Baldassare Galuppi, a composer at the time of Casanova

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Chronologie A composer at the time of Casanova Galuppi and litterature Discography & notes Music samples Guestbook




by Marc Zuili


Galuppi is certainly the musician who appears the most out of the "Memoires" of Giacomo Casanova".

Baldassare Galuppi was born on October 18, 1706 in Burano . His nickname "Il Buranello" derives from his place of birth. Galuppi was introduced to music by his father, a barber (like Antonio Vivaldi), who played the violin in small orchestras providing entr'acte music in venetian theatres of spoken comedy..



In 1722, he composed an opera, "La fede nell incostanza ossia Gli amici rivali". Galuppi's first opera is given at Chioggia in 1722 and it was hissed off the stage. When the work failed, he applied to the author of " Il Teatro a la moda ", Benedetto Marcello for advice. The legend is that Marcello scolded him roundly for his temerity, extracted a promise that he would attempt no further composition for three years, and sent him to Antonio Lotti for strict training in harpsichord and composition.


Later Galuppi studied with Lotti, and at the end of the three years, he composed two arias in the opera " Il triomfo della virtu " in Teatro Saint Jean Chrysotome. In 1726 he worked for a time in Florence as harpsichordist in Teatro della Pergola, then returned to Venice in 1727, for the creation of the opera " Gli odii delusi dal sangue " at the Teatro San Angelo, under the direction of Antonio Vivaldi.

In 1729, collaborating with his former schoolmate Pescetti , Galuppi composed "Dorinda" for the Theatro San Samuele, an opera which was a considerable success and launched his theatrical career.


It is certainly through Michele Grimani, famous Venitian patrician and administrator of the Theatro San Samuele, that Galuppi met Goldoni: " One had appointed me for a musical drama for the fair of the Rise... Famous Galuppi, known as Buranello, was to write it in music ". Thus is born " Gustave First, King of Sweden ", opera composed on the request of Michele Grimani at the time of the visit of Prince Christian of Saxony in 1740.

The same year, Michele Grimani ordered Carlo Goldoni a new drama on a Buranello'music : " My opera, which had bee named, "Oronte, King of Scythes", was very successful. Buranello'music was divine".

Carlo Goldoni

That year, Galuppi had become the most famous composer of the Serenissime and he was appointed Maestro di musica at the famous Ospedale dei Mendicanti for which he composed several oratorios. Jean-Jacques Rousseau attends every week the Galuppi's students concerts and is one of his most fervent admirateurs. A few years later, settled in Montmorency (France), Rousseau will take makes and causes for the Venetian composer whom he will oppose to Rameau.



In 1741, Galuppi is invited in London to compose opere serie for the King's Theatre in the Haymarket. During his two years in England his operas were mostly successful, especially "Scipion in Cartagena" and "Sirbace". He had his works published at John Walsh's, and for many years he remained one of London's favorite Italian composers. In 1748, he makes a triumph in Vienna with "Demetrio" and "Artaserse" on Metastasio's libretti, and is chosen to be vice maestro of the capella ducale of St Mark's. The singer Teresa Landi (the same Therese Bellino of the "Mémoires de Casanova") plays the character of Mandane ("Artaserse"), in Teatro Pergola of Florencia.



In 1749, Galuppi had begun his brilliant career as an opera buffa composer, working principally with the librettist Carlo Goldoni. Galuppi composed "Arcadia in Brenta", the first comic-opera of the association Galuppi-Goldoni. In Parma, Casanova enjoyed everyday this entertainment. He says : " Buranello's music was excellent". Then, Galuppi and Goldoni composed "Il mondo della Luna", "Il mondo alla roversa", "Arcifano re dei matti", "La calamita de cuori " and "Il filosofo di campagna" which are played in the whole Europe. In Dresden like in Saint Petersbourg, many Galuppi-Goldoni's opera are performed during the 1760's. On april, 22th of 1762, Galuppi is promoted to Maestro di cappella in 1762, and the same day, Goldoni, leaves Venise definitively.

