(b Naples, ?1688; d after 1732). Italian composer. He studied at the Conservatorio di S Onofrio, by differing accounts either from 1700 to 1708 or from 1704 to 1712, probably with Nicola Fago. On 8 March 1712 he joined the Reale Congregazione e Monte dei Musici; on 13 June 1716 he was elected one of its governors, a position he is last listed as holding in 1732. The election decree identifies him as maestro di cappella and organist of S Geronimo (or S Girolamo). Librettos also name him as ‘maestro di cappella di Pollena’, a nearby village at the foot of Vesuvius. Prota-Giurleo suggested that by 1723 he had taken holy orders, and thenceforth felt it necessary to sign his operatic works anagramatically as ‘Cola Melfiche’.
Examination of the librettos he set establishes Falco's place as one of the pioneer figures of Neapolitan opera buffa. Unlike most of the others (Riccio, Faggioli, Antonio Orefice and Mauro), he was a professional musician – one of the first, in fact, to turn attention to the new dramatic form, which appears to have been as much a literary experiment for the enjoyment of dilettantes as a musical one, with works written for production in private houses, seemingly for the novelty of hearing dialect poetry sung. The operas that Falco set, like those of his contemporaries, vary greatly in length, dramaturgical technique and opportunities for musical expression. His first documented work, Lo Lollo pisciaportelle, was apparently first performed in the house of its dedicatee (in Sartori's view it may also have been produced at the Teatro dei Fiorentini); it uses only five characters and its plot deploys a relatively simple intrigue. His second work, Lo Masillo, a collaboration with Fago, was likewise created for private performance, for the governor of the Conservatorio di S Onofrio, but was then given at the Teatro dei Fiorentini where Falco was the impresario. By this time, however, the structure of opera buffa had moved more towards standardization: Orilia's libretto more closely resembles those of his contemporaries. In particular, Orilia had profited by F.A. Tullio's experiments, for this is a full-length work of three acts, with a plot involving eight characters and some 55 short musical numbers. It is uncertain from the libretto whether the arias were intended to be sung da capo; the verse structure in most cases would permit such treatment, but only a few of the numbers are exit arias, a dramaturgical device associated with the musical form in opera seria. The work contains an unusual number of ensemble pieces in addition to the finales, another sign of experimentation. Falco's fourth opera, Armida abbandonata, was performed on the birthday of Charles VI of Austria with Marianna Benti Bulgarelli in the role of Armida. Except for a few fragments, all his operatic music has disappeared.
The music of Falco's undated surviving cantata, Verdi colli e piaggie amene, is in a light style and commands respect. The text is a conventionally pretty pastoral poem, with two arias separated by recitative. The piece looks to have been conceived as a whole: both arias are in triple metre; the first, marked ‘Amoroso’, was neither written nor notated to indicate da capo treatment, and ends in the relative minor, as does the transitional recitative. The final aria, ‘Spiritoso’, which was to be sung da capo, opens in the tonic. Its first section deflects frequently to the sub-dominant, the second is again in the relative key. Its regular four-bar phrasing may refer to dance rhythms, and contrasts with the irregular phrasing of the opening aria. The melodic style, which in Giacomo's view belongs to the Scarlatti school, is agreeable to the ear and appropriate to the text; Falco was fond of the leap of a 6th or 7th to infuse energy into otherwise mainly conjunct lines. He relied on the sequence only where a repetitive or parallel text construction suggested it.
The popular comic singer Simone de Falco may have been related to Michele. Simone sang regularly as secondo buffo, usually in skirt parts, at the Teatro dei Fiorentini between 1718 and 1728, again in 1734, and at the Teatro della Pace in 1740 and 1745.
opere buffe and for Naples unless otherwise stated
Lo Lollo pisciaportelle (1, N. Orilia), Casa del Barone Paternò del Gesso, 1709, lib in I-Bc
Lo Masillo [Act 2] (dramma per musica, 3, Orilia), ?Casa del Mattia di Franco, 1712 [Acts 1 and 3 by N. Fago]
Lo mbruoglio d'ammore (A. Piscopo), Fiorentini, 27 Dec 1717
Armida abbandonata (dramma per musica, F. Silvani), Palazzo Reale, Sala degli Svizzeri; later in S Bartolomeo, 7 Oct 1719
Lo castiello saccheiato (F. Oliva), Fiorentini, 26 Oct 1720; with addns by Vinci (Act 3), 1722, as pasticcio, 1732
Le pazzie d'ammore (F.A. Tullio), Fiorentini, 10 April 1723
? Intermezzos for Porpora's Siface, Rome, 1730
Orat per la festività del glorioso S Nicola Vescovo di Mira, Bari, Giovinazzo, Casa del dottore Domenico Fr. Celentano, Dec 1709