Pasquale Anfossi

Pasquale Anfossi

Bonifacio Domenico Pasquale Anfossi (5 April, 1727 – February, 1797) was an Italian opera composer. Born in Taggia, Liguria, he studied with Niccolò Piccinni and Antonio Sacchini, and worked mainly in London, Venice and Rome.

He wrote more than 80 operas, both "opera seria" and "opera buffa", although he concentrated on church music, especially oratorios, during his last years. Anfossi died in Rome in 1797.


Aiming at first to become a performer, he studied violin at the Neapolitan Loreto Conservatorium from 1744 to 1752, and played in an opera orchestra for ten years. He then turned to composing, studying with Sacchini and Piccinni. The first performance of his own work, the "opera buffa" "La Serva Spiritosa" was at the Rome Carnival in 1763, though his authorship of the work was not clearly established at the time. It appears he preferred to work under his teacher Sacchini, supplementing his tutor's works. Nevertheless he made a breakthrough with his "dramma giocoso" "L'incognita perseguitata" in 1773 in Rome.

By 1782 he had written about 30 operas, performed mainly in Venice and Rome, although on occasion also in other parts of Italy and in Vienna. His first London performance was "Il trionfo della costanza" in 1782. He was engaged as musical director in London until 1786, where he performed five of his own operas and alternative versions of work by other composers; for example, Gluck's Orfeo with supplementary music by Johann Christian Bach and Händel. His works were not always well received: one critic wrote "the music suffers obviously from a tiring monotony" about his last opera in London, "L'inglese in Italia".

Anfossi returned to Italy, and won back Roman public opinion in 1787 with the "farsa" "Le pazzie de' gelosi" at the Carnival. In 1789, the uninterrupted 20-year stretch of operatic composition stopped, and Anfossi restricted himself to church music. He was appointed "Maestro di Capella" of San Giovanni in Laterano, and held this position till his death in 1797.


The sum of Anfossi's work is not completely known, but he composed at least 60, possibly 70 or more, operas, and at least 20 oratorios in Latin and Italian. His early work is, understandably, closely related in style to that of his teachers, Piccinni and Sacchini, with diatonic harmony and intermittently inspired melody. His orchestration style changed significantly during the course of his career; he realised more colourful effects through the use of wind instruments. Until the middle of the 1770s his "opera buffa" showed him to prefer the old-fashioned, pure "da capo" type of aria, in order to, as in his comic works, proceed to more freely shaped passages. He appeared to prefer longer passages such as "finali", and he clearly had a preference for sentimental moments and phrases.

Anfossi's music was fundamentally criticised as inadequately dramatic, and weak in characterisation. His "buffo" characters are generally not as original as those of some of his contemporaries, such as Cimarosa and Paisiello, while his "seria" music has a certain stereotypical nature.

As an operatic composer, Anfossi remained forgotten for a long time, despite his great popularity with his contemporaries, because his works were overshadowed by those of Salieri, Rossini and Mozart. Nevertheless, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe staged Anfossi's "farsetta" "La maga Circe" ("Circe, the Sorceress") in his role as the theatre director of Weimar. He adapted the libretto with Christian August Vulpius and also made plans for a continuation, which never came to bear.

Only in the last 20 years has Anfossi's work been appreciated anew, through diverse productions such as "Giuseppe riconosciuto". His work was featured at the 2005 Salzburg Summer Festival.

