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Costa, Sir Michael Andrew Agnus

COSTA, SIR MICHAEL ANDREW AGNUS (1808-1884), British musical conductor and composer, the son of Cavalière Pasquale Costa, a Spaniard, was born at Naples on the 14th of February 1808. Here he became at an early age a scholar at the Royal College of Music. His cantata L'Immagine was composed when he was fifteen. In 1826 he wrote his first opera Il Delitto Punito; in 1827 another opera Il sospetto funesto. To this period belong also his oratorio La Passione, a grand Mass for four voices, a Dixit Dominus, and three symphonies. The opera Il Carcere d'Ildegonda was composed in 1828 for the Teatro Nuovo, and in 1829 Costa wrote his Malvina for Barbaja, the impresario of San Carlo. In this latter year he visited Birmingham to conduct Zingarelli's Cantata Sacra, a setting of some verses from Isaiah ch. xii. Instead, however, of conducting, he sang the tenor part. In 1830 he settled in London, having a connexion with the King's theatre. His ballet Kenilworth was written in 1831, the ballet Une Heure à Naples in 1832, and the ballet Sir Huon (composed for Taglioni) in 1833. In this latter year he wrote his famous quartet Ecco quel fiero istante. Malek Adhel, an opera, was produced in Paris in 1837. In 1842 he wrote the ballet music of Alma for Cerito, and in 1844 his opera Don Carlos was produced in London. Costa became a naturalized Englishman and received the honour of knighthood in 1869. He conducted the opera at Her Majesty's from 1832 till 1846, when he seceded to the Italian Opera at Covent Garden; he was conductor of the Philharmonic Society from 1846 to 1854, of the Sacred Harmonic Society from 1848, and of the Birmingham festival from 1849. In 1855 Costa wrote Eli, and in 1864 Naaman, both for Birmingham. Meanwhile he had conducted the Bradford (1853) and Handel festivals (1857-1880), and the Leeds festivals from 1874 to 1880. On the 29th of April 1884 he died at Brighton. Costa was the great conductor of his day, but both his musical and his human sympathies were somewhat limited; his compositions have passed into oblivion, with the exception of the least admirable of them - his arrangement of the national anthem.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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