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Arrigo Boito Biography | Poet

Photo of Arrigo Boito

BOITO, ARRIGO (1842-?), Italian poet and musical composer, was born at Padua on the 24th of February 1842. He studied music at the Milan Conservatoire, but even in those early days he devoted as much of his time to literature as to music, forecasting the divided allegiance which was to be the chief characteristic of his life’s history. While at the Conservatoire he wrote and composed, in collaboration with Franco Faccio, a cantata, Le Sorelle d’Italia, which was performed with success. On completing his studies Boito travelled for some years, and after his return to Italy settled down in Milan, dividing his time between journalism and music. In 1866 he fought under Garibaldi, and in 1868 conducted the first performance of his opera Mefistofele at the Scala theatre, Milan. The work failed completely, and was withdrawn after a second performance. It was revived in 1875 at Bologna in a much altered and abbreviated form, when its success was beyond question. It was performed in London in 1880 with success, but in spite of frequent revivals has never succeeded in firmly establishing itself in popular favour. Boito treated the Faust legend in a spirit far more nearly akin to the conception of Goethe than is found in Gounod’s Faust, but, in spite of many isolated beauties, his opera lacks cohesion and dramatic interest. His energies were afterwards chiefly devoted to the composition of libretti, of which the principal are Otello and Falstaff, set to music by Verdi; La Gioconda, set by Ponchielli; Amleto, set by Faccio; and Ero e Leandre, set by Bottesini and Mancinelli. These works display a rare knowledge of the requirements of dramatic poetry, together with uncommon literary value. Boito also published a book of poems and a novel,L’Alfier Meno. The degree of doctor of music was conferred upon him in 1893 by the university of Cambridge.

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