(b Naples, 1691; d Naples, 28 Jan 1761). Italian composer and teacher. According to Burney, he was ‘one of the greatest Neapolitan masters of his time’.
Feo received his musical training at the Conservatorio di S Maria della Pietà dei Turchini at Naples, which he entered on 3 September 1704; among his fellow students were Leonardo Leo and Giuseppe de Majo, who later married Feo’s niece, Teresa Manna. He first studied with the secondo maestro, Andrea Basso, and after 1705 also with Nicola Fago, the then newly appointed primo maestro. According to some 19th-century sources, Feo is said to have left the conservatory about 1708 to study counterpoint with G.O. Pitoni in Rome. This claim has not been substantiated, and it is now believed that he remained at the Turchini until 1712.
On 18 January 1713 he presented to the Neapolitan public his first opera, L’amor tirannico, ossia Zenobia, and during the carnival season in 1714 Il martirio di S Caterina, a dramma sacro. In the following years he began to gain recognition with noteworthy works for local churches (Missa defunctorum, 1718) and contributed recitatives, arias and comic scenes to Neapolitan performances of operas by other composers. In 1719 he composed La forza della virtù, a commedia per musica, followed by the opera seriaTeuzzone in 1720. Feo’s first true success, however, appears to have been the opera seria Siface, re di Numidia, performed at the Teatro S Bartolomeo in May 1723 by, among others, Marianna Bugarelli and the castrato Nicolini. The libretto for Siface, based on an older one by Domenico David, was the first attempt at a dramma per musica by the then 25-year-old Metastasio who had just settled in Naples.
Feo’s growing reputation as a church composer and the success of his opera Siface led in July 1723 to his appointment as a maestro of the Conservatorio di S Onofrio a Capuana, where he joined Ignazio Prota and succeeded Nicola Grillo. During his 16 years of service there he became known as one of the most distinguished Neapolitan teachers of his generation. Among his students at S Onofrio were Nicola Sabatino, Nicolò Jommelli and his own nephew Gennaro Manna. In 1739 he left S Onofrio (where Leonardo Leo assumed his position) to become primo maestro of the Conservatorio dei Poveri di Gesù Cristo, succeeding Francesco Durante who had resigned. Feo served the institution until 1743, assisted first by Alfonso Caggi and then by Girolamo Abos. One of his pupils there was Giacomo Insanguine, ‘detto Monopoli’.
Between 1723 and 1743 Feo composed the bulk of his oratorios, many sacred cantatas and much church music. His most successful oratorio was S Francesco di Sales Apostolo del Chablais (1734), which over a period of 20 years continued to be performed in various Italian cities. For the stage, particularly for theatres in Rome and Turin, he wrote six additional opere serie and several intermezzos. For Madrid he composed the serenatas Oreste and Polinice (both 1738), and for the Congregation of the Fathers of the Cross in Prague, the oratorio La distruzione dell’esercito dei Cananei con la morte di Sisara (1739). His last opera, Arsace, was given at Turin for the reopening of the Teatro Regio on 26 December 1740 (for illustration seeTurin). His last oratorio, La Ruth, was performed at Rome in 1743. Thereafter he yielded the dramatic field to the younger generation of composers represented by Latilla, Jommelli, Terradellas, Girolamo Abos and Manna.
When the Poveri di Gesù Cristo was abolished in 1743 and converted into a seminary, Feo retired from public teaching, but remained active as a composer of sacred music. He continued to serve various Neapolitan churches, among them the Annunziata, where he had been appointed maestro di cappella in 1726. During his last years he relinquished most of his obligations to Manna. His last dated composition in autograph is a Quoniam tu solus of 1760 for tenor and strings. Through the singer A.M. Bernacchi of Bologna, Feo established contact in 1749 with Padre Martini, to whose collection he contributed a portrait of himself: it shows a wistful, aging Feo, with the theoretical treatises of Zarlino, Fux and Scorpione at his side (see illustration).
