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Gaspare Spontini

Gaspare Spontini

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Gaspare Luigi Pacifico Spontini (14 November 177424 January 1851) was an Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 and conductor
Conducting is the art of directing a musical performance by way of visible gestures. The primary duties of the conductor are to unify performers, set the tempo, execute clear preparations and beats, and to listen critically and shape the sound of the ensemble...

, extremely celebrated in his time, though largely forgotten after his death.


Born in Maiolati in the province of Ancona
Province of Ancona
The Province of Ancona is a province in the Marche region of central Italy. Its capital is the city of Ancona. The province has an area of 1940 km² and a 2006 population of 465,906 in 49 comuni , see Comunes of the Province of Ancona....

, now Maiolati Spontini
Maiolati Spontini
Maiolati Spontini is a comune in the Province of Ancona in the Italian region Marche, located about 35 km southwest of Ancona. It is the birthplace of musician Gaspare Spontini....

, he spent most of his career in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, 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
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

. In his more than twenty operas, Spontini strove to adapt Gluck
Christoph Willibald Gluck
Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck was an opera composer of the early classical period. After many years at the Habsburg court at Vienna, Gluck brought about the practical reform of opera's dramaturgical practices that many intellectuals had been campaigning for over the years...

's classical tragédie lyrique to the contemporary taste for melodrama, for grander spectacle (in Fernand Cortez
Fernand Cortez
Fernand Cortez, ou La conquête du Mexique is an opéra in three acts by Gaspare Spontini with a French libretto by Etienne de Jouy and Joseph-Alphonse d’Esmenard...

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
La vestale
La vestale is an opera composed by Gaspare Spontini to a French libretto by Etienne de Jouy. It was first performed at the Paris Opéra in Paris on December 15, 1807 and is regarded as Spontini's masterpiece...


As a youth, Spontini studied at the Conservatorio della Pietà de' Turchini
Music Conservatories of Naples
The Music Conservatory of Naples is a music institution in Naples, southern Italy. It is currently located in the complex of San Pietro a Majella.-San Pietro a Majella:...

 in Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of 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
Joséphine de Beauharnais
Joséphine de Beauharnais was the first wife of Napoléon Bonaparte, and thus the first Empress of the French. Her first husband Alexandre de Beauharnais had been guillotined during the Reign of Terror, and she had been imprisoned in the Carmes prison until her release five days after Alexandre's...

, its premiere at the Opéra
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 in Paris established Spontini as one of the greatest Italian composers of his age. His contemporaries Cherubini
Luigi Cherubini
Luigi Cherubini was an Italian composer who spent most of his working life in France. His most significant compositions are operas and sacred music. Beethoven regarded Cherubini as the greatest of his contemporaries....

 and Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer
Giacomo Meyerbeer was a noted German opera composer, and the first great exponent of "grand opera." At his peak in the 1830s and 1840s, he was the most famous and successful composer of opera in Europe, yet he is rarely performed today.-Early years:He was born to a Jewish family in Tasdorf , near...

 considered it a masterpiece, and later composers like Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

 and Wagner
Richard Wagner
Wilhelm Richard Wagner was a German composer, conductor, theatre director, philosopher, music theorist, poet, essayist and writer primarily known for his operas...

 admired it.

During the Peninsular War
Peninsular War
The Peninsular War was a war between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French and Spanish armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807. Then, in 1808, France turned on its...

, "Napoleon promoted works such as Gasparo Spontini's Fernand Cortez (1809)," which concerned the Spanish conquest of Mexico
Spanish conquest of Mexico
The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire was one of the most important campaigns in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The invasion began in February 1519 and was acclaimed victorious on August 13, 1521, by a coalition army of Spanish conquistadors and Tlaxcalan warriors led by Hernán Cortés...

 under the reign of Charles V
Charles V
Charles V may refer to:* Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor , also Charles I of Spain* Charles V of Naples , better known as Charles II of Spain* Charles V of France , called the Wise...

. Spontini's later opera Olimpie (1819, revised 1820, 1826) met with indifference, leading him to leave Paris for Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

, where he became Kapellmeister and chief conductor at the Berlin Hofoper
Berlin State Opera
The Staatsoper Unter den Linden is a German opera company. Its permanent home is the opera house on the Unter den Linden boulevard in the Mitte district of Berlin, which also hosts the Staatskapelle Berlin orchestra.-Early years:...

. There he showed hostility toward the young Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...


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
Maria Callas
Maria Callas was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. She combined an impressive bel canto technique, a wide-ranging voice and great dramatic gifts...

 at La Scala
La Scala
La Scala , is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre 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
Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo was an Italian theatre, opera and cinema director, as well as a screenwriter. He is best known for his films The Leopard and Death in Venice .-Life:...

