Michael Costa (conductor)

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Michael Costa Michael Costa (conductor) - Rosenthal 1958 after p96.jpg
Michael Costa

Sir Michael Andrew Angus Costa (14 February 1808 29 April 1884) was an Italian-born conductor and composer who achieved success in England.



He was born in Naples as Michele Andrea Agniello Costa. He studied in Naples with his father, at the Real Collegio di Musica, and later with Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli.

Naples Comune in Campania, Italy

Naples is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan. In 2017, around 967,069 people lived within the city's administrative limits while its province-level municipality has a population of 3,115,320 residents. Its continuously built-up metropolitan area is the second or third largest metropolitan area in Italy and one of the most densely populated cities in Europe.

Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli Italian composer

Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli was an Italian composer, chiefly of opera.

In his youth, as throughout his life, he wrote a great quantity of music, including operas, symphonies and cantatas, all of which has long since passed into oblivion. In 1829 he visited Birmingham to conduct Zingarelli's Cantata Sacra, a setting of some verses from Isaiah ch. xii. However, the festival committee would not allow him to conduct and instead he appeared (unsuccessfully) as a tenor soloist. Nonetheless he decided to settle in England.

Birmingham City in the English Midlands, 2nd highest population of UK cities

Birmingham is the second-most populous city in the United Kingdom, after London, and the most populous city in the English Midlands. It is also the most populous metropolitan district in the United Kingdom, with an estimated 1,137,123 inhabitants, and is considered the social, cultural, financial, and commercial centre of the Midlands. It is the main local government of the West Midlands conurbation, which is the third most populated urban area in the United Kingdom, with a population of 2,897,303 in 2017. The wider Birmingham metropolitan area is the second largest in the United Kingdom with a population of over 4.3 million. It is frequently referred to as the United Kingdom's "second city".

Isaiah Hebrew prophet

Isaiah was the 8th-century BC Jewish prophet for whom the Book of Isaiah is named.

Tenor is a male voice type in classical music whose vocal range lies between the countertenor and baritone. It is one of the highest of the male voice types. The tenor's vocal range extends up to C5. The low extreme for tenors is roughly A2 (two As below middle C). At the highest extreme, some tenors can sing up to the second F above middle C (F5). The tenor voice type is generally divided into the leggero tenor, lyric tenor, spinto tenor, dramatic tenor, heldentenor, and tenor buffo or spieltenor.

In 1830 he arrived in London, working at His Majesty's Theatre. Costa exerted real influence for change as a conductor at Her Majesty's and, later, at Covent Garden theatre, to which he seceded in 1847 after disagreements with the manager of Her Majesty's, Benjamin Lumley. His concern for discipline, accuracy, and ensemble was a novelty in its time and earned him the admiration both of Meyerbeer and Verdi. Despite this, he could not be claimed as a purist: his re-scoring of Handel's Messiah includes a part for cymbals.

Her Majestys Theatre theatre in London

Her Majesty's Theatre is a West End theatre situated on Haymarket in the City of Westminster, London. The present building was designed by Charles J. Phipps and was constructed in 1897 for actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who established the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the theatre. In the early decades of the 20th century, Tree produced spectacular productions of Shakespeare and other classical works, and the theatre hosted premieres by major playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw, J. M. Synge, Noël Coward and J. B. Priestley. Since the First World War, the wide stage has made the theatre suitable for large-scale musical productions, and the theatre has accordingly specialised in hosting musicals. The theatre has been home to record-setting musical theatre runs, notably the First World War sensation Chu Chin Chow and the current production, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, which has played continuously at Her Majesty's since 1986.

Royal Opera House opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London

The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply "Covent Garden", after a previous use of the site of the opera house's original construction in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Originally called the Theatre Royal, it served primarily as a playhouse for the first hundred years of its history. In 1734, the first ballet was presented. A year later, Handel's first season of operas began. Many of his operas and oratorios were specifically written for Covent Garden and had their premieres there.

Benjamin Lumley British opera manager

Benjamin Lumley was a Canadian-born British opera manager and solicitor. Born Benjamin Levy, he was the son of a Jewish merchant Louis Levy.

Costa became a naturalized Englishman and received a knighthood in 1869. He was conductor of the Philharmonic Society from 1846 to 1854, of the Sacred Harmonic Society from 1848, and of the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival from 1849-1882. He conducted at the Bradford (1853) and Handel festivals (1857–1880), and the Leeds Festivals from 1874 to 1880. [1] He also taught several musicians in England, including contralto Emma Albertazzi.

