Saverio Mercadante

Mercadante

Born: Alatamura, near Bari in Apulia; baptised 17 September 1795

Died: 17 September 1870, Naples, Italy


Mercadante was the leading Italian composer in Italy between Donizetti and Verdi.  Inspired by French grand opéra, particularly Meyerbeer and Halévy, he wrote a series of “reform operas”:

I have continued the revolution begun with Il giuramento: varied the forms, banished trivial cabalettas, exiled [Rossinian] crescendos, short tessitura, fewer repeats, some novelty in the cadences, care with the dramatic part, orchestra rich without covering the singing, no long solos in the ensembles, which force the other parts to be cold to the detriment of the action; little bass drum and still less brass band.

These reform operas influenced Verdi; in some ways, he’s a more polished musician, but lacks Verdi’s emotional directness.  Whereas Verdi concentrates his music, Mercadante often expands.  His harmonies and orchestration are more adventurous, and his numbers can be astonishingly long.

Orazi e Curiazi is monumental.  Here are two frescoes from the opera:

The oath scene

…and the Act I finale:

Virginia, Mercadante’s last work, is a good ‘un; another Roman piece, about the father who kills his daughter to save her honour.  It has an exciting trio:

Most of Mercadante’s operas are on YouTube (including radio broadcasts).  Kirill’s channel on YouTube (formerly known as LindoroRossini) has a lot of highlights, including:
La vestale – Octet ‘Quanto mi cinge’:

Il reggente – Highlights :

Elena da Feltre – Act II finale:

Il bravo – Act I finale:

Il bravo – Act II finale:

The sextet from Gabriella di Vergy is also good:


READ MORE

Stefan Zucker (Bel Canto Society) has an article on Mercadante, comparing him to Verdi: https://www.belcantosociety.org/saverio-mercadante/

The late Tom Kaufman has a good overview of Mercadante, with detailed reviews of recordings: http://www.oocities.org/vienna/8917/Mercadante.html. (His site is excellent for more info on Italian bel canto composers.)

Another intro here: http://guides.lib.fsu.edu/c.php?g=353115&p=2383505

David Salazar, “5 Operas That Could Lead a Mercadante Revival

Anyone with access to academic journals might like to read these:


OPERAS

  1. L’ apoteosi d’Ercole (1819)
  2. Violenza e costanza, ossia I falsi monetari (1820)
  3. Anacreonte in Samo (1820)
  4. Il geloso revveduto (1820)
  5. Scipione in Cartagine (1820)
  6. Maria Stuarda, regina di Scozia (1821)
  7. Elisa e Claudio, ossia L’amore protetto dell’amicizia (1821)
  8. Andronico (1821)
  9. Il posto abbandonato, ossia Adele ed Emerico (1822)
  10. Amleto (1822)
  11. Alfonso ed Elisa (1822)
  12. Didone abbandonata (1823)
  13. Gli sciti (1823)
  14. Costanzo ed Almeriska (1823)
  15. Gli amici di Siracusa (1824)
  16. Doralice (1824)
  17. Le nozze di Telemaco ed Antiope (1824)
  18. Il podestà di Burgos, ossia Il signore del villaggio (1824)
  19. Erode, ossia Marianna (1824)
  20. Nitocri (1824)
  21. Ipermestra (1825)
  22. Caritea regina di Spagna, ossia La morte di Don Alfonso re di Portogallo (1826)
  23. Ezio (1827)
  24. Il montanaro (1827)
  25. La testa di bronzo, ossia La capanna solitaria (1827)
  26. Adriano in Siria (1828)
  27. Gabriella di Vergy (1828)
  28. La rappresaglia (1829)
  29. Don Chisciotte alle nozze di Gamaccio (1830)
  30. Francesca da Rimini (composed 1831, first performed 2016)
  31. Zaira (1831)
  32. I normanni a Parigi (1832)
  33. Ismalia, ossia Amore e morte (1832)
  34. Il conte di Essex (1833)
  35. Emma d’Antiochia (1834)
  36. Uggero il danese (1834)
  37. La gioventù di Enrico V (1834)
  38. I due Figaro (1835)
  39. Francesca Donato, ossia Corinta distrutta (1835)
  40. I briganti (1836)
  41. Il giuramento (1837)
  42. Le due illustri rivali (1838)
  43. Elena da Feltre (1839)
  44. Il bravo, ossia La veneziana (1839)
  45. La vestale (1840)
  46. La solitaria delle Asturie, ossia La Spagna ricuperata (1840)
  47. Il proscritto (1842)
  48. Il reggente (1843)
  49. Leonora (1844)
  50. Il Vascello de Gama (1845)
  51. Orazi e Curiazi (1846)
  52. La schiava saracena, ovvero Il campo dei crociati (1848)
  53. Medea (1851)
  54. Statira (1853)
  55. Violetta (1853)
  56. Pelagio (1857)
  57. Virginia (1866)