Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

Orefice [Arefece, Orefici], Antonio

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Orefice [Arefece, Orefici], Antonio

(fl 1708–34).Italian composer. According to most sources he was trained as a lawyer, but his success as a composer suggests he also received expert instruction in music. His opera Patrò Calienno de la Costa was the first comic opera in Neapolitan dialect performed on a public stage, at the Fiorentini, Naples, on 1 October 1709. Its popularity led the Fiorentini management to promote further operas of this type, some of which were set by Orefice, and the success of these in turn made dialect comic opera as a genre the established form of popular entertainment at the Fiorentini and some other small theatres in Naples. Only one of Orefice’s comic operas, Il gemino amore (1718), is without roles in dialect. On 15 October 1724 his Lo Simmele was the first opera to be performed at the newly opened Teatro Nuovo in Naples.

Given Orefice's reputation, which can be gauged from the number of operas he wrote, it is surprising that so little of his music remains. His largest surviving work is the first half of Engelberta, performed at the Neapolitan royal palace just 34 days after the première of Patrò Calienno de la Costa; the closeness of the dates may explain why Orefice did not compose the whole work but only the first half of it (the manuscript score attributes the remainder of the music to Francesco Mancini). Orefice’s music in Engelberta seems to be modelled on that of leading contemporary Neapolitans, including Alessandro Scarlatti. It compares well with Mancini’s contribution from the point of view of technical competence and expressive quality, though Orefice’s style is a little less forceful than Mancini’s. The other remaining operatic music by Orefice is a group of seven arias from his Le fente zingare, the earliest surviving music from any comic opera in Neapolitan dialect (one aria has recently been transcribed and published by Pastore) and an invaluable guide to the development of the musical style adopted by the Neapolitans Vinci and Leo in their dialect operas of the 1720s.

According to Prota-Giurleo and Paduano, Anastasio Orefice, perhaps a son or brother of Antonio, had his own opera La Limpia performed in the Teatro Nuovo, Naples, at Carnival 1727; during the same season he was responsible for a revival of Vinci’s Lo cecato fauzo in the Teatro dei Fiorentini. La Limpia was revived as La zingara at the Teatro Fiorentini during Carnival 1728. Anastasio also (according to LaMusicaD) wrote a comic opera La Milla o puro Chi è la primmo vence, performed in Naples in 1726.



all first performed in Naples

NFI - Teatro dei Fiorentini

Il Maurizio (dramma per musica, N. Minato and A. Morselli, addns Abbé Papis), S Bartolomeo, 27 Dec 1708

Patrò Calienno de la Costa (ob, A. Mercotellis), NFI, 1 Oct 1709

Engelberta, ossia La forza dell'innocenza [Act 1 and part of Act 2] (dramma per musica, 3, A. Zeno and P. Pariati), Palazzo Reale, 4 Nov 1709, A-Wn (listed as Pimpinone), perf. with ints Pimpinone by T. Albinoni [Act 3 and part of Act 2 by F. Mancini]

La Camilla (ob), NFI, July 1710

La pastorella al soglio (dramma per musica, G.C. Corradi), S Bartolomeo, 4 Nov 1710

Circe delusa (drama, G.A. Falier), NFI, 7 Dec 1713

La Caligula delirante (dramma per musica, Gisberti), S Bartolomeo, 1713

Lo finto Armeneo (ob, F.A. Tulio), NFI, spr. 1717

Le fente zingare (ob, Tullio), NFI, 13 Oct 1717; arias I-MC, ed. in Pastore

La fenta pazza co la fenta malata (ob, Tullio), NFI, carn. 1718

Il gemino amore (ob, Tullio), NFI, aut. 1718

Chi la dura la vince (ob, M. del Zanca), NFI, Nov 1721

La Locinna (traggecommeddeja, Tullio), NFI, 4 Sept 1723

Lo Simmele (ob, B. Saddumene), Nuovo, 15 Oct 1724, perf. as La somiglianza with alterations by G. Fischetti, Rome, Capranica, 1729

L'annore resarciuto (ob, N. Gianni), NFI, 1727

La vecchia trammera (ob, Tullio), Nuovo, 1732, collab. L. Leo

La Rosilla (F. Oliva), Nuovo, aut. 1733, collab. L. Leo

La Finta pellegrina (ob, F. Lucano Cinnéo [F. Oliva]), Nuovo, carn. 1734, collab. D. Sarro

Psiche reintegrata nella grazia di venere (A. Birini), n.d. [for the wedding of Elena Tartaglione and Pietro Marchetti]

other works

Bellina e Lenno (int), Naples, S Bartolomeo, 27 Dec 1708

Velasco e Drusilla (int), Naples, S Bartolomeo, 4 Nov 1710

Sopra un verde colle (cant.), A, bc, Nc


MGG1 (U. Prota-Giurleo and L. Paduano); SartoriL

M. Scherillo: L’opera buffa napoletana durante il Settecento: storia letteraria (Naples, 1883, 2/1916/R)

B. Croce: I teatri di Napoli, secolo XV–XVIII (Naples, 1891/R, 4/1947)

G.A. Pastore: ‘Le “arielle co’wioline” di Antonicco Arefece’, Studi salentini, no.20 (1965), 249–62

P. Weiss: ‘La diffusione del repertorio operistico nell'Italia del Settecento: il caso dell'opera buffa’, Civiltà teatrale e Settecento emiliano, ed. S. Davoli (Bologna, 1986), 241–56

F. Cotticelli and P. Maione: Onesto divertimento, ed allegria de' popoli: materiali per una storia dello spettacolo a Napoli nel primo Settecento (Milan, 1996)


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