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Antonio Salieri
Birth: Aug. 18, 1750
Provincia di Verona
Veneto, Italy
Death: May 7, 1825
Vienna (Wien), Austria

Composer. The grand master of Italian opera during the late 18th century as well as the creator of notable sacred works and of operas in German and French, he is today chiefly remembered for unfortunate comparisons made of his talent to the genius of Mozart. Raised in the city of his birth, he received his initial musical training from his violinist brother Francesco, but after being orphaned around 1763 found himself in Venice where he benefitted from further education. Brought to the attention composer of Florian Leopold Gassmann, he was taken to Vienna in June of 1766 and made his first attempts at composition in the area of Church music, though most of his early efforts, save for a Mass in C-major, were to be lost over the years. Through Gassmann he was introduced to the Royal Court where he formed a friendship with Emperor Joseph II that was to last until the monarch's 1790 death and which led to his holding the position of Court Director of Italian Opera from 1774 until 1792. Constantly refining his art, Salieri received informal instruction from composers Metastasio and Christoph Willibald Gluck and in 1770 produced his first opera, a small opera-buffa entitled "Le dame letterate" which was based on Moliere's "Les Femmes Savantes". He soon followed with the comedy "L'amore innocente" ("Innocent Love") and with "Don Chisciotte alle nozze di Gamace", a comedic setting of an incident in Cervantes' "Don Quixote", before writing his first major hit, the opera-seria "Armida" which received its premiere on June 2, 1771. He had a major popular success with "La fiera di Venezia" which made its debut on January 29, 1772 but by 1777 Vienna's Italian Opera Company was broke. With the Emperor's permission, Salieri returned to Italy in 1778; there he wrote "Europa riconsciuta" for La Scala Milano while also producing one of his most enduring works, "La scuola de' gelosi" ("The School of Jealousy") which had its Venice world premiere on December 27, 1778. Remaining in his homeland until 1780, he returned to Vienna where Joseph II was attempting to start a German Singspiel theater, though the venture produced only two pieces of any consequence, Salieri's "Der Rauchfangkehrer", premiered at the Burgtheater on April 30, 1781, and Mozart's "The Abduction From the Seraglio", to say the least a better-known work, the world premieres of both featuring Catarina Cavalieri, a rather unattractive soprano and main character in "Amadeus" said to be the mistress of both Mozart and, with a bit more justification, Salieri. Over the next years Salieri wrote for both Vienna and Paris, his initial offering to France being the five act tragedy "Les Danaides" which had its debut on April 26, 1784. The work had been a commission given to Gluck who, owing to a stroke, had been unable to complete the job; Salieri was called in and the opera was finished and initially presented as a collaboration, though following its success Gluck publically acknowledged that Salieri did all the work. "Les Danaides" was a part of the repertoire in Paris for over 40 years despite, or perhaps because of, its vivid final act depiction of Hell, but Salieri went on to even greater triumph with "Tarare", first heard June 8, 1787, a work translated into Italian by Lorenzo Da Ponte, Mozart's well known librettist who wrote the dialogue for Salieri's 1784 "Il ricco d'un giorno" ("Rich Man for a Day"). Appointed Hofkapellmeister in 1788, a position he held until 1824 and which resulted in most of his religious compositions including an oratorio entitled "The Last Judgment", he continued teaching, conducting, and composing, his 1785 comedy "La grotta di Trofonio" ("Trofonio's Cave") and 1789 "La cifra" particularly well received; just when he met Mozart is unclear, though the younger man had been in Vienna since 1781 and the two had certainly been part of the same artistic circles. Though rivals for a few high-paying teaching jobs, and despite Mozart's complaining letters to his father Leopold about the "Italian cabal" that was out to "get" him, there appears to have been no animosity between the men, with Salieri, secure in his position, championing and conducting Mozart's music and with the two producing one joint effort, "Per la ricuperata salute di Ophelia", a work now lost. Having lost his benefactor with Joseph II's death, and with his liberal politics causing problems, Salieri left his job as Director