Music: A Hit for the Friar

"Cesti," wrote the Neapolitan landscape painter Salvator Rosa, "is the glory and splendor of the secular scene."

The scene was 17th century Italy, and Composer Pietro Cesti (1623-69), otherwise known as Father Antonio, contributed to its splendor in flamboyant fashion. Renowned for his unfriarly frolics (a partiality toward wine and the wives of his benefactors), he was unfrocked* and dismissed from the court of the Medici in Florence for "reprehensible conduct." In more sober moods he reputedly wrote 100 operas, many of them tradition-breaking efforts that helped determine the shape of opera to come. Last week the first, and one of the...

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