Giovanni Pacini

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Giovanni Pacini (February 17, 1796 – December 6, 1867) was an Italian composer, best known for his operas.

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Biography

Pacini was born in Catania, Sicily, the son of the buffo Luigi Pacini, who was to appear in the premieres of many of Giovanni's operas. The family was of Tuscan origin, and just happened to be in Catania when the composer was born.

During his lifetime, Pacini wrote some 74 operas. This is less than earlier estimates, which ranged from 80 to 90, since it has now been ascertained that many were just alternate titles for other works. His first 25 or so operas were written when Gioacchino Rossini dominated the Italian operatic stage, and took after Rossini's style, a characteristic which he "candidly admits in his Memoirs ".[1] This author states that he "bothered little about harmony and instrumentation", and quotes a statement by Rossini: "God help us if he knew music. No one could resist him".[1] Certainly, Pacini recognized Rossini's strengths and his dominance during this period: "Everyone followed the same school, the same fashions, and as a result they were all imitators of the great luminary .... If I was a follower of the great man from Pesaro, so was everyone else"[2]

After Rossini moved to Paris in 1824, Pacini and his contemporaries (Giacomo Meyerbeer, Nicola Vaccai, Michele Carafa, Carlo Coccia, Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, the brothers Federico and Luigi Ricci, and Saverio Mercadante) collectively began to change the nature of Italian opera and took bel canto singing in a new direction. Orchestration became heavier, coloratura was reduced, especially for men's voices, and more importance was placed on lyrical pathos. While there were exceptions, romantic leads were assigned to tenors (in Rossini's time, they were frequently sung by alto or mezzo-soprano women). Villains became basses or later baritones (while they often were tenors for Rossini). Over time, far more emphasis was placed on the drama.

The role that Pacini played in instituting these changes is only now beginning to be recognized. There is little doubt that Pacini and his contemporary Nicola Vaccai exerted a stronger influence on Bellini than has been credited before. This change in attitude can be credited to the revival of two key works: Vaccai's Giulietta e Romeo and Pacini's L'ultimo giorno di Pompei, both composed in 1825 within a few weeks of each other.

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