Amilcare Ponchielli was born Paderno, Italy, August 31, 1834. He entered the Milan Conservatory in his ninth year and stayed there nine years. While still a student he wrote an operetta, Il Sindaco Babbeo, in collaboration with three other students.
His studies ended, he became an organist in Cremona, and then a bandmaster in Piacenza. During this period he wrote his first opera, I promessi sposi, introduced in Cremona in 1856.
For the opening of the Teatro dal Verme in Milan in 1872, Ponchielli was commissioned to write an opera. For this occasion he revised I promessi sposi which was received to much acclaim. His next opera, Le due gemelle, produced by La Scala in 1873, was also well received.
Ponchielli became world famous with La Gioconda, introduced at La Scala on April 8, 1876. The opera was a triumph at its premiere and it was highly successful when heard throughout Europe. None of the operas Ponchielli wrote after La Gioconda was able to repeat either the popular success or the consistently high level of dramatic and musical interest of that work.
In 1881, Ponchielli was appointed maestro di cappella of the Bergamo Cathedral, and from 1883 on he was professor of composition at the Milan Conservatory.
His operas are: I promessi sposi (1856;) La Savoiarda (1861, revised as Lina, 1877;) Roderico (1863;) La stella del monte (1867;) Le due gemelle (1873;) I Lituani (1874, revised as Alduna, 1884;) La Gioconda (1876;) Il figliuol prodigo (1880;) Marion Delorme (1885;) Bertrando de Bornio; I mori di Valenza (completed by A. Cadora.)
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