- Gaspare Spontini
Born in Maiolati in the
province of Ancona, now Maiolati Spontini, he spent most of his career in Parisand 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
Opérain Paris established Spontini as one of the greatest Italian composers of his age. His contemporaries Cherubini and Meyerbeerconsidered it a masterpiece, and later composers like Berliozand 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.
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 Callasat La Scalaat 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 Ponsellein 1926).In 1969, conductor Fernando Previtali revived the opera, with soprano Leyla Gencerand baritone Renato Bruson. (An unofficial recording is in circulation.) In 1995, conductor Riccardo Mutirecorded 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 Corelliand conducted by Vittorio Gui, and in Rome in 1970, with Montserrat Caballéand Antonietta Stella, conducted by Riccardo Muti. "Fernando Cortez" was revived in 1951, with a young Renata Tebaldi, at the San Carloin 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
PutbusFestival 1998, conducted by Wilhelm Keitel (recording Arte Nova 74321591982).
List of operas by Spontini.
* [http://www.fondazionepergolesispontini.com Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini of Jesi]
Jean-Paul Penin, "Fernand Cortez" [http://www.multimania.com/fcortez]
* [http://www.elpe-musique.com] . "Fernand Cortez".
* [http://www.esdf-opera.de/komponisten/spontini/spontini-urbesetzungen.htm ESDF-Opera: details of Spontini premieres]
*CathEncy|wstitle=Gasparo Luigi Pacifico Spontini
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