The Kennedy Center

Rebecca Clarke


A world famous composer of the late 18th century, Domenico Cimarosa was a master at turning out comic operas.  He was born in Aversa in December 1749 but grew up in nearby Naples. After his stonemason  father was killed in a construction accident, Cimarosa’s mother took in laundry in order to send him to a local monastery school.
After taking organ lessons from the monks he entered the Conservatory St. Marie di Loretto; soon being recogmized as a gifted singer and violinist.  During his student years he composed mostly masses and sacred motets. But after the success of his first musical comedy “Le Stravaganza” he realized that writing church music was not his cup of tea.
Cimarosa, unlike his contemporaries, created farcical characters (like Dottor Balanzini and Pulcinella(, who appear in many of his operas, much to the delight of his Italian and international audiences.
Catherine the Great offered him a position at the  Hermitage and, enroute there with his second wife, he performed before many crowned heads of Europe.  His operas are noteworthy for their elegance and finesse, as well as their droll wit and bawdiness.
The composer spent a few months in jail after Italy was invaded by the French in 1799. Only some influential friends saved him from the guillotine. Cimarosa died in Venice two years later on 11 January 1801. Rumors that he was poisoned by political enemies were  dispelled after an official government enquiry.
Of Cimarosa’s 65+ operas, “Il Matrimonio Segreto” is considered his masterpiece; while many of his later works are hailed by critics as unparalled in Italian opera, at least until the advent of Rossini.
Rebecca Clarke