Gaspare Spontini

Gaspare Spontini

Gaspare Luigi Pacifico Spontini (14 November, 1774 – 24 January, 1851) was an Italian opera composer and conductor.


Born in Maiolati in the province of Ancona, now Maiolati Spontini, he spent most of his career in Paris and Berlin, but returned to his place of birth at the end of his life. During the first two decades of the 19th century, Spontini was an important figure in French "opera". In his more than twenty operas, Spontini strove to adapt Gluck's classical "tragédie lyrique" to the contemporary taste for melodrama, for grander spectacle (in "Fernand Cortez" for example), for enriched orchestral timbre, and for melodic invention allied to idiomatic expressiveness of words. His single great masterpiece and success was "La vestale."

As a youth, Spontini studied at the Conservatorio della Pietà de' Turchini in Naples. In 1803, he went to Paris, where he was appointed court composer in 1805.

In 1807, Spontini wrote "La vestale", his best known work. Written with the encouragement of Empress Joséphine, its premiere at the Opéra in Paris established Spontini as one of the greatest Italian composers of his age. His contemporaries Cherubini and Meyerbeer considered it a masterpiece, and later composers like Berlioz and Wagner admired it. During the Peninsular War, “Napoleon promoted works such as Gasparo Spontini’s Fernand Cortez (1809),” which concerned the Spanish conquest of Mexico under the reign of Charles V. [Silke Leopold, “The Idea of National Opera, c. 1800,” "Unity and Diversity in European Culture c. 1800", ed. Tim Blanning and Hagen Schulze (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 22.] Spontini's later, likewise highly regarded "Olimpie" (1819, revised 1820, 1826) met with indifference, leading him to leave Paris for Prussia, where he became Kapellmeister and chief conductor at the Berlin Hofoper.

Modern revivals

During the 20th century, Spontini's operas were only rarely performed, although several had their first revivals in years. Perhaps the most famous modern production was the revival of "La vestale" with Maria Callas at La Scala at the opening of the 1954 season, to mark the 180th anniversary of the composer's birth. The stage director was famed cinematic director Luchino Visconti. That production was also the La Scala debut of tenor Franco Corelli. Callas recorded the arias "Tu che invoco" and "O Nume tutela" from "La vestale" in 1955 (as did Rosa Ponselle in 1926).In 1969, conductor Fernando Previtali revived the opera, with soprano Leyla Gencer and baritone Renato Bruson. (An unofficial recording is in circulation.) In 1995, conductor Riccardo Muti recorded it with a cast of lesser-known singers.

Other revivals of Spontini include "Agnese von Hohenstaufen" at the Maggio Musicale festival in Florence in 1954, starring Franco Corelli and conducted by Vittorio Gui, and in Rome in 1970, with Montserrat Caballé and Antonietta Stella, conducted by Riccardo Muti. "Fernando Cortez" was revived in 1951, with a young Renata Tebaldi, at the San Carlo in Naples, conducted by Gabriele Santini. The premiere of the integral version of the work took place at the Erfurt (Germany) opera house (2006, Jean-Paul Penin, conductor).

"Li puntigli delle donne" was performed at the Putbus Festival 1998, conducted by Wilhelm Keitel (recording Arte Nova 74321591982).


See List of operas by Spontini.


External links

* [ Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini of Jesi]
*Jean-Paul Penin, "Fernand Cortez" []
* [] . "Fernand Cortez".
* [ ESDF-Opera: details of Spontini premieres]
*CathEncy|wstitle=Gasparo Luigi Pacifico Spontini

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