Saverio Mercadante

From New World Encyclopedia

Saverio Mercadante in a portrait by Andrea Cefaly (Museo di San Martino, Naples)

Giuseppe Saverio Raffaele Mercadante (September 16, 1795 – December 17, 1870), was an Italian composer, particularly of operas as well as a teacher and orchestrator. Known as a most important composer of Italian opera in the mid-nineteenth century, Mercadante introduced a new element of drama into operatic forms to create more realistic situations for the audience. In bringing forth realism about life, Mercadante hoped to initiate a transformation towards one's own personal and spiritual existence, a change for the betterment of oneself and the well-being of others.


Born in Altamura, near Bari (Apulia), Mercadante studied music in Naples and at first showed an interest in instrumental composition. The encouragement of Rossini led him to compose for the opera, where he won considerable success with his seventh such work (Elisa e Claudio), in 1821. He worked for a time in Vienna, in Madrid, in Cadiz, and in Lisbon, but re-established himself in Italy in 1831. He was invited by Rossini to Paris in 1836, where he composed I Briganti for Grisi, Rubini, Tamburini, and Lablache. While there, he had the opportunity to hear operas by Meyerbeer and Halevy which imparted a strong influence on him, especially the latter's La Juive. This influence took the form of greater stress on the dramatic side.

Mercadante's important works

After he returned to Italy in 1837, he composed some of his most important works, including Il Giuramento which was premiered at La Scala in 1837. These temporarily put him in the forefront of composers then active in Italy, although he was soon passed by Giovanni Pacini with Saffo and Giuseppe Verdi with several operas, especially Ernani. Some of his later works, especially Orazi e Curiazi, were also quite successful. He was made the director of the Naples conservatory in 1840. His sight failed during his sixties, and from 1863 he was almost totally blind. In the decades after his death in Naples in 1870, his output was largely forgotten, but it has been occasionally revived and recorded since World War II, although it has yet to achieve anything like the present-day popularity of the most famous compositions by his slightly younger contemporaries Donizetti and Bellini.


Saverio Mercadante was an important reformer of the Italian opera genre who introduced new elements of drama onto the stage. Known as one of the most important composers of Italian opera in 1840, Mercadante stood with opera composers such as Donizetti, Rossini, Bellini, and Verdi as masters of a dramatic form which captured the hearts of the Italian people and the world.


