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Francesco Araja

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Francesco Domenico Araja (or Araia, Russian: Арайя) (June 25, 1709 in Naples, Kingdom of Sicily – between 1762 and 1770 in Bologna, States of the Church) was an Italian composer who spent 25 years in Russia and wrote at least 14 operas for the Russian Imperial Court including Tsefal i Prokris, the first opera in Russian.
He was born and received his musical education in Naples and began to compose operas at the age of 20. His early operas were produced in the theatres of Naples, Florence, Rome, Milan, and Venice. In 1735 he was invited to St. Petersburg together with a big Italian opera troupe, and became the maestro di cappella (Kapellmeister) to Empress Anne Ioanovna and later Empress Elizaveta Petrovna.
In the winter operas were usually given in a wing of the Zimniy Dvorets (the Winter Palace), and in the summer time in the Theatre of Letniy Sad in the Summer Garden.
His La forza dell'amore e dell'odio was the first Italian opera performed in Russia. It was staged in 1736 as Сила любви и ненависти (Sila lyubvi i nenavisti - The Power of Love and Hatred) with a supplement to the Russian translation by Vasily Trediakovsky printed as a booklet. This was the first opera libretto printed in Russian. This was followed by Semiramide (Il finto Nino, overo La Semiramide riconosciuta) in 1737, Artaserse in 1738, Seleuco with Russian translation by Sumarokov, premiered in Moscow 1744, Scipione with Russian translation by Adam Olsufiev, in St. Petersburg 1745, Mitridate in 1747, and others.
The majority of the operas he wrote in Russia were to Italian libretti. However, in 1755 Araja composed Цефал и Прокрис (Tsefal i Prokris – Cephalus and Prokris), an opera in three acts to the Russian libretto by Alexander Sumarokov after the Metamorphoses by Ovid. It was staged at St. Petersburg on March 7, OS February 27, 1755 with effective sets by Giuseppe Valeriani. This was the first opera with Russian singers. This opera was a great success, and Araja received 100 half-imperials and a luxurious sable coat valued at 500 rubles as a gift from Empress Elizaveta Petrovna. The opera was re-staged at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on June 14, 2001.
His next two operas were premiered in different Russian towns: Amor prigioniero in Oranienbaum in 1755, and Iphigenia in Tauride in Moscow in 1758. In 1759 Araia returned to Italy, but was recalled for the coronation of Tsar Peter III in 1762. He left soon after in the wake of Peter's overthrow by Catherine the Great. His last compositions were the oratorio La Nativita di Gesu and the opera La Cimotea. He died in Bologna sometime between 1762 and 1770.
Also: Sinfonia in D Major for strings, Sonatas, etc.