Jacopo Foroni (1825−1858)

Jacopo Giovanni Battista Foroni, born in Valeggio sul Mincio on 26 July 1824, died 8 September 1858 in Stockholm. Employed at the Royal Opera from 1849 to 1858, initially as chief conductor and then from 1852 as stage manager in charge of rehearsals and the coaching of the resident artists and musicians. As a composer and conductor he was crucially instrumental in restoring the opera house’s artistic level in the mid–1900s. Of his operas, Cristina di Svezia and Advokaten Pathelin are the best known. Accepted into the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1849.

Early years: Italy

Jacopo Giovanni Battista Foroni was son of orchestra leader and conductor Domenico Foroni and Teresina Zovetti. The young Jacopo began his musical studies for his father, and after an interlude as a sapper officer in the Austrian army he ended his schooling (in composition and instrumentation) with Alberto Mazzucato in Milan. His teacher’s predilection for the Central European tradition with Bach, Beethoven and Mendelssohn as its paragons would have a profound effect on the composer.

In Milan in 1846, Foroni conducted his first opera to great critical acclaim, before becoming the director of a touring orchestra, which took him to France, Belgium and Spain. By the following year, he was back in Milan, where he resumed his activities as a conductor, pianist and, this time, composer too. 1848 saw the resounding success of his first opera, Margherita, at Teatro Re. He signed a contract with music publisher Giovanni Ricordi and a feature by Mazzucato in Gazzetta Musicale di Milano praised the new, young talent. The article also gives a penetrating analysis of Italian opera and its post-Donizetti loss of direction and of how the great Italian tradition was to deal with Central European influences.

From Milan to Stockholm

In the autumn of 1848, Foroni led a touring Italian orchestra in the Netherlands, where he was invited to take over the musical directorship of Vincenzo Galli’s opera troupe in Stockholm after the resignation of its original chief conductor Paolo Sperati during its Scandinavian tour. Foroni arrived in Stockholm in December 1848.

The seven members of the opera troupe were all leading Italian soloists, and included tenors Ettore Caggiati and Francesco Ciaffei, and soprano Rosina Penco, later to be Verdi’s first Leonora in Il trovatore in 1853. While with the troupe, Foroni conducted a varied repertoire from contemporary Italian opera, such as Donizetti’s Don PasqualeLinda di Chamounix and Lucrezia Borgia, Verdi's I Lombardi and Ernani as well as Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia. Yet Foroni also sought recognition as a composer and was soon busy penning his own opera about Queen Kristina of Sweden, Cristina di Svezia, to a libretto by the troupe’s baritone Gio Carlo Casanova. The music was dedicated to King Oscar I of Sweden and the libretto to Désirée, the Queen mother. The opera was premiered on 19 May 1849 at the Mindre teatern to an audience that included H.C. Andersen, whose autobiography contains an enthusiastic account of the performance.

In the company of Galli’s singers, Foroni was exceptionally well-received in Stockholm music circles. The Kungliga Teatern (the Royal Opera) had been suffering an artistic decline and attendances were dwindling. The contrast between the aged Johann Fredrik Berwald and the dynamic young Italian maestro was all too apparent, and Foroni was immediately appointed hovkapellmästare (chief conductor of The Royal Court Orchestra).

Now settled in Stockholm, Foroni transferred his musical activities up from Italy, although he did initially remain in contact with Milan where, in August 1850, he performed his Concert Overture no. 1 in C minor Stockholm. It was a great success and was quickly followed by two more overtures. All three were subsequently printed by Ricordi and became long-standing favourites on the Italian orchestral repertoire.

Foroni’s third opera, I Gladiatori, was premiered at the Teatro La Canobbiana in 1851. This time the critical response was cool: ‘Lyrically and melodically flawed, much acumen in the orchestration but lacking in distance and colour. In short, talent without genius’ − echoing the judgement that befell Cristina in Trieste the year before. The Italian public was clearly not quite ready to accept music of such power and orchestral quality as Foroni’s, and probably considered it too strange − too oriental, too symphonic, too Central European. This said, it neatly unifies Italian classicism and German romanticism, elegance of form, occasional harmonic boldness and dramatic intuition. From now on, in view of his heavy workload at the Kungliga Teatern, the visits to his homeland gradually petered out.

In Stockholm, Foroni introduced a number of operas from the contemporary Italian and French repertoire, including Bellini’s I puritani (1851), Verdi’s Macbeth (1852), Meyerbeer’s Le prophète (1852) and Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (1856), as well as Weber’s German opera Oberon (1858). His orchestral concerts also offered a smorgasbord of contemporary fare such as Schumann’s symphonies from 1853 (including no. 2, it too dedicated to King Oscar I), Mendelssohn’s Elijah (1854) and Beethoven’s symphonies. His first Wagner, and the first to be performed in Sweden, was the overture to Tannhäuser in 1856.

