Francesco Antonio Uttini (1723−1795)


Francesco Antonio Baldassare Uttini, born in Bologna 1723 and died in Stockholm 25 October 1795, was a composer and conductor active in Sweden from 1755. He was summoned to Stockholm by Queen Lovisa Ulrika to compose and perform Italian opera seria at the court. He composed four operas for the newly built Drottningholm palace theatre. Uttini was appointed chief conductor of the Royal Court Orchestra in 1767. Commissioned by King Gustav III to compose the first ever opera in Swedish, Thetis och Pelée (1772).

Francesco Antonio Uttini (1723-1795)

Early years

Uttini was the son of Jacob Maria Uttini and Angela Victoria Corticelli. He studied music for Padre Giovanni Battista Martini in Bologna, and it is deemed likely that opera composers Pietro Giuseppe Sandoni and Giacomo Antonio Perti were his teachers and role models. At the age of 20 (1743) he was voted onto the Accademia filarmonica, a music academy of Europe-wide renown, which earned him both acknowledgement and repute as a composer of note.

During this time, Uttini composed several major vocal works, such as the solo cantata Fortem virile pectore (1739, sheet music preserved), the oratorio La Giuditta (1742, libretto preserved) and the opera Alessandro nelle Indie to a text by the foremost librettist of his time, Pietro Metastasio (1743, libretto preserved). With his oratorios and operas, which were cast in the opera seria mould, he went on to achieve a certain degree of fame in Italy over the following decade. Examples of his operas from this period are Astianatte (1748) and Demofoonte (1753), to librettos by, respectively, Antonio Salvi and Metastasio.

In the early 1750s, Uttini joined Mingotti’s opera troupe, a vocal ensemble that toured Europe with a repertoire made up primarily of Italian opera seria. It was through this troupe that Uttini met his first wife, singer Rosa Scarlatti (1727−1775). He would compose three Metastasio operas for Mingotti’s ensemble in the coming years: Siroe (Hamburg 1752), L’olimpiade (Copenhagen 1753) and Zenobia (Copenhagen 1754).

Opera composer Giuseppe Sarti, who was active in Copenhagen, also composed operas for Mingotti’s troupe at this time, and he and Uttini collaborated on two pasticci that were performed in Rostock in 1754. One of these works is particularly interesting in that it contains arias taken from Metastasio’s Il re pastore and L’eroe cinese, that is to say, the two librettos on which Uttini based his operas for the Hovkapellet (Stockholm Royal Court Orchestra). It is possible that he chose these texts for Lovisa Ulrika’s and Adolf Fredrik’s operas because they were already familiar to the singers who had been involved in the Rostock performance. The music for these operas, however, was not taken from this pasticcio.


In 1755 Uttini and the Minotti troupe were commissioned by Lovisa Ulrika to compose and perform an opera for the Royal Court.  Uttini arrived in Stockholm with his wife at the start of the year, with the rest of the ensemble − the tenor Croce, the soprano Mariana Galeotti, the alto Elena Fabrice and the castrato soprano Domenico Scoglio − joining him later towards the spring. The troupe in its entirety stayed in Stockholm for the 1755 and 1757 summer seasons. Upon arriving, Uttini became involved with the court concerts and composed a flute concerto, a sinfonia and an adagio for solo voice which the queen intended to send to her brother Fredrik II (‘Fredrik the Great’) in Berlin to have it performed by her ‘virtuosos’.

Once the whole troupe had arrived, it likely performed music from the operas that Queen Lovisa Ulrika had had sent to her from her relatives in Berlin, amongst them Carl Heinrich Graun’s groundbreaking Montezuma (1755). Uttini also composed four operas to Metastasio’s librettos, which were staged at the Drottningholm palace theatre and performed by the troupe. A French troupe, which had also been engaged by the Queen, performed ballets during the acts to music that had probably not been composed by Uttini. The performances formed part of the royal court’s summer celebrations at Drottningholm in honour of the royal couple’s birthdays and name-days. The operas were thus deliberate initiatives on the part of the King and Queen, and large sums were spent on scenery and costumes and on a new edition of Metastasio’s librettos, printed in Stockholm in their French translations.

Of his four operas, L’isola disabitata (1755), Il re pastore (1755), L’eroe cinese (1757) and Adriano in Siria (1757), only two − Il re pastore and L’eroe cinese − remain extant as both a libretto and a score (without, however, the simple recitatives), while L’isola disabitata and Adriano in Siria have only been preserved as librettos. However, Stockholm possesses a score and vocal material of an opera titled Adriano in Siria by Giovanni Francesco Brusa (premiered in Venice in 1757). While the score is Italian, the vocal material was written in Sweden and was unquestionably used by Uttini, which has caused some speculation as to whether this could have been the opera he had staged at Drottningholm. Uttini, however, made no claim to ever having composed this opera.