List of Works

*"La serva spiritosa" - Rome, Teatro Capranica (1763)
*"Lo sposo di tre e marito di nessuna", in collaboration with Pietro Guglielmi - Naples, Teatro Nuovo sopra Toledo (1763)
*"Il finto medico" - Naples, Teatro Nuovo sopra Toledo (1764)
*"Fiammetta generosa" in collaboration with Niccolò Piccinni - Naples, Teatro dei Fiorentini (1766)
*"I matrimoni per dispetto" - Naples, Teatro Nuovo sopra Toledo (1767)
*"La clemenza di Tito" - Rome, Teatro Della Torre Argentina (1769)
*"Cajo Mario" - Venice, Teatro S. Benedetto (1770)
*"Armida" - Turin, Teatro Regio (1770)
*"Quinto Fabio" - Rome, Teatro delle Dame (1771)
*"Lucio Papirio" - Rome, Teatro delle Dame (1771)
*"I visionari" - Rome, Teatro delle Dame (1771)
*"Il barone di Rocca Antica" in collaboration with Carlo Franchi - Rome, Teatro delle Dame (1771)
*"Nitteti" - Naples, Teatro San Carlo (1771)
*"Alessandro nelle Indie" - Rome, Teatro Della Torre Argentina (1772)
*"L'amante confuso" - Naples,Teatro dei Fiorentini (1772)
*"La Giannetta, ossia l'incognita perseguitata" (also known as "Matilde ritrovata") - Rome, Teatro delle Dame (1773)
*"Antigono" - Venice, Teatro S. Benedetto (1773)
*"Demofoonte" - Rome, Teatro Della Torre Argentina (1773)
*"Lucio Silla" - Venice, Teatro Grimani di S. Samuele (1774)
*"La finta giardiniera" - Rome, Teatro delle Dame (1774)
*"Olimpiade" - Venice, Teatro San Benedetto (1774)
*"Il geloso in cimento o la vedova bizzarra" - Vienna, Burgtheater (1774)
*"La contadina incivilita" - Venice, Teatro San Moisè (1775)
*"Didone abbandonata" - Venice, Teatro San Moisè (1775)
*"L'avaro" - Venice, Teatro San Moisè (1775)
*"La vera costanza" - Rome, Teatro delle Dame (1776)
*"Montezuma" - Reggio Emilia, Teatro Antico detto il Monte di pietà (1776)
*"L'americana in Olanda" - Venice, Teatro Grimani di S. Samuele (1776)
*"La donna instabile" - Vienna, Burgtheater (1776)
*"Isabella e Rodrigo, o la costanza in amore" - Venice, Teatro Grimani di S. Samuele (1776)
*"Il principe di Lagonegro, ossia l'innocente premiata" - Florence, Teatro degli Infuocati in Via del Cocomero (1777)
*"La fedeltà nelle angustie" - Florence, Teatro degli Immobili in Via della Pergola (1777)
*"Il curioso indiscreto" - Rome, Teatro delle Dame (1777)
*"Gengis-Kan" - Turin, Teatro Regio (1777)
*"Adriano in Siria" - Padua, Teatro Nuovo (1777)
*"Lo sposo disperato" - (also known as "Lo Zotico incivilito") Venice, Teatro San Moisè (1777)
*"La vaga frascatana contrastata dagli amori umiliati" - Ravenna, Teatro Nobile (1777)
*"Ezio"- Venice, Teatro San Moisè (1778)
*"Orlando Paladino" - Vienna, Hoftheater (1778)
*"Il controgenio" - Rome, Teatro Valle (1778)
*"La forza delle donne" - Venice, Teatro San Moisè (1778)
*"Azor Re di Kibinga" - Venice, Teatro San Moisè (1779)
*"Cleopatra" - Milan, Teatro alla Scala (1779)
*"Il matrimonio per inganno" - Florence, Teatro degli Infuocati in Via del Cocomero ( (1779)
*"Le gelosie villane" - Casale Monferrato, Teatro Secchi (1779)
*"Amor costante" - Rome, Teatro Capranica (1779)
*"Tito nelle Gallie" - Rome, Teatro delle Dame (1780)
* "La finta cingara per amore" (first act by C. Franchi, second act by Anfossi) - Venice, Teatro S. Giovanni Cristomo (1780)
*"I viaggiatori felici" - Venice, Teatro Grimani di S. Samuele (1780)
*"La vedova scaltra" - Rovigo, Teatro Roncale (1780)
*"Lo sposo per equivoco" - Rome, Teatro Capranica (1781)
*"L'infante di Zamora" - Paris, Menus Plaisir per conto dell'Opera (1781)
*"I vecchi burlati" - London, Haymarket (1781)
*"Gli amanti canuti" - Venice, Teatro San Moisè (1781)
*"L'imbroglio delle tre spose"- Florence, Teatro Degli Immobili in Via della Pergola (1781)
*"Il trionfo di Arianna"- Venice, Teatro San Moisè (1781)
*"Zemira"- Venice, Teatro S. Benedetto (1781)
*"Il disprezzo"- Venice, Teatro Grimiani di S. Samuele (1782)
*"La finta ammalata" - Parma, Teatro di Corte (1782)
*"Il trionfo della costanza" - London, Theatre ? (1782)
*"Le gelosie fortunate" - Turin, Teatro Carignano (1783)
*"Chi cerca trova" - Florence, Teatro degli Infuocati in Via del Cocomero (1783)
*"Gli sposi in commedia" - Piacenza, Teatro Ducale (1784)
*"Il cavaliere per amore" - Berlin, Königliches Theater (1784)
*"Issipile" - London, Haymarket (1784)
*"Le due gemelle" - London, Haymarket (1784)
*"La pazza per amore" - Correggio, Teatro pubblico (1785)
*"L'inglese in Italia" - London, Haymarket (1786)
*"Le pazzie de' gelosi" - Rome, Teatro Valle (1786)
*"Creso" - Rome, Teatro di Torre Argentina (1786)
*"Sedecia" - Florence, Teatro degli Immobili in Via della Pergola (1787)
*"La vilanella di spirito" - (dubious - 1787)
*"L'orfanella americana" - Venice, Teatro San Moisè (1787)
*"Erifile" - Lucca, Teatro Pubblico (1787)
*"Artaserse" - Rome, Teatro delle Dame (1788)
*"I matrimoni per fanatismo" - Naples, Teatro del Fondo della Separazione di Lucri (1788)
*"La maga Circe" - Rome Teatro Valle (1788)
*"La gazzetta, ossia il baggiano burlato" - Rome, Teatro Valle (1789)
*"L'antiquario" - Paris, Feydeau (1789)
*"Zenobia in Palmira" - Venice, Teatro San Benedetto (1789)
*"Gli artigiani" - Dresden, Electoral Court Theatre (1793)
*"L'amor artigiano" - Pavia, Teatro De'Quattro Signori Compadroni attuale Fraschini (1797)


*"The Oxford Dictionary of Opera", by John Warrack and Ewan West (1992), 782 pages, ISBN 0-19-869164-5

*Some of the content of this article comes from [ the equivalent German-language wikipedia article] (retrieved June/2007).

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