. That production was also the La Scala debut of tenor Franco Corelli
Franco Corelli
Franco Corelli was a famous Italian tenor who had a major international opera career between 1951 and 1976. Associated in particular with the spinto and dramatic tenor roles of the Italian repertory, he was celebrated universally for his powerhouse voice, electrifying top notes, clear timbre, a...

. Callas recorded the arias "Tu che invoco" and "O Nume tutela" from La vestale in 1955 (as did Rosa Ponselle
Rosa Ponselle
Rosa Ponselle , was an American operatic soprano with a large, opulent voice. She sang mainly at the New York Metropolitan Opera and is generally considered by music critics to have been one of the greatest sopranos of the past 100 years.-Early life:She was born Rosa Ponzillo on January 22, 1897,...

 in 1926). In 1969, conductor Fernando Previtali
Fernando Previtali
Fernando Previtali was an Italian conductor, particularly associated with the Italian repertory, especially Verdi operas....

 revived the opera, with soprano Leyla Gencer
Leyla Gencer
Leyla Gencer, or Ayşe Leyla Çeyrekgil was a world-renowned Turkish operatic soprano.Known as "La Diva Turca" and "La Regina" in the opera world, Gencer was a notable bel canto soprano who spent most of her career in Italy, from the early 1950s through the mid-1980s, and had a repertoire...

 and baritone Renato Bruson
Renato Bruson
Renato Bruson is an Italian operatic baritone. Bruson is widely considered one of the most important Verdi baritones of the late 20th and early 21st century. He was born in Granze near Padua, Italy.-Biography and career:...

. (An unofficial recording is in circulation.) In 1993, conductor Riccardo Muti
Riccardo Muti
Riccardo Muti, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI is an Italian conductor and music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.-Childhood and education:...

 recorded it with a cast of lesser-known singers.

Other revivals of Spontini include Agnes von Hohenstaufen
Agnes von Hohenstaufen
Agnes von Hohenstaufen is an opera in three acts by the Italian composer Gaspare Spontini. The German libretto is by Ernst Benjamin Salomo Raupach. It was first staged at the Königliches Opernhaus, Berlin on 12 June 1829...

at the Maggio Musicale
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is an annual opera festival which was founded in April 1933 by conductor Vittorio Gui with the aim of presenting contemporary and forgotten operas in visually dramatic productions. It was the first music festival in Italy. The first opera presented was Verdi's early...

 festival in Florence in 1954, starring Franco Corelli and conducted by Vittorio Gui
Vittorio Gui
Vittorio Gui was an Italian conductor and composer.Gui was born in Rome in 1885. In 1933 Bruno Walter invited him to be guest conductor at the Salzburg Festival....

, and in Rome in 1970, with Montserrat Caballé
Montserrat Caballé
Montserrat Caballé is a Spanish operatic soprano. Although she sang a wide variety of roles, she is best known as an exponent of the bel canto repertoire, notably the works of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi....

 and Antonietta Stella
Antonietta Stella
Antonietta Stella is an Italian operatic soprano, one of the finest Italian spinto sopranos of the 1950s and 1960s, possessing a beautiful and ample voice, and particularly associated with Verdi and Puccini roles.Stella studied at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, and made her...

, conducted by Riccardo Muti. Fernand Cortez was revived in 1951, with a young Renata Tebaldi
Renata Tebaldi
Renata Tebaldi was an Italian lirico-spinto soprano popular in the post-war period...

, at the San Carlo
San Carlo
San Carlo is the Italian for Saint Charles, and may refer to:* Charles Borromeo, also known as San Carlo Borromeo* San Carlo all'Arena, a neighbourhood in Naples where the Bourbon Hospice for the Poor is located...

 in Naples, conducted by Gabriele Santini
Gabriele Santini
Gabriele Santini was an Italian conductor, particularly associated with the Italian opera repertory....

. The premiere of the integral version of the work took place at the Erfurt (Germany) opera house (2006, Jean-Paul Penin
Jean-Paul Penin
Jean-Paul Penin is a French conductor.-Biography:Jean-Paul Penin is a graduate of the Strasbourg Conservatory of Music and the University of Strasbourg where he obtained a PhD. in biophysics in 1974 and a Master's degree in musicology in 1978...

, conductor).

Li puntigli delle donne was performed at the Putbus
Putbus is a small town on the southeastern part of the island of Rügen in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Germany. The town has 4,741 inhabitants and is a significant tourist destination with numerous seaside resorts....

 Festival 1998, conducted by Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Keitel
Wilhelm Bodewin Gustav Keitel was a German field marshal . As head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht and de facto war minister, he was one of Germany's most senior military leaders during World War II...

 (recording Arte Nova 74321591982).

External links