Domenico Cimarosa was the most popular and widely-performed Italian opera composer before Rossini. Although many of his works have fallen into obscurity a good number are still performed regularly today and he certainly fares better than Haydn when it comes to revivals of his work. Cimarosa composed his first opera at the age of 22 and his last opera, his 65th, was left incomplete at the time of his death. He led a colourful life and was very lucky at one stage to escape execution. Catherine the Great, in whose service he worked for some years, disliked his music and was clearly pleased to see him leave - in her relief, she presented him with a costly Broadwood piano. Leopold II, on the other hand, was so impressed by Cimarosa’s masterpiece Il matrimonio segreto (1792) that he directed the performers to encore the entire opera!

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