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Mariano Obiols (1809-1888)
I Lai (A Lover's Lament)
Born in Barcelona in 1809, Mariano Obiols achieved distinction as the first Spanish composer to have an opera premièred at La Scala, Milan. A pupil of John Vilanova, his early compositions won the admiration of his contemporaries, who sponsored him to study in Italy. He became the pupil of Saverio Mercadante, travelling all over Europe with the maestro, and, through him, gaining introductions to Rossini, Donizetti, Meyerbeer and many others. It was through Mercadante that the opera Odio e Amore, with a libretto by Felice Romani, received its first performance at La Scala in 1837, followed by successful productions in Turin, Novara and Brescia.
Returning to Barcelona, Obiols was appointed Director of the newly founded Conservatorio del Liceu, a post which he held until his death in 1888. A dedicated and conscientious teacher as well as a prolific composer, he published a large number of solfège exercises alongside his works for the concert platform, which included three symphonies as well as a number of major compositions for choir and orchestra and music for the church. As Musical Director of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, opened in 1847, he directed Spanish premières of Italian, German and French operas, as well as his own second opera, Editta di Belcourt, which received its first performance in 1874.
Obiols was an extraordinarily versatile composer, turning his hand equally to sacred songs and to salon music. His chamber music includes pieces for a variety of wind and string instruments, and his vocal writing embraced quartets, duets and trios as well as solo songs. I Lai, though written in 1846, shows that he still maintained his connection with the musical life of Italy. Published in Milan, it is dedicated to Cirilla Cambiasi Branca, singer and pianist, sister-in-law of Felice Romani and the daughter of Paolo Branca, who hosted glittering soirées in the 1830s and 1840s attended by many eminent musicians of the time, including Rossini, Donizetti, Pasta, Viardot Garcia, Thalberg and Liszt,
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