When Feo embarked on his career as a composer, the operatic scene at Naples was still dominated by Alessandro Scarlatti, though Mancini, Domenico Sarro and Nicola Porpora were successful new contenders for public favour. Feo’s first opera, L’amor tirannico (1713), reflects the situation: he adopted some of Scarlatti’s formal and orchestral mannerisms, such as the use of a solo violin in the sinfonia and a divided orchestra with specific instrumentation for aria accompaniments, but his compositional approach shows greater affinity with that of Sarro. Ten years later, with Siface, Feo’s style was more assured, and he helped usher in a new phase of Neapolitan opera, in which he pursued a middle ground between the genial, popular Leonardo Vinci and the conservative but inventive Leo. In his mature operas, the arias have characteristic opening statements and mellifluous but never overtly virtuoso vocal lines with homophonic accompaniments in which the violins duplicate much of the vocal part. The main parts of the da capo arias are guided by the modulatory principle of sonata forms. By 1740 they frequently articulate the beginning of the secondary tonal area with a brief contrasting statement in a minor key (see ‘Non hai difesa’, Arsace, Act 1). The middle sections are usually brief and motivically linked with the main part, providing contrast primarily through key change and reduced accompaniment. The arias are mostly accompanied by strings only, or with oboes and violins in unison; those scored for horns, oboes and strings provide the chief contrast. Occasionally wind instruments are treated independently to set momentary dynamic or tutti accents (for example in ‘Cederai superbo ingrato’, Andromaca, Act 3). His comic scenes and intermezzos capture the essentials of a straightforward but effective buffo style, especially in the bass roles and duets. However, La forza della virtù, performed in January 1719, is his only known contribution to the Neapolitan commedia per musica, a field which Vinci entered in the same year and quickly dominated with a series of successful works.
Feo’s church music, which in volume outweighs his secular output, includes all the then current genres: masses, vespers, psalms and hymn settings, sacred cantatas and dialogues, lessons, lamentations for Holy Week, Passions, litanies, oratorios and sacred dramas. He continued, expanded and brought up to date trends in the music of his teacher Fago. His Kyrie-Gloria masses (often labelled only ‘Gloria’) are broadly conceived, multi-movement structures in which the choral numbers frame and balance the solos. He favoured double chorus, solo quartet with ripieno chorus, or five-part textures, and a majestic, slow opening to the Kyrie. The Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei are independent of the Kyrie-Gloria mass, and usually in stile breve. Feo proved himself well-versed in the craft of counterpoint and his masses include ‘Kyrie’, ‘Christe’ and ‘Amen’ fugues, often in stile antico. However, unlike Durante, he did not write a cappella works in imitation of Palestrina; rather he preferred homophonic and quasi-polyphonic settings with orchestral accompaniment. His extended choral numbers with concertante solo and tutti passages are delineated by clearcut modulatory schemes of concerto-ritornello or concerto-sonata design, which may contain melodically contrasting sections. In allegro movements, the final tonic is often confirmed by emphatic repetitions of dominant–tonic cadences (as in his Mass in D, 1747).
Feo’s style is characterized by a reliance on formulae and by forward-looking features: there are the short, immediately repeated second phrases, the standard harmonic progressions during opening bars, Lombardic (or Scotch snap) rhythms, chains of 3rds and galant triplets, slower harmonic rhythm, balanced and symmetrical phrase groups, and structures based on sonata principles. Not all his works maintain the same level of quality and inspiration, yet even when stereotyped his music cannot be denied its individual character. His Passio secundum Joannem of 1744, surviving in two autograph versions, exhibits a masterly blend of the then traditional and new expressive dramatic means, and may be considered the finest contribution to the Passion genre in Italy after Alessandro Scarlatti. In 1791 Reichardt, on the basis of a few examples, heralded Feo as ‘one of the greatest of all composers of church music in Italy’ and worthy to stand alongside Bach and Handel. Though in his zealous admiration for the older masters Reichardt somewhat exaggerated his evaluation, Feo must be recognized as the most significant Neapolitan composer of church music next to Leo and Durante, and the best of his works deserve Burney’s praise for their ‘fire, invention, and force in the melody and expression in the words’. His galant stylistic tendencies found sympathetic response and continuation particularly in the works of Nicola Sabatino, Manna and the young Gianfrancesco de Majo.
