Born: 28 August 1809; Undine, Italy.
Died: 8 August 1864; Venice, Italy.
(The years given are those of the premieres.)
Following studies at Padua, he settled in Trieste as a poet and playwright. His successful tragedy Parisina, written while he was still a student, brought him the superintendency of the Teatro Communale there. He later practiced law in Venice. There he met Verdi, who entrusted him with the libretto of Il re Lear on Cammarano's death; when this project collapsed, he prepared the melodramma Un Ballo in Maschera instead. Verdi admired his poetic gifts and patriotic sentiments, but found him ignorant of the requirements of musical setting. Somma wrote several plays, but no other libretti, though he is often credited as one of the authors (with Dall'Ongaro and Gazoletti), of the melodrama Un Duello sotto Richelieu (set by Federico Ricci, 1839); the extent of his participation is uncertain.
The libretto of Un Ballo in Maschera was originally published anonymously, Somma refusing to associate himself with the changes in locale and characters imposed by the Roman censors. Somma's authorship of his sole libretto was apparently not revealed until after his death. It is ironic that this playwright, otherwise completely divorced from the opera stage, should be connected with perhaps the most dramatic and frequently cited case of opera by censorship, and with one of the most famous operas never written.
contributed by Stephen L. Parker and Richard S. Bogart