Saverio Mercadante (1795 - 1870)

The Italian opera composer Saverio Mercadante studied music in Naples and at first showed an interest in instrumental composition. The encouragement of Rossini led him to compose for the opera, where he won considerable success with his seventh such work, in 1821. He worked for a time in Vienna, in Madrid and in Lisbon, but re-established himself in Italy in 1831. In the early 1840s he seemed the most important composer of Italian opera, now influenced by Meyerbeer in Paris and introducing new elements of drama into the form. In later life he seems to have been jealous of the success of Verdi, who came to dominate Italian opera in the second half of the century.


Mercadante wrote some 60 operas. Of these Il giuramento (The Oath) is possibly the most significant, the first to show those new dramatic elements, responding to the text which, like Ponchielli’s Gioconda, was based on Victor Hugo’s Angelo.

Orchestral Music

Mercadante was able to return to orchestral composition after his appointment in 1840 as director of the Naples Conservatory. His early works include six flute concertos, with subsequent tributes, as occasion arose, to Bellini, Donizetti and finally Rossini.