music lost unless otherwise stated
L’amor tirannico, ossia Zenobia (dramma per musica, 2, D. Lalli), with the buffo scenes Pincone e Rubina, Naples, S Bartolomeo, 18 Jan 1713, I-Nc; as Radamisto (P. de Fleuris, after Lalli), Innsbruck, 1716
La forza della virtù (commedia per musica, F.A. Tullio), Naples, Fiorentini, 22 Jan 1719, lib Bu
Teuzzone (dramma, 3, A. Zeno), with the int Dalinda e Balbo, Naples, S Bartolomeo, 20 Jan 1720, duet Rc
Siface, re di Numidia (dramma, 3, P. Metastasio, after D. David: La forza della virtù), with the int Morano e Rosina (not by Metastasio), Naples, S Bartolomeo, 13 May 1723, Nc, arias D-MÜs
Don Chisciotte della Mancha e Coriandolo speciale (int), Rome, Seminario Romano, carn. 1726, lib I-Fc, Vgc
Ipermestra (os, 3, A. Salvi), Rome, Alibert, Jan 1728, arias in D-Bsb, I-Rc, Mc; sinfonia D-MÜs
Arianna [Arianna e Teseo] (os, 3, P. Pariati), Turin, Regio, carn. 1728, arias in A-Wn, F-Pc, GB-Lbl
Il Tamese [Arsilda regina di Ponto] (os, 3, Lalli), with the int Il vedovo (Senpronio e Arrighetta), Naples, S Bartolomeo, wint. 1729, aria Lbl; separate perf. of Il vedovo, Treviso, aut. 1733, lib Lbl
Oreste (serenata), 5vv, Madrid, Palacio Buèn Retiro, 20 Jan 1738, Nf[for the birthday of Carlos III]
Polinice (serenata), 5vv, insts, Madrid, Casa del Principe della Rocca, 19 June 1738, Nf (inc.) [for the wedding celebrations of Carlos III and Maria Amalia of Saxony]
Arsace (os, 3, Salvi), Turin, Regio, 26 Dec 1740, Mc, Nf* (Act 2), US-Wc [according to Fétis this opera, or a version of it, was perf. Rome, Valle, 1731]
Arias, buffo scenes (Corrado e Lauretta) and ints for M.A. Ziani: Il duello d’amore e di vendetta (pasticcio), Naples, S Bartolomeo, 19 Nov 1715; arias and buffo scenes (Vespetta e Nesso) for G.M. Orlandini: Lucio Papirio, Naples, 1717 [according to Strohm the op was probably F. Gasparini: Lucio Papirio, Rome, 1714]; int for L. Leo: Il castello d’Atlante, Naples, 1734
Arias and duets from ops and ints: A-Wn, B-Bc, D-Bsb, W, GB-Lbl, I-Bc, Mc, Nc, Rsc, Vc
Oratorio pro fidelium defunctorum, 4vv, insts, Naples, 1731, F-Pc*
Il genere humano in catena liberato da Nostra Signora, Naples, 1731
S Francesco di Sales, Apostolo del Chablais, Bologna, Oratorio de’ Padri della Madonna di Galiera, 1734, lib I-Bc, score GB-Lbl; as Il trionfo della Fede o S Francesco di Sales Apostolo del Chablais, Florence, 1741; as L’Eresia abbattuta, Mantua, 22 Dec 1750 and 29 Jan 1754
Gesù adorato dei tre magi, Genoa, 1737, collab. D. Sarro, lib Rome, Rolandi collection
La distruzione dell’esercito dei Cananei con la morte di Sisara, Prague, Congregation of the Fathers of the Cross, 1739
Tobias, 4vv, insts, 1741, F-Pc*, I-Nf (parts)
La Ruth (G. Lupis), Rome, Oratorio di S Girolamo della Carità, 7 April 1743, lib Bc; as Le Avventurose nozze di Booz e Ruth, Palermo, carn. 1750, lib PLcom
Adeste, adeste, S, B, 5vv, insts, I-Nf
Deh segui i passi miei, S, S, B, bc, GB-Lbl
Eia ad Olympi sede, S, B, insts, I-Nf
Figlio d’eterno Padre, S, A, bc, GB-Lbl
Importuna e spaventosa [La morte del Giuste e del Peccatore], S, A, bc, Lbl
Oh Dio, chi mi consola [Dialogo per la Resurrezione], S, A, insts, I-Nf
Su la florida sponda [Il fine dell’uomo], S, A, bc, Lbl
