Composer. Most of his short life was spent in and around Naples. He began writing for the theatre while still a student and his comic intermezzo "La Serva Padrona" ("The Bossy Housemaid", 1733) is a delightful early example of opera buffa. Dissolute habits led to his contracting tuberculosis and in 1736 he retired to a Franciscan monastery in Pozzuoli. Here he wrote his masterpiece, the moving "Stabat Mater". Pergolesi died impoverished at 26 and was buried in an unmarked mass grave at Pozzuoli Cathedral. A historian later noted, "No sooner had he ceased to live than he became the object of an interest only equal to the indifference shown him in his lifetime". "La Serva Padrona" found immense popularity and was a controversial smash when it premiered in Paris in 1752, sparking debate among local intellectuals over the merits of French and Italian comedy. As Pergolesi's fame grew unscrupulous publishers began passing off spurious compositions as his, causing textural problems that took scholars two centuries to untangle. When Igor Stravinsky wrote his famous pastiche ballet "Pulcinella" (1920) he believed he was adapting music of Pergolesi; it turned out that most of the works he used were by other, obscure composers. Pergolesi's memorial was subject to similar upheaval. Since his gravesite could not be located, a cenotaph for him was dedicated at Pozzuoli Cathedral in 1913. The building was largely destroyed by fire in 1964. On the 250th anniversary of Pergolesi's death in 1986, his cenotaph was restored and moved to the Church of St. Anthony of Padua.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards