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Newly Digitized: Girolamo Crescentini, Sei cantate e diciotto ariette

July 10th, 2013

A fixture of operatic and concert stages at the turn of the nineteenth century, the castrato Girolamo Crescentini (1762-1846) was particularly known for his showpiece aria “Ombra adorata aspetta,” which he inserted in Nicola Zingarelli’s Giulietta e Romeo (1796).1

By the time he published the collection Sei cantata e diciotto arietta, Crescentini had been retired from the stage for nearly a decade, after six years (1806-1812) spent at Napoleon’s court as a performer and teacher. When he returned to Bologna in 1813, he took a position at the recently-founded Liceo Filarmonico – today the Conservatorio di Musica G.B. Martini – before moving to a similar position in Naples.2 There, his pupils included Isabella Colbran, and his vocal exercises and treatises remained influential throughout the century with proponents of bel canto. A brief sketch of his career in the Musical World calls him “the Nestor and prince of song.”3

Girolamo Crescentini, Il Sogno. Merritt Room Mus 641.369.601

Girolamo Crescentini, Il Sogno. Merritt Room Mus 641.369.601

  • [Cantatas. Selections]. Sei cantate e diciotto ariette a voce sola con accompagnamento di forte-piano / composte dal Cav: Girolamo Crescentini. 1 ms. score (18 leaves). Merritt Room Mus 641.369.601

This manuscript contains the first two of six cantatas in the set, Il Sogno and Il Primo Amore.

Susan Euphemia Douglas-Hamilton (née Beckford), Duchess of Hamilton by Henry Cousins, after Willis (Willes) Maddox. NPG D35287
Susan Euphemia Douglas-Hamilton (née Beckford), Duchess of Hamilton.
Mezzotint, ca. 1850, by Henry Cousins, after Willis (Willes) Maddox.
NPG D35287, Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, London, CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Like the published edition, the title page (written in a different hand, on different paper) includes a dedication to the Duchess of Hamilton and Brandon, Susan Euphemia Beckford, who had assumed the title in 1819. A well-known and wealthy patroness, she had been made an honorary member of Bologna’s Accademia Filarmonica, most likely in 1821. Her personal effects, now in the collections at Lennoxlove, include her honorary diploma, as well as a Pleyel piano given to her by her father in 1828 (possibly used during Chopin’s visit to Hamilton Palace in 1848).4

Find a number of other manuscript scores, treatises and early editions, and images of Crescentini in Europeana. And don’t forget, you can browse many other scores in our special collection of Digital Scores and Libretti.

-Kerry Masteller


1. A vocal score of the aria, digitized by Houghton Library: Ombra adorato aspetta : scena in the opera of Giulietta e Romeo : expressly composed for Sigr. Chevalier Crescentini / by Sigr. Zingarelli. London : Published by Monro & May, 11 Holborn Bars (near Middle Row), [183-?]. Theatre Collection M1508.Z77 G5 1830. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:FHCL.HOUGH:5360910.

2. Sartori, Claudio. Il Regio Conservatorio di Musica “G. B. Martini” de Bologna (Firenze: Felice le Monnier, 1942), 118-119. http://hollis.harvard.edu/?itemid=|library/m/aleph|000438640 (HOLLIS record).

3. “The Great Singing-Masters of Italy,” The Musical World 7 (1 December, 1837): 177, http://books.google.com/books?id=EgkVAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA177#v=onepage.

See also “Biographische Notizen ausgezeichnetster italienischer Gesanglehrer der neuern und neuesten Zeit,” Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 39 (20 September 1837): 613-617, http://hdl.handle.net/2027/uc1.l0067816280?urlappend=%3Bseq=353.

4. Virtual Hamilton Palace Trust, “Hamilton Palace: Treasures of the Palace,” http://hamilton.rcahms.gov.uk/treasures57.html.

The collection also contains Willes Maddox’s 1852 portrait of the duchess at her piano: Susan Euphemia Beckford, Duchess of Hamilton, Wife of Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton.

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