1586 - October 28, 1639
born in Rome, Italy, composed during the Baroque period
Stefano Landi was an early Baroque composer whose large output includes operas, madrigals, arias, masses, and other sacred compositions. He was one of the leading Italian composers of his day and the first to write an opera on a historic subject (Il Sant' Alessio).
Landi was born in Rome in 1587, probably in late January or early February. He was taken into Rome's Collegio Germanico in 1595 as a boy soprano, and four years later received minor holy orders in the Church. Around this time Landi was taken under the wing of the powerful Cesi family, whose members included Duke Federico Cesi and his uncle, Cardinal Bartolomeo Cesi. In 1602 they helped arrange Landi's enrollment at the Seminario Romano, where he probably studied under the maestro di cappella there, Agostino Agazzari.
By 1610 Landi was organist at Santa Maria in Trastevere and probably already composing his earliest compositions, though the first published work, a motet, would not appear until 1616. From 1614 until 1617 Landi served as maestro di cappella at Santa Maria della Consolazione in Todi. In about 1618 he moved to Venice, where he composed a collection of 18 madrigals (1619) for his patron, Bishop Marco Cornaro of Padua.
It was in Padua that Landi completed his first opera, La morte d'Orfeo, in 1619. The following year he returned to Rome, where he worked in the service of Prince Paolo Savelli for about two years. During this time he produced his first volume of arias (1620), a collection regarded much more highly than his earlier madrigals.
In the 1620s and 1630s Landi's career met with many successes, both in his compositions and in the positions he acquired. He had many patrons now, chief among them the Barberini family. In 1624, Pope Urban VIII (a Barberini) assigned him clerical duties at Saint Peter's Basilica and appointed him maestro di cappella at Santa Maria ai Monti, in Rome. For performance of these duties the Pope granted him a permanent cleric's benefice.
Following his elevation to subdeacon in 1629, Landi became a singer at the Sistine Chapel. It was around this time that he was producing many important works, including masses, responsories, and arias. He composed perhaps his most famous, the aforementioned opera Il Sant' Alessio, in 1632. By 1637 Landi's health was in decline, and he died on October 28, 1639. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi