Metastasio, Pietro Bonaventura

Metastasio, Pietro Bonaventura an eminent Italian poet, deserves our notice as the author of several sacred dramas, oratorios, etc. He was born at Rome in 1698, and was originally named TRAPASSI. He manifested at an early, age extraordinary talents for improvisation on any subject. Having attracted the notice of the celebrated jurist Gravina, he was adopted by him, and his name was changed to Metastasio (a " changing"), in allusion to his adoption. His benefactor died in 1718, leaving his property to Metastasio, who now devoted himself principally to literary pursuits and the publication of his different poetical productions. In 1729 he was invited to Vienna to become poet laureate, and flourished at the Austrian capital until his death in 1782. The genius of Metastasio is eulogized by Voltaire and La Harpe, the former of whom compares some of his scenes to the most sublime of the Greek poets. Rousseau, in his Nouvelle Heloise, pronounces him " the only poet of the heart, the only genius who can move by the charm of poetic and musical harmony;" and Schlegel observes that his purity of diction, grace, and delicacy have rendered him, in the eyes of his countrymen, a classic author- the Racine of Italy. Of Metastasio's seven sacred dramas, or oratorios, La Passione, La Morte d'Abel, and Isacco, are best known; but all of them, Calsabigi justly observes, are as perfect as this kind of composition will allow. See Burney, Memoirs of Metastasio (1796,3 vols.); Torcia, Elogio del Abbate P. Metastasio (1782); Hiller, Ueber P. Metastasio und seine Werke (1786); Altanesi, Vita di P. Metastasio (1787); Lives of the Italian Poets, by the Revelation Henry Stebbing (London, 1831). (J. HW.)

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