Giovanni Bottesini

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Giovanni Bottesini (December 22, 1821 - July 7, 1889), Italian double bassist and composer of classical music, was born at Crema in Lombardy.

He studied music at the Milan Conservatoire, devoting himself especially to the double-bass, an instrument with which his name is principally associated. On leaving Milan he spent some time in America and also occupied the position of principal double-bass in the theatre at Havana. Here his first opera, Cristoforo Colombo, was produced in 1847.

In 1849 he made his first appearance in England, playing doublebass solos at one of the Musical Union concerts. After this he made frequent visits to England, and his extraordinary command of his unwieldy instrument gained him great popularity in London and the provinces. Apart from his triumphs as an executant, Bottesini was a conductor of European reputation, and earned some success as a composer, though his work had not sufficient individuality to survive the changes of taste and fashion. He was conductor at the Théâtre des Italiens in Paris from 1855 to 1857 where his second opera, L'Assedio di Firenze, was produced in 1856.

When conducting opera, Bottesini would frequently bring his double bass on stage during the intermission to play fantasies on the evening's opera. His Fantasies on Lucia di Lammermoor, I Puritani, and Beatrice di Tenda are virtuostic tour de forces that are still popular with those who are highly accomplished on the instrument.

In 1861 and 1862 he conducted at Palermo, supervising the production of his opera Marion Delorme in 1862, and in 1863 at Barcelona. During these years he diversified the toils of conducting by repeated concert tours through the principal countries of Europe. In 1871 he conducted a season of Italian, opera at the Lyceum theatre in London, during which his opera Ali Baba was produced, and at the close of the year he was chosen by Verdi to conduct the first performance of Aida, which took place at Cairo on December 27, 1871.

Bottesini wrote three operas besides those already mentioned: Il Diavolo della Notte (Milan, 1859); Vinciguerra (Paris, 1870); and Ero e Leandro (Turin, 1880), the last named to a libretto by Arrigo Boito, which was subsequently set by Luigi Mancinelli. He also wrote The Garden of Olivet, a devotional oratorio (libretto by Joseph Bennett), which was produced at the Norwich festival in 1887, several concertos for the double-bass, and numerous songs. and minor instrumental pieces. Bottesini died in Parma on the 7th of July 1889.

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