Surgit pugna crudelis, S, B, insts, I-Nf
GB-Lbl unless otherwise stated
Adorato mio sol, A, bc; *Al mio Signore io servo [Servire Deo], A, bc; Avvezze a inorridirvi [Il giudizio universale], S, A, bc; *Caverne spaventose [L’inferno], S, bc; *Chi mi esilia dal cielo? [Il peccato dell’angeli e ’l peccato dell’uomo], S, A, bc; Crocifisso amor mio, S, bc; Crocifisso, A, bc; Deh rivestite omai [L’inferno], A, bc; Di quanti come dite [Meditatione della Morte], S, 2 vn, bc; In questo oscuro loco, A, bc, 1725; In un mar, A, 2 vn, bc; Iterni Sibili [Peccato], S, bc; Iterni Sibili, A, bc, 1726, also F-Pc; *La dove lusinghiero, S, bc; La dove lusinghiero, A, bc; *Lasciata in abbandono, A, bc, also D-Bsb; Mira ingrato morto, A, bc; Nice, al fin vuol la sorte, A, bc, also B-Lc; Padre pur non so [Il padre del vangelo e ’l figliuolo prodigo], A, T, bc; *Pensier, dove t’ingolfi? [L’eternità], A, bc, also D-Bsb; Pensier, S, bc; Piangete, alme, A, bc; Qual suono orribile [Giudizio], S, bc; *Signor, su questo legno, A, bc; Son desto ò pur tra sogno [La Morte], A, bc; *Sorge a quantunque in sogno, A, bc; *Su la sterile e mesta, A, bc; *Ti lascio omai, A, bc; *Tutto il mondo, S, bc; Verme crudel [La Sinderesi], S, bc; *Verme crudel, A, bc; solfeggi, S, I-Mc
motets, sacred arias
I-Nf and with insts unless otherwise stated
Ad arma (aria), D-MÜs; Ad hoc festum sancti amoris, 4vv; Ad quid cessatis (aria), S; *Ad sacros amores [per il SS], S, A, 1729; *Alma lucis, O mater aurora, 5vv, 1738; *Arma parate chori superni, 5vv; Cessate, amore, tessere stille (aria), A; Civis orbus in cantu sonoro, S, A; Clare tuba, 4vv; *Decorata triumphis apparet, S; Depoli eterna pace [Amor divinus], S, F-Pc; De summo coeli, B; Gressus festina, S, A, B; Inter mundi labores, S; *Murmur eia compesce (aria), S; Novo fastu coeli rident, 10vv, 1730; *O cordis mei amor (aria), S; O Jesu puer care, S; O stupor, O portentum (aria), A; O tuba, O lyrae, 8vv; *O tuba, O lyrae, 5vv, Pc; Parant arma, 5vv, 1735, also D-Mbs; Per gli de fonti, 5vv, CZ-Pak; Per la Madonna SS, 5vv, Pak; Per ogni festivi, 5vv, Pak; Per te, benigne numen (aria), S, bc; Plaudant armonicae, 5vv; *Plaude, syren fortunata, 5vv, F-Pc; *Plausus et jubila, 5vv, Pc; Quamvis meus sit tibi (aria), B, D-KA; *Resplendete chiarae stellae, S, A, also F-Pc; Sacra regna fulgore gemmata, S, A; *Stante sola, cessate procelle [per S Virgine], A, Pc; *Tremite, averni Fune (aria), T; *Triumphalis immortalis tuba clamat, 5vv, 1731; Uti clara resplendet, 8vv; Vade laeta cinge flores, 9vv, also Pc; Vos armonici contentus, S, A; Vulnerata cerva telo, A, 1735
*Passio secundum Mattheum [Palm Sunday], G, 4vv, str, bc, turbae only extant
Passio secundum Mattheum, F, 4vv, str, bc, turbae only extant
masses, mass movements
all with insts
Masses (Ky–Gl): C, 4vv, GB-Lbl, D-Bsb; C, 5vv, I-Nf*; G, 5vv, D-Bsb; G, 10vv, Bsb; G, 10vv, Bsb, Dl, F-Pc; G, 10vv, Pc*; G, 9vv, I-Nf; Messa pastorale [S Giorgio], G, 4vv, Nf; Messa pastorale [S Nicolo], G, 4vv, Nf; e, 10vv, F-Pc*; D, 4vv, D-Dl; D [Ad honorem gloriamque BMV], 4vv, Dec 1708–9 (possibly by N. Fago), F-Pc; D, 5vv, 1747, I-Nf*; A, 5vv, Prague, Pentacost 1756, CZ-Pak; F, 10vv, D-MÜs, *F-Pc; d, 4vv, D-Bsb [attrib. F. Durante by Winterfeld], I-Nf; B, ?10vv, Nf*; B, 4vv, *F-Pc; B, 5vv, B-Br