Knight An award of an honorary title for past or future service with its roots in chivalry in the Middle Ages

A knight is a man granted an honorary title of knighthood by a monarch, bishop or other political or religious leader for service to the monarch or a Christian church, especially in a military capacity.

Royal Philharmonic Society British musical society

The Royal Philharmonic Society is a British music society, formed in 1813. It was originally formed in London to promote performances of instrumental music there. Many distinguished composers and performers have taken part in its concerts. It is now a membership society, and while it no longer has its own orchestra, it continues a wide-ranging programme of activities which focus on composers and young musicians and aim to engage audiences so that future generations will enjoy a rich and vibrant musical life. Since 1989 it has promoted the annual Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards for live music-making in the United Kingdom. The RPS is a registered UK charity No. 213693. It is located at 48 Great Marlborough Street in London.

The Sacred Harmonic Society (1832-1888) was an amateur musical organization of London. It was organized for the weekly practice of sacred music and the performance of oratorios and other sacred music.

He died in 1884 in Hove and was buried at Kensal Green. His home at 59 Eccleston Square in Pimlico, London, is commemorated with a blue plaque.

Hove Town on the south coast of England, part of city of Brighton & Hove

Hove is a town in East Sussex, England, immediately west of its larger neighbour Brighton, with which it forms the unitary authority Brighton and Hove. It forms a single conurbation with Brighton and some smaller towns and villages running along the coast. As part of local government reform, Brighton and Hove were merged, to form the borough of Brighton and Hove in 1997. In 2001, the new borough officially attained city status.

Kensal Green Cemetery cemetery in Kensal Green, in the west of London, England

Kensal Green Cemetery is a cemetery in the Kensal Green area of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England. Inspired by Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, it was founded by the barrister George Frederick Carden. The cemetery opened in 1833 and comprises 72 acres of grounds, including two conservation areas, adjoining a canal. The cemetery is home to at least 33 species of bird and other wildlife. This distinctive cemetery has memorials ranging from large mausoleums housing the rich and famous to many distinctive smaller graves and includes special areas dedicated to the very young. It has three chapels, and serves all faiths.

Pimlico small area of central London in the City of Westminster

Pimlico is an affluent area of Central London in the City of Westminster. Like neighbouring Belgravia, of which it was built as a southern extension, Pimlico is known for its garden squares and Regency architecture.


Costa by lyall in Vanity Fair, 1872 Michael Costa Vanity Fair 6 July 1872.jpg
Costa by lyall in Vanity Fair, 1872

Amongst the works of Costa's maturity may be listed his ballets Kenilworth (1831), Une Heure à Naples (1832), Sir Huon (composed for Taglioni) in 1833 and the ballet Alma (1844, later revived as La fille du marbre ). His opera Malek Adhel was produced in Paris in 1837 and in London in 1844, as was his opera Don Carlos .

In 1855 Costa wrote the oratorio Eli , and in 1864 Naaman , both for Birmingham. Rossini's comment on the former was: "The good Costa has sent me an oratorio score and a Stilton cheese. The cheese was very good." An aria from Eli, "I will extol thee", was recorded in 1910 by the great British dramatic soprano Agnes Nicholls (1876–1959), and the quality of Costa's music can be judged on various CD re-masterings of this particular disc which have been issued in recent years.


On 3 May 1848 Costa followed in his brother's, Raphael, footsteps by becoming an English Freemason in the Bank of England Lodge, No.263, (London, England). In July 1849 the brothers (in both senses of the word) were Exhalted (Initiated) into the Royal Arch (another branch of Freemasonry) in Fidelity Chapter, No.3. Costa was appointed Grand Organist of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1851 a post he occupied for two years.

The brothers were instrumental in establishing Mark Masonry in England by signing a petition sent to the Bon Accord Royal Arch Chapter (Aberdeen, Scotland) requesting that a Bon Accord Mark Lodge be established in London. The inaugural meeting of this Mark Lodge was held in the Radley Hotel, Bridge Street, Blackfriars, on 19 September 1851. At that meeting both were 'Advanced' (Initiated) to the 'honorable degree of Mark Master.' Mark Masonry in England and Wales later came under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons but neither brother appears to have been involved in the creation of that body. [2]


  1. Chisholm 1911.
  2. Sir Michael Costa: the most popular 'chef d'orchestre in England. Diane Clements. In: The Canonbury Papers, Vol.2. Freemasonry in Music and Literature. Ed. Trevor Stewart. 2003. Pp.29-42. ISBN   0-9543498-1-4

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