Antonio Salieri


Italian composer mainly resident in Vienna. His posthumous reputation was distorted by the unfounded rumour that he poisoned Mozart; it is doubtful whether Salieri, by far the better-established of the two, even troubled to intrigue against Mozart, although the latter clearly thought he did at one time. Salieri came from the Venetian region of Italy and trained there; he attract was taken to Vienna as assistant to Gassmann when still in his teens. He soon wrote a comedies and a serious opera in the reform style (Armida, libretto by Coltellini).
Thanks to the support of the Emperor Joseph II he was appointed to direct the opera company when Gassmann died in 1774. His Viennese operas include excellent comedies such as La fiera di Venezia and La locandiera. When Joseph founded a German national theatre, Salieri composed several operas for Italian theatres including Milan and Rome, setting texts of Goldoni, Da Gamerra, Mazzolà and Petrosellini. In Vienna he also tried his hand at German opera. He was close to Gluck, and when the latter decided to retire he allowed Salieri to present Les Danaïdes in Paris as their joint work; it was only declared to be Salieri's unaided work when its success was assured.
Meanwhile the Italian opera company was estblished in Vienna; Salieri collaborated with Da Ponte and Casti, the latter in La grotta di Trofonio (1785), one of the composer's most original works, and Prima la musica, a burlesque staged the same day as Mozart's Der Schauspieldirektor. Salieri wrote two more French operas, Les Horaces (1786) and Tarare (1787, text by Beaumarchais) which was revised for Vienna as an Italian opera by Da Ponte under the name Axur (1787). Later works included the dramma giocoso La cifra (1788) and a comedy based on Shakespeare, Falstaff (1799). His last operas attempted to match fashion by using German texts, but late in life he confined himself to church music and teaching (his pupils included Beethoven and Schubert).