of Italian Opera in 1792 and concentrated on his duties as Hofkapellmeister while continuing to write operas. Salieri ceased his stage career in 1804 but remained a respected Choir Master, busy conductor, and sought-after teacher as he numbered among his students at various times Beethoven, Meyerbeer, Franz Schubert, Franz Liszt, and even Mozart's son Franz Xavier. As time went on his politics became conservative, musical tastes changed leading to the gradual disappearance of his work from performance, and his physical and mental health declined. He died having lived his last year-and-a-half in an insane asylum; at his funeral his 1804 Requiem in C-minor received its world premiere. The urban legend that "Salieri killed Mozart" had its inception within the maestro's lifetime, with Rossini daring to joke about it to his face; Mozart supposedly stated during his terminal illness that he had been poisoned but he was delirious and it is clear that the only poison involved was the alcohol he drank in excess. While in the asylum, Salieri allegedly confessed to murdering Mozart, though he was not in his right mind and in lucid moments denied that such had ever happened. In 1831 Alexander Pushkin wrote a play entitled "Mozart and Salieri" in which Salieri puts arsenic in Mozart's drink. The play was turned into an opera of the same name by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1898 with the legendary bass Feodor Chaliapin as Salieri in the premiere, and the story persisted, even to be turned into farce by P.D.Q. Bach (Professor Peter Schickele) as "A Little Nightmare Music". Any reason he had to be jealous came after Mozart's 1791 death when his own work became obscure while Mozart's continued to increase in popularity with each passing year. Indeed, all evidence of the day indicates a fairly cordial relationship between the two, and at Mozart's memorial service Salieri had even conducted portions of the Mozart Requiem. With time, Salieri was forgotten save in Rimsky-Korsakov's opera and in occasional sessions of late night gossip among music aficionados; in 1979 Peter Shaffer produced the play "Amadeus" in which Salieri is depicted as a villain and as an inept buffoon, then in 1984 Milos Forman brought "Amadeus" to the silver screen in a multi Academy Award-winning megahit which earned F. Murray Abraham a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Salieri. The pieces showed Salieri as a petty and spiteful man of little talent who still had enough insight to call himself "the Patron Saint of mediocrities", though they did, barely, stop short of calling him a murderer, and while Mozart was shown as the towering genius that he undoubtedly was, he was also seen as irresponsible and as an ill-mannered drunk. The play and movie, which contained small clips of Salieri's music, further blackened his reputation but also had the interesting side effect of causing a reexamination of his vast output of around 40 operas and several oratorios and of his many smaller vocal pieces both secular and sacred as well as of his instrumental compositions. Concluding that Beethoven's teacher was well above mediocre, conductors began programming his music, "Tarare" and the 1799 "Falstaff" received productions which are preserved on DVD, and a number of the operas including "Les Danaides", "La grotta di Trofino", "Falstaff", and "La Locandiera" have been preserved on complete recordings. La Scala Milano celebrated its 2004 reopening after a major remodeling with a presentation of "Europa reconsciuta", mezzo Cecilia Bartoli recorded a number of arias for a 2003 CD, and in 2008 coloratura Diana Damrau also released a Salieri album. Today Legnano holds a Salieri Opera Festival and has a theater which carries his name, his work can be found on some movie soundtracks, and while his albums will never sell as well as do Mozart's, a good number of discs are available. Originally buried in the Matzleinsdorfer Friedhof, his grave has long since been moved to the Zentralfriedhof. Despite more than 200 years of searching, scholars and sleuths have failed to find the slightest evidence that he was responsible for the death of Mozart. (bio by: Bob Hufford) 

Cause of death: Old Age, Complications of Insanity
Wien Stadt
Vienna (Wien), Austria
Plot: Group O, Row 1, Number 54
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 1387
Antonio Salieri
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Antonio Salieri
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Antonio Salieri
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