Biography of Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725)

Italian composer born in Palermo 2 may 1660 and died in Naples October 22, 1725. He/She is considered the most famous representative of the Neapolitan musical school of the 17TH century.

He studied music in Rome, probably with the composer Giacomo Carissimi. In the Italian capital was brand new with great success its first opera, Gli rise nel sembiante (1679), which earned him being appointed maestro di cappella of the Queen Cristina of Sweden. Then he/she held the same position at San Gerolamo della Carità (1683). In 1684 went to Naples, where San Bartolomeo directed the theatre company and was appointed master of the Royal Chapel of this city, since it held until 1703. He/She tried to relate the Prince Ferdinando de Medici in Florence to obtain a job, but to fail in this endeavour he/she moved to Rome, where he/she had as patterns to Prince Ruspoli and members of the clergy Pietro Ottoboni and Benedetto Pamphili. In the Italian capital he/she wrote mostly cantatas and SERENADES, since opera was a genre poorly regarded by the Vatican for some time.

In 1707 he/she composed two operas that were premiered in Venice: Il trionfo della Libertà and Mitridate Eupatore. Scarlatti tried to conquer the public of this city, which was the most important operatic Center of Italy, but did not. That same year he/she returned to Rome, and most accepted the post of maestro di cappella at the Church of Santa María.

At the end of 1708 he/she decided to return to Naples to become to be in charge of the Royal Chapel and in 1715 he/she was knighted by the Pope Clement XI. In 1717 it premiered with great success his opera Il trionfo dell'onore, which was restored eighteen times in Naples. Just start the Decade 1720 wrote a religious work, the mass of Santa Cecilia, for soloists, chorus and strings. His last opera, entitled La Griselda, was first performed in Rome in 1721. That date was devoted to the composition of works for flute and strings (some of them dedicated to the flautist and composer J. j. Quantz, who visited him in 1724) and teaching. His disciples included his own son, Domenico Scarlatti, and Johann a. Hasse. He/She died in 1725 in the city of Naples.


Fertile composer, created up to one hundred fourteen operas, some two hundred masses and almost eight hundred Chamber cantatas. Among the latter there are many written for soprano and Basso continuo accompaniment of two violins, as well as for alto voice and Basso continuo.

In all his vocal work, Alessandro Scarlatti used resources as the repetition of words or short phrases to create emphasis and expressiveness in regards to the interpretation of the text. In addition, it is the voice as an instrument rather than he/she converses with violins, cellos and other instruments.

His operas can be considered between the Venetian and Neapolitan, style with titles such as La Rosaura (1690) and Griselda (1721). The compound in Naples from 1700 (L´amor volubile e tiranno, Tigrane etc.) show a clear evolution in regards to the orchestration and the use of the harpsichord, which shall be limited to appear in the ritornelli. In his latest operas for the first time use tubes.

His work instrumental, rather backward aesthetically with respect to his contemporaries, highlighted by his virtuosity and lyrical intensity that employed the resources of his musical language.

Selected discography

Concerti & Sinfonie. Performers: Margaret Koll, Maurizio Naddeo, Lorenzo Colitto, Fabio Biondi, Raffaello Negri gallant L´Europa. Director: Fabio Biondi. VIRGIN VERITAS45495. Concerti e sinfonie per flauto. Interpreters: Ensemble Il Rossignolo, Martino Noferi (flute). Director: Ottaviano Tenerani. 999856 CPO. Il giardino di rose (sinfonie & concertos). Performers: Accademia Bizantina. Director: Ottavio Dantone. 227936 DECCA. The Giuditta. Cast: Katalin Gemes, Maria Zadori, József Gregor, Drew Minter, Guy de Mey, Capella Savaria. Director: Nicholas McGegan. HUNGAROTON 12910. Griselda. Performers: Dorothea Röschmann (soprano), Lawrence Zazzo (countertenor), Veronica Cangemi (soprano). Silvia Tro Santafé (mezzo), Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin. Director: René Jacobs. HMC. Santa Cecilia of Messa (+ works by J.S. Bach and C. P. E. Bach). Performers: Choir of the King´s College, Felicity Palmer. Director: Philip Ledger. DECCA 458370. Il giardino d´amore. Performers: Rosita Frisani, love Lillia Perez, Gabriele Cassone, Alessandro Stradella Consort. Director: Esteban Velardi. 2327 BONGIOVANNI. Cantata per the notte di natale. Cast: Sergio Foresti, Rossana Bertini, Elena Cecchi Fedi, Claudio Cavina, Sandro Naglia, Concerto Italiano. Director: Rinaldo Alessandrini. OPUS 111 nº 30156.

Links on the internet; web page dedicated to the figure of Alessandro Scarlatti. In English.; website of the Association Neapolitan Alessandro Scarlatti. In Italian.


FABBRI, M. Alessandro Scarlatti and il Principe Ferdinando de' Medici. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 1961.

JAY GROUT, D. Alessandro Scarlatti: an introduction to historical operas. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.