Foroni’s contributions, works and personality

However, Foroni’s main contribution was as an orchestral coach. At first he was treated with condescension by the experienced musicians of Hovkapellet (the Royal Court Orchestra), and was called, according to music author Leonard Höijer, ‘the conductor of little Italian operas’. But the tone soon changed as he earned the respect of musicians and singers for his meticulous and considered musicianship, which in focusing on the composers instead of the executants, earned him comparisons with Eduard du Puy as the most distinguished orchestra conductor the opera house had had.

His workload gave little time for his own compositions. As chief conductor, however, he was required to write occasional music for royal events and incidental music for plays, and over a dozen of such scores have been preserved. Also extant are the three concert overtures, the string quartet Un essay Quatuor and a number of minor piano works, songs and piano transcriptions.

All contemporary sources cite Foroni’s extroverted charm. But he was apparently a strict chief conductor and tolerated no sloppiness when it came to coaching. He was without doubt a much-needed shot in the arm for music in Sweden, and high hopes were pinned on the young Italian. He quickly learned Swedish (it seems he also had a knack for languages and was said to have mastered six) and his letters to August Blanche and other friends are miniature works of great literary merit.

There was to be a fourth stage work, this time in Swedish: the operetta Advokaten Pathelin, which Foroni just managed to complete before succumbing to cholera in September 1858. There was much mourning and the deceased maestro was honoured with an impressive memorial in Norra kyrkogården (Stockholm’s Northern Cemetery).

Anders Wiklund © 2013
Trans. Neil Betteridge

Bibliography

Blache, August: Minnesbilder, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1872.
Brandel, Åke
: 'Jacopo Foroni', in: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, vol. 16, Stockholm: Svenskt biografiskt lexikon, 1966.
−−−: 'Du Puy, Johan Berwald och Foroni − tre stora kapellmästare', in: Klas Ralf (ed.), Operan 200 år: Jubelboken, Stockholm: Prisma, 1973.
Crusenstolpe, J M: Jacopo Foroni, Svea, no. 15, 1859.
Dahlgren, Fredrik August: Förteckning öfver svenska skådespel uppförda på Stockholms theatrar 1737−1863 och Kongl. theatrarnes personal 1773−1863 med flera anteckningar, Stockholm: Norstedt, 1866.
Holm, Viveka: Talang förslösad i norr? Jacopo Foroni, dirigent och tonsättare från Verona, verksam i Sverige (1849-1858), bachelor's thesis in musicology, Stockholms universitet, 1996.
Höijer, J. Leonard: 'Foroni, Jacopo', in: Musik-Lexikon, Stockholm: Abr. Lundquist, 1864.
'Jacopo Foroni − Ett 50 års-minne', Svensk Musiktidning, 1908.
Lindgren, A: Svenske hofkapellmästare 1782-1882, Stockholm: Centraltryckeriet, 1882.
Norlind, Tobias och Emil Trobäck: Kungl. Hovkapellets Historia 1526−1851 1926, Stockholm: Wahlström & Widstrand, 1926.
Schepelern, Gerhard: Italienerne paa Hofteateret, 2 vol., København: Rhodos, 1976.
Tajani, Angelo: Jacopo Foroni − från barrikaderna till Kungliga operar, övers. Vibeke Emond, Höör: 2 kronors förlag, 2002 [also in Italian: Jacopo Foroni − dalle barricate al regio podio, Sarno: Edizione dell'Ippogrifo, 2002].
Tranér, Gösta: 'Foroni, Jacopo Giovanni Battista', in: Svenska Män och Kvinnor, vol. 2, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1944.

Complete list of works in Svenska Tidningen 1858, no. 218.


Sources

Kungliga Biblioteket Stockholm, Musik- och teatermuseet Stockholm, Riksarkivet Stockholm, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Uppsala universitetsbibliotek, Biblioteca del conservatorio Bologna.
Portrait: Kungliga Biblioteket, Kungliga Teatern

Summary list of works

4 operas (Margherita, Cristina di Svezia, I Gladiatori, Advokaten Pathelin), incidental music for at least 11 plays, orchestral pieces (3 concert overtures, Triumphal march, Religious march), 1 string quartet (Un essay Quatuor), pieces for piano, songs with piano, choral works.

Collected works

After Tajani 2002:127ff.