catherine 2

In Saint Pétersbourg, Catherine II attends, in company of Casanova, the representations given by the troop of the spectacles contractor, Locatelli. " The music is a beautiful thing, but I do not understand how one can like it passionately, I have asked the Maestro Buranello to come over; I am curious to see whether he will be able to make me see the music as something interesting " , entrusts Imperatrice to Casanova. In 1765, Galuppi leaves Venice for Saint Pˇtersbourg, accompanied by one of his sons and of two musicians. In Berlin, he stops at C.P.E Bach, another harpsichordist of genious with whom he can confront his ideas. September 9, Maestro is in Riga, and while crossing Ingrie, he meets in a forest Giacomo Casanova who writes: " He did not know me, and he was very surprised to find in the inn where he stopped, a good venetian dinner with a man as myself which received him making him compliment in our mother tongue. He embraced me several times when I told him my name ". Fifteen years later, Casanova will remember this meeting in his small autobiographical novel entitled the Duel.


casanova de longhi


After three years in Saint Petersbourg, Galuppi returns to Venice and get back to his activities, being devoted to the sacred music. Charles Burney meets him in 1770, and is seduced by the execution of his different works in Incurabili and San Marco. In his book (Musical Voyage in Europe of the Lights), he refers in several occasions to the genius of this composer, as will also do Maier in 1829, in his treaty published in Ratisbon, where the Venetian Maestro is regarded as a " fertile and universal genius, spreading treasures of taste, sensitivity, and imagination in all the styles ". But it is the English precentor of Venice, Robert Browning, who immortalised the composer in one of the most beautiful poems ever written on Serenissime. It is not known which particular piece inspired Robert Browning's poem "A Toccata of Galuppi's": certainly the sound of the harpsichord and the "lesser thirds so plaintive, sixths diminished, sigh on sigh" seem to have conjured in his mind a moving image of life in 18th century Venice.


A Toccata of Galuppi's.

Robert Browning

Oh, Galuppi, Baldassaro, this is very sad to find!
I can hardly misconceive you; it would prove me deaf and blind;
But although I give you credit, 'tis with such a heavy mind !

Here you come with your old music, and here's all the good it brings.
What, they lived once thus at Venice, where the merchants were the kings
Where St. Marks is, where the Doges used to wed the sea with rings?

Ay, because the sea's the street there; and 'tis arched by ...what you call
...Shylock's bridge with houses on it, where they kept the carnival!
I was never out of England-it's as if I saw it all!

Did young people take their pleasure when the sea was warm in May?
Balls and masks begun at midnight, burning ever to mid-day,
When they made up fresh adventures for the morrow, do you say?

Was a lady such a lady, cheeks so round and lips so red, --
On her neck the small face buoyant, like a bell-flower on its bed,
O'er the breast's superb abundance where a man might base his head?

Well (and it was graceful of them) they'd break talk off and afford
-- She, to bite her mask's black velvet, he to finger on his sword,
While you sat and played Toccatas, stately at the clavichord?

What? Those lesser thirds so plaintive, sixths diminished, sigh on sigh,
Told them something? Those suspensions, those solutions -- " Must we die? "
Those commiserating sevenths-" Life might last! we can but try! "

Were you happy? "--" Yes."--" And are you still as happy? "--" Yes--And you? "
Then more kisses "--" Did I stop them, when a million seemed so few? "
Hark--the dominant's persistence, till it must be answered to!

So an octave struck the answer. Oh, they praised you, I dare say!
"Brave Galuppi! that was music! good alike at grave and gay!
I can always leave off talking, when I hear a master play."

Then they left you for their pleasure: till in due time, one by one,
Some with lives that came to nothing, some with deeds as well undone,
Death came tacitly and took them where they never see the sun.

But when I sit down to reason,--think to take my stand nor swerve
Till I triumph o'er a secret wrung from nature's close reserve,
In you come with your cold music, till I creep thro' every nerve,

Yes, you, like a ghostly cricket, creaking where a house was burned
Dust and ashes, dead and done with, Venice spent what Venice earned!
The soul, doubtless, is immortal--where a soul can be discerned.

"Yours for instance, you know physics, something of geology,
Mathematics are your pastime; souls shall rise in their degree;
Butterflies may dread extinction,--you'll not die, it cannot be!

As for Venice and its people, merely born to bloom and drop,
Here on earth they bore their fruitage, mirth and folly were the crop,
What of soul was left, I wonder, when the kissing had to stop?

"Dust and ashes! " So you creak it, and I want the heart to scold.
Dear dead women, with such hair, too--what's become of all the gold
Used to hang and brush their bosoms? I feel chilly and grown old.


A Toccata of Galuppi's.

Robert Browning


Chronologie A composer at the time of Casanova Galuppi and litterature Discography & notes Music samples Guestbook


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