Giuseppe Sarti

Born: Fraenza, Italy - date unknown, baptised 1 December 1729
Died: Berlin - July 28, 1802

An influential composer of opera, Giuseppe Sarti was the last kappelmeister to the court of Catherine the Great, who invited a series of great Italian composers to work in St. Petersburg.

Before his arrival in Russia, Sarti had worked at the court of Frederick V of Denmark in Copenhagen for two decades and in 1779, with the help of Giovanni Paisiello, he was appointed maestro di cappella at Milan Cathedral. He proved an immensely talented composer of sacred music and also an able teacher, counting Luigi Cherubimi among his students in Milan. In 1784, presumably again with the assistance of Paisiello, who left St. Petersburg that year, Sarti was invited to Russia by Catherine. On the way, he visited Vienna and made the acquaintance of Mozart, who later used an air from Sarti's Fra i due litiganti il terzo gode in the supper scene of Don Giovanni.

Sarti's first years in St. Petersburg were blighted by conflict with stars of the Italian Opera Company, and he resigned his post in 1786, moving to work for Catherine's favourite Grigory Potemkin, mostly at his southern Russian estates. Among his works for Potemkin, his Te Deum to mark the Russian victory at Ochakova in 1789 was notable for its employment of cannon fire in the score. In 1790, Sarti regained his appointment at St. Petersburg, and he remained in the post for over a decade. In the same year, he was one of three composers to work on the opera The Early Reign of Oleg, to a libretto in Russian by Catherine the Great herself. As well as composing a number of operas, he continued to write sacred music, taught several Russian composers, and was elected to the Academy of Sciences for his work on the measurement of pitch and tuning. By 1801, his health was deteriorating and he asked permission of Emperor Alexander to return to his native Italy. Sarti died in Berlin on his journey home.

Works composed while in Russia: Gli amanti consolati (1784), I finti eredi (1785), Armida e Rinaldo (1786), Castor e Polluce (1786), The Early Reign of Oleg (with Carlo Canobbio and Vasily Pashkevich, 1790), Andromeda (1798), Enea nel Lazio (1799), La famille indienne en Angleterre (1799), Les amores de Flore et de Zephire (1799)

Connected with: Giovanni Paisiello, Grigory Potemkin