The ballet Le due gemelle (1873) confirmed his success. The following opera, I Lituani (The Lithuanians) (1874), was also well received, being performed later at Saint Petersburg (as Aldona - 20th November 1884). His best known opera is La Gioconda, which his librettist Arrigo Boito adapted from the play by Victor Hugo that had been previously set by Mercadante (Il Giuramento, 1837) and Carlos Gomes (Fosca, 1873). It was first produced in 1876 and revised several times. The version that has become so popular today was first given in 1880. In 1876 he started working on I mori di Valenza (the project dates back to 1873), an opera he never finished, although it was completed later by Arturo Cadore and performed posthumously in 1914. After La Gioconda, Ponchielli wrote the monumental biblical melodrama in four acts Il figliuol prodigo (Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 26th December 1880) and Marion Delorme, from another play by Victor Hugo (Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 17th March 1885).
In spite of their rich musical invention, neither of these operas met with the same success but both exerted great influence on the composers of the rising generation, such as Puccini, Mascagni, and Giordano. In 1881, Ponchielli was appointed maestro di cappella of the Bergamo Cathedral, and from the same year he was a professor of composition at the Milan Conservatory, where among his students were Giacomo Puccini and Pietro Mascagni. He died on 17th January 1886 in Milan, and was interred there in the Cimitero Monumentale. Although in his lifetime Ponchielli was very popular and influential, in introducing an enlarged orchestra and more complex orchestration, the only one of his operas regularly performed today is La Gioconda. It contains the great tenor romanza "Cielo e mar", a duet for tenor and baritone "Enzo Grimaldo", the soprano set-piece "Suicidio!" and the ballet music "The Dance of the Hours", known even to the non-musical from its use in Walt Disney's Fantasia (1940) and other popularisations and parodies. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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