first Brazilian to achieve the status of an international composer, elevating Brazil to the status of ‘civilised’ nation.” (Carmen Nava & Ludwig Lauerhass, eds., Brazil in the Making: Facets of National Identity, 2006.)
More operas followed: Fosca (1873), which audiences found too gloomy and Wagnerian; Salvator Rosa (1874), a successful historical work about the Neapolitan revolution (the same subject as Auber‘s Muette de Portici); and Maria Tudor (1879), with a libretto by Arrigo Boito. The Brazilians consider Lo schiavo (1889), calling for the abolition of slavery, Gomes’ masterpiece. The failure of Condor (1891) forced Gomes to leave Italy and return to Brazil.
- A noite do castelo (1861)
- Joana de Flandres (1863)
- Se sa minga (1867)
- Nella luna (1868)
- Il Guarany (1870)
- Telégrafo eléctrico (1871)
- Fosca (1873; revised 1878)
- Salvator Rosa (1874)
- Maria Tudor (1879)
- Lo schiavo (1889)
- Condor (1891)