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Porpora, Niccola

PORPORA, NICCOLA [or NICCOLO] ANTONIO (1686-1767), Italian operatic composer and teacher of singing, was born in Naples on the igth of August 1686. He was educated at the Conservatorio di Santa Maria di Loreto. His first opera, Basilio, was produced at Naples; his second, Berenice, at Rome. Both were successful, and he followed them up by innumerable compositions of like character; but his fame rests chiefly upon his unequalled power of teaching singing. At the Conservatorio di Sant' Onofrio and the Poveri di Gesu Cristo he trained Farinelli, Caffarelli, Mingotti, Salimbeni, and other celebrated vocalists. Still his numerous engagements did not tempt him to forsake composition. In 1725 he visited Vienna, but the Emperor Charles VI. disliked his florid style, especially his constant use of the trillo, and refused to patronize him. After this rebuff he settled in Venice, teaching regularly in the schools of La Pieta and the Incurabili. In 1729 he was invited to London as a rival to Handel; but his visit was unfortunate. Little less disastrous was his second visit to England in 1734, when even the presence of his pupil, the great Farinelli, failed to save the dramatic company of Lincoln's Inn Fields theatre, known as the " Opera of the Nobility," from ruin. The sequence of dates and visits in Porpora's life are variously stated by different biographers. The electoral prince of Saxony and king of Poland had invited him to Dresden to become the singing master of the electoral princess, Maria Antonia, and in 1748 he is supposed to have been made Kapellmeister to the prince. Difficult relations, however, with Hasse and his wife resulted in his departure, of which the date is not known. From Dresden he is said to have gone to Vienna, where he gave lessons to Joseph Haydn (?..), and then to have returned in 1759 to Naples. ' From this time Porpora's career was a series of misfortunes. His last opera, Camilla, failed; and he became so poor that the expenses of his funeral were paid by subscription. Yet at the moment of his death in 1767 Farinelli and Caffarelli were living in splendour on fortunes for which they were largely indebted to the excellence of the old maestro's teaching. In George Sand's Consuelo much use is made of a romantic version of the life of young Haydn and his relations with the heroine, Porpora's pupil, and with Porpora himself. A good linguist and a man of considerable literary culture, Porpora was also celebrated for his power of repartee. His operas are, on the whole, tedious and conventional; but he produced some good work in the form of instrumental music and chamber-cantatas. A series of six Latin duets on the Passion (accessible in a modern edition published by Breitkopf and Haertel) is remarkable for dignity and beauty.

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

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