Opera
Margherita, melodramma semiserio in 2 acts. First performed in Milano, 1848.
Cristina regina di Svezia, dramma storico lirico in 3 acts. First performed at Mindre teatern, Stockholm, 1849.
I Gladiatori, tragedia lirica in prologue and 3 acts. First performed in Milano, 1851.
Advokaten Pathelin, operetta in one act, 1858.

Other stage music
Music to the drama Fonaldès in 5 acts, 1849.
Grefve Saint Hélène, drama in 5 acts, 1849.
En folkfest i Dalarne, divertissement with song and dance in 1 act, 1851.
Sullivan, comedy in 3 acts, 1853.
Bertas piano, comedy vaudeville in 1 act, 1855.
Hyresgäst eller Husägare, comedy.
Jag äter middag hos min mor, comedy in 1 act, 1857.
Veteranerne, incidental piece in one act, 1857.
Ett hemkomstöl, divertissement i 2 akter med anledning av hertig Oscar Fredriks av Östergötland förmälning [divertissement in 2 acts], 1857.
Vid Wirtha bro, comic opera in 2 acts, 1858.
Den lifegna, drama in 5 acts.
Stolthet mot stolthet, comedy.
Prolog med anledning av Karl XIV Johans bildstods avtäckning i Stockholm [progolue], 1854.

Orchestral works
Concert overture no. 1 in C minor, for large orchestra, 1850.
Concert overture no. 2 in E minor, for large orchestra, 1850?
Concert overture no. 3 in A major, for large orchestra, 1850/51.
Marsch triumphale in D major, for piano solo with strings, flute, clarinet, horn, trumpet and percussion.

Chamber music
Un essai, string quartet D minor.

Piano works
Studio per la mano sinistra sola, pianoforte, 1840.
Vals och Polka öfver melodien ur operetten Advokaten Pathelin [Waltz and polska over a melody from the operetta Advokaten Pathelin], pianoforte.
Reminiscenze dei Masnadieri di Verdi op. 5, pianoforte, after 1840.
Ricordanze degli Orazj e Curiazj di Mercadante, Cappricio Brillante op. 6.
Deux broderies pur le piano sur Luisa Strozzi de Sanelli.
Ètude mélodique for pianoforte.
Polka de concert.
Rialto-polka pianoforte.
Capriccio-polka, 'Bien peu de chose!!', Al chiarissimo amico Andrea Guerra, pianoforte.
Sogno malinconico, studio per pianoforte in do maggiore.
Ouverture Fantastico in C minor, for piano four hands.
Marcia Militare per pianoforte in do maggiore/Military march for pianoforte.

Vocal works
Nationaldivertissement, kantat med triumfmarsch med anledning av kronprins Karls förmälning [Cantata], 1850.
L´italiana, krigsrop (Davide Levi), 1848.
Ai Lombardi, krigssång (A. Zoncada), 1848.
La lettera/Brevet (di Giulio).
Andante pastorale.
5 canti popolari del 1848/5 folk songs from 1848, 1898.
Three romanze. 1. La lontananza, 2. Il desiderio, 3. L´âme du Purgatorire.
Romance ('Jag minnes de ljufva stunder').
Marcia Militare/Military march, voice and piano/organ.

Transcriptions of his own works for voices and piano
Krigs-sång (war song, in Swedish translation) from the opera I Gladiatori, for male quartet.
Cristina di Svezia, arrangement for song and piano, selection of arias and duets.
Margherita, arrangement for song and piano.
I Gladiatori, arrangement for song and piano.
Aria from the opera I Gladiatori, song and orchestra.
I Gladiatori, prelude, romance and duo.
Five songs from the music of the drama Veteranerne: 1. Finsk nationalvisa [Finish national song], for baritone, 2. Ack, sådan vinterkväll, trio for male voices, 3. Kupletter [Couplets], for baritone, 4. Brömsens frieri till flugan, baritone-mezzo antiphony, 5. När brudens blick dig dårar, male quartet.
Couplets from Advokaten Pathelin.
Marcia Militare, for voice and piano.

Sacral works
Qui tollis, instated in act 2 of Margherita, early 1840.
Credo for choir and organ.
Laetatus sum, psalm for three male voices.
Offertorio for voice and piano/organ.
Offertorio from Missa facilis et brevis for soprano and organ.
Missa facilis et brevis, Messa 2, sex vocibus accomodata auctore, mixed 6 parts choir and organ obbligato, 1853.
Bön [Prayer] ('Snart spännes öfver land och sjö') for male quartet.
Ave Maria, solo voices and choir.
Marcia Religiosa.


Works by Jacopo Foroni

This is not a complete list of works. The following works are those that have been inventoried so far.

Number of works: 11