The Neapolitan composer Leonardo Vinci represented to posterity by two jovial caricatures and a grisly 19th-century portrait, produced a string of successful operas during a brief career of little more than a decade. He died mysteriously amid rumors of poison, and was hailed by connoisseurs of the later 18th century as one of the originators of the modern Classical style.
According to Charles Burney, Vinci seems to have been the first opera composer who, without degrading his art, rendered it the friend, though not the slave to poetry, by simplifying and polishing melody and calling the audience’s attention to the voice part by liberating it from fugue, complication, and labored contrivance.
Further, Burney maintained that Vinci's strong commitment to poetry caused him to forge a new musical style, making him one of the most innovative and influential composers of the 18th century. It was with the ultimate poet of the dramma per musica, Pietro Metastasio, that Vinci produced his greatest works—Didone abbandonata, Siroe re di Persia, Catone in Utica, Semiramide riconosciuta, Alessandro nell'Indie, and Artaserse.
After the composer's death in 1730, his mantle was taken up by his disciple Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, whose music carried the Vinci style to all corners of the world.
In this comprehensive and seminal study of one the early geniuses of opera, Kurt Markstrom describes in careful and loving detail, the qualities in Vinci's work that reflected the monumental stylistic changes occurring in the early 1700s in Italy. This important volume should take its place on the shelves of all scholars and amateurs of opera.
Kurt Sven Markstrom
Kurt Sven Markstrom: associate professor in music history at the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba, completed a Ph.D. and Post-doctorate at the University of Toronto under Carl Morey, specializing in 18th century Italian Opera. He has contributed to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera and new edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. His book on The Operas of Leonardo Vinci, Napoletano was published in 2006 by Pendragon Press, with a second book, on the life and works of Vinci’s colleague and rival, Nicola Porpora, in progress. As part of his studies of Vinci and Porpora, he has prepared performance editions of Vinci’s opera Eraclea, which received its modern première at the Festival dell’ Aurora in Crotone, Italy in May of 2005 and a complete Vespers Service by Porpora for female voices and orchestra, which received its modern première in 2007 in the Canzona concert series in Winnipeg and was recently performed and recorded by Martin Gester and the Parliament de musique at the Festival Ambronay in France. He has also prepared a new edition of the first Canadian opera, Joseph Quesnel’s Colas et Colinette which received its première in 2007 in Winnipeg by Musical Offering and is now writing a book on the composer/playwright. (updated 11/11)