Uttini remained with his wife in Sweden when most of the troupe moved on after the 1757 summer season working as a musical advisor and hovkapellmästare (chief conductor of the Royal Court Orchestra) at the court of Queen Lovisa Ulrika. He composed stage music for the court and another opera to a Metastasio libretto, the one-act Il sogno di Scipione, which was performed in honour of the Crown Prince’s birthday in 1764 (the music has since been lost). He also wrote, in addition to shorter pieces for the French troupe’s comic operas (e.g. the ballet Les chinois in 1761 and several arias), music for four full-length comic operas and for Philippe Quinault’s tragédie lyrique Psyché (1766), which was first performed at the wedding of Crown Prince Gustav and Sofia Magdalena in 1766 (of the music only the vocal material remains).

During this period, Uttini also composed chamber music, sinfonias and cantatas. There are nine sinfonias and overtures in existence all told, six of which are introductions to operas, the remainder being stand-alone occasional pieces. In 1767 Uttini was made hovkapellmästare and the following year his three trio sonatas op. 1 were published in London. In 1772 he was commissioned by King Gustav III to write music for Thetis och Pelée, the first opera in Swedish, to a libretto adapted from Bernard de Fontenelle’s 1689 opera of the same name by nobleman Johan Wellander. The opera is of the grand opéra genre (only some of the music has survived) and was performed in the following year at Stockholm’s Bollhusteatern.

Uttini went on to devote the next ten years to major dramatic works with Swedish lyrics, such as Birger Jarl och Mechtilde (1774, with H.P. Johnsen) and Aline, drottningen uti Golconda (1776). He composed choruses for the stage version of Jean Racine’s Athalie (1776) and Iphigénie (1777) as well as ballet music and prologues for Christoph Willibald Gluck’s operas. From 1778 on his role as chief conductor at the Hovkapellet was taken over by other musicians and he gradually began to withdraw from the concert scene. In 1788, when he had effectively stopped composing altogether, he married again, this time to singer Sophia Liljegren (1765−95). 

Il re pastore and L’eroe cinese

Of Uttini’s entire oeuvre, the two Metastasian operas for Lovisa Ulrika’s and Adolf Fredrik’ court − Il re pastore and L’eroe cinese − are of particular interest, revealing as they do Sweden’s place in a European court tradition that had sovereign status manifested through Italian opera seria. The operas were integrated into grand ceremonies at Drottningholm that would last much of the day and night and also include games and glorifying ingredients such as ballets, feasts and refreshments. 

The operas’ librettos largely follow Metastasio’s original lyrics with only minor deviations, and are musically comparable to the contemporary works of his fellow-composer Sarti. Uttini was also probably familiar with Graun’s opera Montezuma, which Lovisa Ulrika had had sent to her from Berlin just before the arrival of the Italian opera troupe to Stockholm. The operas are conservative in style as regards their overall formal structure with alternating recitatives and arias that are generally da capo in form, and with less space given over to accompanying recitatives, duets, ensembles and freestanding instrumental passages. Uttini’s operas also, however, display a contemporary playfulness in the half da capo and rondo form of the arias, a feature that is also seen in other opere serie of the time by Jommelli, Hasse and Graun.

Musically, the design of Uttini’s operas was governed by genre conventions and the prevailing tastes at the court of Lovisa and Adolf Fredrik, which can be identified through Lovisa Ulrika’s correspondence with her relatives in Berlin. While her brother Fredrik II gave his court musicians meticulous instructions for the lyrics and the music, Lovisa Ulrika’s involvement in the act of operatic creation seems to have been limited. She demonstrated, however, an awareness of the politico-diplomatic value of the new taste and was attentive to new trends. The expression un goût tout nouveau (‘a completely new taste’) is a favourite phrase of hers when imparting court news to her family. Her own taste appears, going not least by Uttini’s two operas, to have been a reflection of that of other German courts, particularly Fredrik II’s, which put a premium on the operatic output of Hasse and Graun.

