Catterino Cavos

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Born: 30 October 1775 — Venezia — Italy
Died: 10 May 1840 — St. Petersburg — Russia
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Cavos features in Russian musical history as the man who composed an opera ‘Ivan Susanin’ before Glinka.

Cavos wrote numerous opera’s, ballets, and various orchestral pieces. His opera’s Ilya the hero (1806), Ivan Susanin (1815), The Firebird (1823) earned a public succes in their time. The Cossack as Poet, a one-act vaudeville (1812), remained in the repertory till 1852. Some of his ballets were performed abroad.


(His death date on the Russian calender is 28 April 1840.)

Born in Venice, Cavos was trained as a musician in his home city. At the insistence of a fellow townsman, who had settled in Petersburg two years earlier, he accepted a post as master of the Imperial Chapel in 1798. His career in Petersburg was very successful. He became conductor of the Russian opera in 1806 and later (1832) musical director. He taught music and singing at various schools (there were no professional musical conservatories in Russia at that time).

Cavos acquainted the Russian public with the opera’s of Cherubini, Méhul, Weber, and others. He conducted the first performance of Glinka’s "Ivan Susanin" in 1836, twenty years after the first performance of his own opera on the same libretto (though with a different ending). Cavos generously admitted that Glinka’s work was musically superior.

R. Aloys Mooser, Un Musicista Veneziano in Russia: Catterino Cavos (1775-1840), Nuova Rivista Musicale Italiana III/1 (1969)13-23.

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