  • L'apoteosi d'Ercole (19.8.1819 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • Violenza e costanza, ossia I falsi monetari (19.1.1820 Teatro Nuovo, Naples) [also as: Il castello dei spiriti (1825, Lisbon)]
  • Anacreonte in Samo (1.8.1820 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • Il geloso ravveduto (10.1820 Teatro Valle, Rome)
  • Scipione in Cartagine (26.12.1820 Teatro Argentina, Rome)
  • Maria Stuarda regina di Scozia (29.5.1821 Teatro Comunale, Bologna)
  • Elisa e Claudio, ossia L'amore protetto dall'amicizia (30.10.1821 Teatro alla Scala, Milan)
  • Andronico ( 26.12.1821 Teatro La Fenice, Venice)
  • Il posto abbandonato, ossia Adele ed Emerico (21.9.1822 Teatro alla Scala, Milan)
  • Amleto (26.12.1822 Teatro alla Scala, Milan)
  • Alfonso ed Elisa (26.12.1822 Teatro Nuovo, Mantua) [rev. as: Aminta ed Argira (1823, Reggio Emilia)]
  • Didone abbandonata (18.1.1823 Teatro Regio, Turin)
  • Gli sciti (18.3.1823 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • Costanzo ed Almeriska (22.11.1823 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • Gli amici di Siracusa (7.2.1824 Teatro Argentina, Rome)
  • Doralice (18.9.1824 Karntnertortheater, Wien)
  • Le nozze di Telemaco ed Antiope (5.11.1824 Karntnertortheater, Wien) [pasticcio]
  • Il podestà di Burgos, ossia Il signore del villaggio (20.11.1824 Karntnertortheater, Wien)
  • Nitocri (26.12.1824 Teatro Regio, Turin)
  • Ipermestra (29.12.1825 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • Erode, ossia Marianna (12.12.1825 Teatro La Fenice, Venice)
  • Caritea, regina di Spagna (Donna Caritea), ossia La morte di Don Alfonso re di Portogallo (21.2.1826 Teatro La Fenice, Venice)
  • Ezio (3.2.1827 Teatro Regio, Turin)
  • Il montanaro (16.4.1827, Teatro alla Scala, Milan)
  • La testa di bronzo, ossia La capanna solitaria (3.12.1827, priv. theatre of Barone di Quintella at Laranjeiras, Lisbon) [libretto written 1816 for Soliva]
  • Adriano in Siria (24.2.1828 Theatre S. Carlos, Lisbon)
  • Gabriella di Vergy (8.8.1828 Theatre S. Carlos, Lisbon) [rev: 1832, Genoa]
  • La rappresaglia (21.2.1829 Teatro Principal, Cadiz)
  • Don Chisciotte alle nozze di Gamaccio (10.2.1830 Teatro Principal, Cadiz)
  • Francesca da Rimini (1831, probably unperformed)
  • Zaïra (31.8.1831 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples) [libretto written 1829 for Bellini]
  • I normanni a Parigi (7.2.1832 Teatro Regio, Turin)
  • Ismalia, ossia Amore e morte (27.10.1832, Teatro alla Scala, Milan)
  • Il conte di Essex (10.3.1833, Teatro alla Scala, Milan)
  • Emma d'Antiochia (8.3.1834 Teatro La Fenice, Venice)
  • Uggero il danese (11.8.1834 Teatro Riccardi, Bergamo)
  • La gioventù di Enrico V (25.11.1834, Teatro alla Scala, Milan)
  • I due Figaro (26.1.1835 Teatro Principe, Madrid) [composed 1827-29]
  • Francesca Donato, ossia Corinto distrutta (14.2.1835 Teatro Regio, Turin) [rev.1845, Teatro S. Carlo, Naples]
  • I briganti (22.3.1836 Théâtre Italien, Paris) [rev. with additions 1853]
  • Il giuramento (11.3.1837, Teatro alla Scala, Milan)
  • Le due illustri rivali (10.3.1838 Teatro La Fenice, Venice)
  • Elena da Feltre (1.1.1839 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • Il bravo (La veneziana) (9.3.1839 Teatro alla Scala, Milan)
  • La vestale (10.3.1840 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • La solitaria delle Asturie, ossia La Spagna ricuperata (12.3.1840 Teatro La Fenice, Venice)
  • Il proscritto (4.1.1842 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • Il reggente (2.2.1843 Teatro Regio, Turin) [rev. with adds. 11.11.1843, Trieste]
  • Leonora (5.12.1844 Teatro Nuovo, Naples)
  • Il Vascello de Gama (6.3.1845 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • Orazi e Curiazi (10.11.1846 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • La schiava saracena, ovvero Il campo di Gerosolima (26.12.1848 Teatro alla Scala, Milan) [rev. 1850 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples]
  • Medea (I.3.1851 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • Statira (8.1.1853 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • Violetta (10.1.1853 Teatro Nuovo, Naples)
  • Pelagio (12.2.1857 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples)
  • Virginia (7.4.1866 Teatro S. Carlo, Naples) [composed 1845-55]
  • L'orfano di Brono, ossia Caterina dei Medici [only 1st act]

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Chiti, Patricia Adkins, and John Glenn Paton. Italian art songs of the romantic era. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Pub., 1994. OCLC 32432617
  • Mercadante, Saverio, Gaetano Rossi, Phillip Gossett, and Victor Hugo. Il giuramento. NY: Garland, 1986. ISBN 0824065670
  • Petrucci, Gian-Luca, and Giucinto Moramarco. Saggi su Saverio Mercadante. Cassano delle Murge (Bari): Messaggi, 1992. OCLC 30401797

Additional reading

  • Giuseppe de Napoli. La triade melodrammatica altamurana: Giacomo Tritto, Vincenzo Lavigna, Saverio Mercadante. Milan, 1952.
  • Biagio Notarnicola. Verdi non ha vinto Mercadante. Rome, 1955.
  • Santo Palemro. Saverio Mercadante: biografia, epistolario. Fasano, 1985.
  • Karen M. Bryan. "Mercadante's Experiment in Form: The cabalettas of Elena da Feltre." Donizetti Society Journal 6, London, 1988.
  • Gianluca Petrucci, and Giacinto Moramarco. Saggi su Saverio Mercadante. Cassano Murge, 1992.
  • Michael Rose."Mercadante: Essay" in the New Grove Dictionary of Opera. vol. 3, pp. 334-339, 1993.
  • Thomas G. Kaufman. "Mercadante," in the International Dictionary of Opera. vol. 2 pp. 858-861, 1993.
  • Matteo Summa. Bravo Mercadante. Fasano, 1985.
  • Gianluca Petrucci. Saverio Mercadante l'ultimo dei cinque re. Rome, 1995.
  • Thomas G. Kaufman. "Catalogue of the Operas of Mercadante-Chronology of Performances with Casts." Bollettino dell Associazione Civica "Saverio Mercadante" N. 1; Altamura, 1996.
  • Thomas G. Kaufman. "Mercadante and Verdi." The Opera Quarterly. vol. 13, No. 3, June, 1997.


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