Domenico Cimarsoa was an Italian opera composer of the Neapolitan school. He wrote more than eighty operas during his lifetime, including his masterpiece, Il matrimonio segreto.
His parents were poor, but, anxious to give their son a good education, they sent him to a free school connected with one of the monasteries in Naples after moving to that city. The organist of the monastery, Padre Polcano, was struck by the boy's intellect, and instructed him in the elements of music and in the ancient and modern literature of his country. Because of his influence, Cimarosa obtained a scholarship at the musical institute of Santa Maria di Loreto in Naples, where he remained for eleven years, chiefly studying with great masters of the old Italian school; Niccolò Piccinni, Antonio Sacchini, and other musicians of repute are mentioned among his teachers.
At the age of twenty-three, Cimarosa began his career as a composer. Over the next fifteen years, Cimarosa wrote a number of operas for the various theatres of Italy, living temporarily in Rome, in Naples, or wherever else his vocation as conductor of his works happened to take him. From 1784 to 1787, he lived in Florence, writing exclusively for the theatre of that city. The productions of this period of his life are very numerous, consisting of operas (both comic and serious), cantatas, and various sacred compositions.
In 1787, Cimarosa went to St. Petersburg by invitation of Empress Catherine II. He remained at her court for four years and wrote an enormous number of compositions, mostly of the nature of pièces d'occasion; of most of these, not even the names are on record. In 1792, Cimarosa left St. Petersburg and went to Vienna at the invitation of Emperor Leopold II. There he produced his masterpiece, Il Matrimonio Segreto.
Cimarosa returned to Naples, where Il Matrimonio Segreto and other works were received with great acclaim. During the occupation of Naples by the troops of the French Republic, Cimarosa joined the liberal party, but on the return of the Bourbons was imprisoned along with many of his political friends. His sentence was commuted to banishment when influential admirers interceded, and he left Naples with the intention of returning to St. Petersburg, but his health was broken and after much suffering he died in Venice on 11 January 1801 of an intestinal inflammation.