Giuseppe Saverio Raffaele Mercadante (baptised 17 September 1795 – 17 December 1870) was an Italian composer, particularly of operas.
Whilst Mercadante never attained the international celebrity of Gaetano Donizetti or Gioachino Rossini, he composed as impressive a number of works as either; and his development of operatic structures, melodic styles and orchestration contributed significantly to the foundations upon which Giuseppe Verdi built his dramatic technique.
Mercadante was born in Altamura, near Bari (Apulia); his precise date of birth has not been recorded, but he was baptised on 17 September 1795. Mercadante studied flute, violin and composition at the conservatory in Naples, and organized concerts among his compatriots The opera composer Gioachino Rossini said to the conservatory Director, Niccolo Zingarelli, "My compliments Maestro - your young pupil Mercadante begins where we finish". In 1817 he was made conductor of the college orchestra, composing a number of symphonies, and concertos for various instruments - including six for flute about 1818-1819, and whose autograph scores are in the Naples conservatory, where they were presumably first performed with him as soloist.
The encouragement of Rossini led him to compose for the opera, where he won considerable success with his second such work (Violenza e Constanza), in 1820. His next three operas are more or less forgotten, but an abridged recording of Maria Stuarda, Regina di Scozia was issued by Opera Rara in 2006. His next opera Elisa e Claudio was a huge success, and had occasional revivals in the 20th century.
He worked for a time in Vienna, in Madrid, in Cadiz, and in Lisbon, but re-established himself in Italy in 1831. He was invited by Rossini to Paris in 1836, where he composed I Briganti for four of the most-known singers of the time, Giulia Grisi, Giovanni Battista Rubini, Antonio Tamburini and Luigi Lablache, all of whom worked closely with Bellini. While there, he had the opportunity to hear operas by Meyerbeer and Halevy which imparted a strong influence on him, especially the latter's La Juive. This influence took the form of greater stress on the dramatic side.
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