Ky, c, S, vns, bc; *Qui sedes, E, S, str; Quoniam tu solus, B, S; *Quoniam tu solus, B, T, str, 1760; Cr, G, 5vv; Cr breve, e, 4vv; *Cr, San, Ag, A, 10vv, 1724; *Cr breve, F, 4vv, 1750; *Cr, B, 4vv: all I-Nf
Cr, San, Ag, a, 10vv, D-Bsb, *F-Pc, I-Nf; Cr, F, 4vv, D-MÜs; Cr, B, 5vv, Mbs, MÜs[attrib. L. Fago], I-Nc [10vv version attrib. L. Leo]; Et incarnatus est, Crucifixus, 5vv, bc, D-Bsb
Missa defunctorum, d, 5vv, vns, bc, 1718, I-Nf [score without Dies irae], Nc and GB-Lbl [both with Dies irae], I-Nf [Dies irae alone], D-MÜs, [pasticcio of same requiem, without Dies irae, ascribed to A. Stradella]; Dies irae, c, 5vv, Mbs, I-Nc, Nf; Dies irae, g, 4vv, D-Mbs, MÜs; *Juste judex ultionis, g, S, I-Nf; Oro supplex et acclinis, f, S, Nf*; Tuba mirum, E, B, Nf; Tuba mirum, E, S, Nf
I-Nf and with insts unless otherwise stated
7 Beatus vir: A, 5vv; *A, 1v; A, 1v, D-Dl; F, 4vv; F, 1v; *B, 1v; b, 4vv
Hymns: Ave maris stella, S, A; Brutio natus [per il glorioso S Francesco di Paola], 4vv; Iste confessor, S, A; Jam sol recedit [in festo SS Trinitatis], S, A; O beate Nicolae, S, A, F-Pc; Pange carmeli speciosa vertex [per il vespero di S Maria Maddalena de Pazzis], 4vv; Pange lingua gloriosi corporis, 8vv; Tantum ergo, S; TeD, 5vv; Te Joseph celebrent [per il Patriarca S Giuseppe], A; *Veni creator Spiritus, D, A, bc; *Veni creator Spiritus, F, A, bc; Veni creator Spiritus, F, S, A, bc
Improperia for Good Friday: Popule meus quid fecit tibi, 4vv
Lits, Resps, Sequences: Letanie, a, 4vv, D-MÜs, GB-Lbl; Letanie, g, 4vv; *O spem miram, D, A; *O spem miram, B, 4vv, 1745; Si queri miracula (responsorio di S Antonio), 4vv; *Stabat mater, S, A; Veni Sancte Spiritus, 4vv, 1754
J.F.Reichardt: ‘Fortsetzung der Berichtigungen und Zusätze zum Gerberschen Lexikon der Tonkünstler u.s.w.’, Musikalische Monathsschrift (1792), 67 only; repr. in Studien für Tonkünstler und Musikfreunde (Berlin, 1793/R), ii, 67
G.B.Grossi: I corifei della scuola di Napoli (Naples, 1820), 216
H.Abert: Niccolò Jommelli als Opernkomponist (Halle, 1908), 113
G.Pavan: ‘Il Teatro Capranica (1711–1800)’, RMI, xxix (1922), 425–44
K.Nef: ‘Beiträge zur Geschichte der Passion in Italien’, ZMw, xvii (1935), 208–31
N.Burt: ‘Opera in Arcadia’, MQ, xli (1955), 145–70
R.Brockpähler: Handbuch zur Geschichte der Barockoper in Deutschland (Emsdetten, 1964), 237
T.Volek and M.Skalickà: ‘Vivaldis Beziehungen zu den böhmischen Ländern’, AcM, xxxix (1967), 64–72
R.Strohm: Italienische Opernarien des frühen Settecento, AnMc, no.16 (1976)
C.Roeckle: Eighteenth-Century Neapolitan Settings of the Requiem Mass (diss., U. of Texas at Austin, 1978)
H.-B.Dietz: ‘Alte Musik im Schatten alter Musik: zur historisch-ästhetischen Stellung der Kirchenmusik neapolitanischer Meister der Bach-Händel Generation’, Alte Musik als ästhetische Gegenwart: Bach, Händel, Schütz: Stuttgart 1985, i, 453–60
H.-B.Dietz: ‘Durante, Feo and Pergolesi: Concerning Misattributions among their Sacred Music’, Studi Pergolesiani, ii (1988), 128–43
D.Libby: ‘The Relation of the Score to Performance in Pergolesi's opere serie based on a Study of his Salustia’, Studi Pergolesiani, ii (1988), 103–9, esp. 108