Music with Ease > 19th Century Italian Opera > Life of Amilcare Ponchielli
Italian opera composer
Amilcare Ponchielli, the composer of "La Gioconda," was born at Paderno Fasolaro, Cremona, August 31, 1834. He studied music, 1843-54, at the Milan Conservatory. In 1856 he brought out at Cremona an opera, "I Promessi Sposi" (The Betrothed), which in a revised version, Milan, 1872, was his first striking success. The same care Ponchielli bestowed upon his studies, which lasted nearly ten years, he gave to his works. Like "I Promessi Sposi," his opera, "I Lituani" (The Lithuanians), brought out in 1874, was revived ten years later, as "Alguna"; and, while "La Gioconda" (1876) did not wait so long for success, it too was revised and brought out in a new version before it received popular acclaim. Among his other operas are, 1880, "Il Figliuol Prodigo" (The Prodigal Son), and, 1885, "Marion Delorme." "La Gioconda," however, is the only one of his operas that has made its way abroad.
Ponchielli died at Milan, January 16, 1886. He was among the very first Italian composers to yield to modern influences and enrich his score with instrumental effects intended to enhance its beauty and give the support of an eloquent and expressive accompaniment to the voice without, however, challenging its supremacy. His influence upon his Italian contemporaries was considerable. He, rather than Verdi, is regarded by students of music as the founder of the modern school of Italian opera. What really happened is that there was going on in Italy, influenced by a growing appreciation of Wagners works among musicians, a movement for a more advanced style of lyric drama. Ponchielli and Boito were leaders in this movement. Verdi, a far greater genius than either of these, was caught up in it, and, because of his genius, accomplished more in it than the actual leaders. Ponchiellis influence still is potent. For he was the teacher of the most famous living Italian composer of opera, Giacomo Puccini.