Johanna Ethnersson-Pontara
Trans. Neil Betteridge


Arnheim, Fritz (ed.): Luise Ulrike, die schwedische Schwester Friedrichs des Grossen: ungedruckte Briefe an Mitglieder des preussischen Königshauses, vol. 1−2, Gotha: Perthes, 1909−10.
Beijer, Agne: Drottningholms slottsteater på Lovisa Ulrikas och Gustaf III:s tid, Stockholm: Liberförlag, 1981.
Boer van, Bertil H. & Martin Tegen: 'Uttini, Francesco Antonio Baldassare', in: Sadie, Stanley (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 26, ed. 2, London: Macmillan, pp. 178−179.
Ethnersson, Johanna: Metastasiansk opera i Lovisa Ulrikas Sverige: En studie av fyra drammi per musica av Arvid Niclas von Höpken och Franesco Antonio Uttini, diss., Stockholm University, 2003.
Hedwall, Lennart: 'Adolf Fredriks och Lovisa Ulrikas tid. Hovmusik och konsert', in: Jonsson, Leif & Ivarsdotter-Johnson, Anna (eds), Musiken i Sverige. Frihetstid och Gustaviansk tid 1720−1810, Stockholm: Fischer, 1993, pp. 61−88.
Hedwall, Lennart: 'Adolf Fredriks och Lovisa Ulrikas tid. Teatermusik', in: Jonsson, Leif & Ivarsdotter-Johnson, Anna (eds), Musiken i Sverige. Frihetstid och Gustaviansk tid 1720−1810, Stockholm: Fischer, 1993, pp. 89−106.
Skuncke, Marie-Christine & Anna Ivarsdotter: Svenska operans födelse: studier i gustaviansk musikdramatik, Stockholm: Atlantis, 1998.
Sundström, Einar: 'F. A. Uttini och Adolf Fredriks italienska operatrupp', Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 13, 1931, pp. 5−44.
Sundström, Einar: 'Francesco Antonio Uttini som musikdramatiker', Svensk tidskrift för musikforskning, vol. 45, 1963, pp. 33−91.
Tegen, Martin: '”Thetis och Pelee" An opera’s successive transformations', in: Mattsson, Inger (ed.), Gustavian Opera: an interdisciplinary reader in Swedish opera, dance and theatre 1771−1809, Stockholm: Royal Swedish Academy of Music, 1991, pp. 237−252.
Walin, Stig: Beiträge zur Geschichte der schwedischen Sinfonik. Studien aus dem Musikleben des 18. Und des beginnenden 19. Jahrhunderts, diss., Uppsala University, 1941.


Landsarkivet Härnösand, Uppsala universitetsbibliotek, Musik- och teaterbiblioteket, Musik- och teatermuseet, Kungl. biblioteket, Frimurare-orden Stockholm, Skara stifts- och landsbibliotek, Lunds universitetsbibliotek

Summary list of works

Operas (two dozen or so plus opera prologues and choruses), orchestral pieces (3 sinfonias), keyboard music (6 harpsichord sonatas), vocal music (2 oratorios, a Missa brevis and occasional pieces).

Collected works

Alessandro nelle Indie (opera seria, P. Metastasio), Genoa, 1743.
Astianatte (dramma seria, A. Salvi), Cesena, 1748.
Demofoonte (opera seria, Metastasio), Ferrara, 1750.
Siroe (opera seria, Metastasio), Hamburg, 1752.
L'olimpiade (opera seria, Metastasio), Copenhagen, 1753.
Zenobia (opera seria, Metastasio), Copenhagen, 1754.
La Galatea (opera seria), Drottningholm, 1754.
L'isola disabitata (dramma per musica, Metastasio), Drottningholm, 1755.
Il re pastore (dramma per musica, Metastasio), Drottningholm, 1755.
L'eroe cinese (opera seria, Metastasio), Drottningholm, 1757.
Adriano in Siria (opera seria, Metastasio), Drottningholm, 1757.
Cythère assiégée (opéra comique, C.-S. Favart), Stockholm, 1762.
Il sogno di Scipione (dramatisk serenad, Metastasio), Stockholm, 1764.
Soliman II, ou Les trois sultanes (opéra comique), Stockholm, 1765.
Le gui de chène (opéra comique, La Junquières), Stockholm, 1766.
Psyché (tragédie lyrique, P. Quinault, efter Molière), Drottningholm, 1766.
L'aveugle de Palmyre (opéra comique, F.-G. Desfontaines), Drottningholm, 1768.
Thetis och Pelée (J. Wellander, after B.B. de Fontenelle and Gustav III), Stockholm, Bollhus, 18 January 1773.
Birger Jarl och Mechtilde (drama with divertissements, G.F. Gyllenborg, after Gustavus III), Stockholm, Rikssalen, 8 July 1774, in collaboration with med Johnsen.
Aline, drottning uti Golconda (C.B. Zibet, after M.-J. Sedaine), Stockholm, Bollhuset, 1776.

Other stage music
Choirs to Jean Racines Athalie, Stockholm, 1770.
Prologue to C.W Glucks Orfeo ed Euridice, Stockholm, 1773.
Prologue to P.-M. Bertons Silvie, Stockholm, 1774.
Choirs to Jean Racines Iphigénie, Stockholm, 1777.
Prologue to C.W Glucks Iphigénie en Aulide, Stockholm, 1778.

Instrumental music
3 sinfonias (F, G, D), Stockholm, ca 1760−1770.
6 cembalo sonatas, Stockholm, 1756.

Vocal music
La Giuditta, oratorio, Bologna, 1742.
La passione di Gesù, oratorio (Metastasio), Stockholm, 1776.
Festivà del Santissimo Natali, ca 1765.
Funeral music for Adolf Fredrik, 1771.
Coronation music for Gustav III, 1773.
Music to the inauguration of the Adolf Fredrik Church, Stockholm, 1774.
Missa brevis, 1773.