Amilcare Ponchielli, born on August 31, will always be remembered for one work of opera – “La Gioconda.” And some might add that not even these days the opera is as popular as to give him sufficient clout as one of opera’s legendary composers.
In reality, the composer’s famous work has lost its status in recent years, and by extension, the composer’s profile has dropped rapidly.
But Ponchielli was rather prolific throughout his career, composing a total of 10 operas throughout 30 years. In looking over his work, one thing that pops out is how the composer tinkered with each opera long after composing it. Here is a look at the works that encapsulated the composer’s career.
I promessi sposi
Based on Alessandro Manzoni’s famous novel, which also inspired Verdi’s admiration for the author, and the subsequent Requiem, the opera premiered in 1856 and was later revised for 1872.
Bertrando dal Bormio
The composer’s second opera is a mystery, never actually getting performed despite being prepped for Turin.
La Savoirda / Lina
The first of two collaborations with librettist Francesco Guidi, this opera premiered in 1861 and was later revised in 1877.
Roderigo Re dei Goti
The second Giudi collaboration, this is a rare instance where the composer didn’t touch the opera after its premiere in 1863.
Il parlatore eterno
The first of three collaborations with Antonio Ghislanzoni, this one-act comic opera, premiered in 1873 and was also left unrevised for the rest of Ponchielli’s life. It was also the biggest gap in the composer’s output, coming 10 years after his previous work.
Another opera with a Ghislanzoni libretto, this one has had a longer life, seeing revivals in Chicago and Toronto, among other places, in the 20th century. The work takes place in Lithuania and was the first of his operas to premiere at La Scala in 1874. It was revised a year later.
I Mori di Valenza
The final of Ponchielli’s Ghislanzoni collaborations, this opera was not actually completed by the composer but by his son Annibale Ponchielli and Arturo Cadore.
Il figliuol prodigo
After “La Gioconda,” the composer wrote this opera, based on a libretto by Angelo Zanardini. The opera premiered at La Scala in 1880, the fourth opera to do so after “I Lituani” and “La Gioconda.”
The final Ponchielli opera also had its debut at La Scala in 1885, one year before the composer’s death.