Gaspare Spontini

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Spontini, after Nicolas-Eustache Maurin
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Spontini's signature

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

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Italian Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. The country covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares open land borders with France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian Sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.



Born in Maiolati, Papal State (now Maiolati Spontini, Province of Ancona), 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.

Papal States territories in the Appenine Peninsula under the sovereign direct rule of the pope between 752–1870

The Papal States, officially the State of the Church, were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the Pope, from the 8th century until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from roughly the 8th century until the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia unified the Italian Peninsula by conquest in a campaign virtually concluded in 1861 and definitively in 1870. At their zenith, the Papal States covered most of the modern Italian regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, and portions of Emilia. These holdings were considered to be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy.

Maiolati Spontini Comune in Marche, Italy

Maiolati Spontini is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Ancona in the Italian region Marche, located about 35 kilometres (22 mi) southwest of Ancona. It is the birthplace of musician Gaspare Spontini, whose name has been conjoined with the commune's ancient name, Maiolati.

Province of Ancona Province of Italy

The province of Ancona is a province in the Marche region of central Italy. Its capital is the city of Ancona, and the province borders the Adriatic Sea. The city of Ancona is also the capital of Marche.

As a youth, Spontini studied at the Conservatorio della Pietà de' Turchini, one of four active music conservatories of Naples. Working his way from Italian city to city, he got his first break in Rome, with his successful comedy Li puntigli delle donne (Carnival 1793). In 1803, he went to Paris, where, on 11 February 1804, debuted his comic opera La finta filosofa, his Neapolitan success of 1799. In part on the recommendation of the comte de Rémusat and his literary countess, a dame du palais, Spontini circulated in the Imperial court, was made a member of the Académie Impériale de Musique and gained a court position as compositeur particulier de la chambre of the Empress in 1805.

The Naples Conservatory of Music is a music school located in Naples, Italy. It is situated in the complex of San Pietro a Majella.

Charles de Rémusat French politician and writer

Charles François Marie, Comte de Rémusat, was a French politician and writer.

Madame de Rémusat French writer

Claire Élisabeth Jeanne Gravier de Vergennes de Rémusat was a French woman of letters. She married at sixteen, and was attached to the Empress Josephine as dame du palais in 1802.

Though Spontini's earlier successes were comedies, with the encouragement of Empress Joséphine in 1807, Spontini wrote his greatest success, the tragédie lyrique La vestale , which has remained his best known work. [1] 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 such as Berlioz and Wagner admired it.

Tragédie en musique, also known as tragédie lyrique, is a genre of French opera introduced by Jean-Baptiste Lully and used by his followers until the second half of the eighteenth century. Operas in this genre are usually based on stories from Classical mythology or the Italian romantic epics of Tasso and Ariosto. The stories may not necessarily have a tragic ending – in fact, most do not – but the works' atmospheres are suffused throughout with an affect of nobility and stateliness. The standard tragédie en musique has five acts. Earlier works in the genre were preceded by an allegorical prologue and, during the lifetime of Louis XIV, these generally celebrated the king's noble qualities and his prowess in war. Each of the five acts usually follows a basic pattern, opening with an aria in which one of the main characters expresses their feelings, followed by dialogue in recitative interspersed with short arias, in which the main business of the plot occurs. Each act traditionally ends with a divertissement, offering great opportunities for the chorus and the ballet troupe. Composers sometimes changed the order of these features in an act for dramatic reasons.

Luigi Cherubini Italian composer

Luigi Cherubini was an Italian Classical and pre-Romantic composer. His most significant compositions are operas and sacred music. Beethoven regarded Cherubini as the greatest of his contemporaries.

Giacomo Meyerbeer German-born opera composer

Giacomo Meyerbeer was a German opera composer of Jewish birth who has been described as perhaps the most successful stage composer of the nineteenth century. With his 1831 opera Robert le diable and its successors, he gave the genre of grand opera 'decisive character'. Meyerbeer's grand opera style was achieved by his merging of German orchestra style with Italian vocal tradition. These were employed in the context of sensational and melodramatic libretti created by Eugène Scribe and were enhanced by the up-to-date theatre technology of the Paris Opéra. They set a standard which helped to maintain Paris as the opera capital of the nineteenth century.

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. [2] In 1811, Spontini married Celeste Érard, the niece of the Parisian maker of pianos and harps Sébastien Érard; it was a happy marriage, though childless. [3] He was made a chevalier of Napoleon's Legion of Honor; its Maltese cross hangs round his neck in the portrait by Nicolas-Eustache Maurin (illustration).

Peninsular War War by Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom against the French Empire (1807–1814)

The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was a military conflict between Napoleon's empire and Bourbon Spain, for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when the French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807, and escalated in 1808 when France turned on Spain, previously its ally. The war on the peninsula lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814, and is regarded as one of the first wars of national liberation, significant for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare.

Napoleon 19th century French military leader and politician

Napoleon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader of Italian descent who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor 16th-century Holy Roman Emperor

Charles V was Holy Roman Emperor from 1519, King of Spain from 1516, and Prince of the Habsburg Netherlands as Duke of Burgundy from 1506. Head of the rising House of Habsburg during the first half of the 16th century, his dominions in Europe included the Holy Roman Empire extending from Germany to northern Italy with direct rule over the Low Countries and Austria, and a unified Spain with its southern Italian kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Furthermore, his reign encompassed both the long-lasting Spanish and short-lived German colonizations of the Americas. The personal union of the European and American territories of Charles V, spanning over nearly 4 million square kilometres, was the first collection of realms labelled "the empire on which the sun never sets".

Under the changed political climate of the Bourbon Restoration, Spontini, closely identified with the former Empire, saw his opera Olimpie (1819, revised 1821, 1826) meet with indifference, leading him to leave Paris for Berlin, where his operas had already achieved success. There he became Kapellmeister and chief conductor at the Königliches Opernhaus, and in this period he composed the Prussian National Anthem "Borussia". There he also met the young Mendelssohn, but deprecated the 17-year old's opera Die Hochzeit des Camacho . [4]

Bourbon Restoration Period of French history, 1814-1830

The Bourbon Restoration was the period of French history following the first fall of Napoleon in 1814, and his final defeat in the Hundred Days in 1815, until the July Revolution of 1830. The brothers of the executed Louis XVI came to power and reigned in highly conservative fashion. Exiled supporters of the monarchy returned to France. They were nonetheless unable to reverse most of the changes made by the French Revolution and Napoleon. At the Congress of Vienna they were treated respectfully, but had to give up nearly all the territorial gains made since 1789.

<i>Olimpie</i> opera by Gaspare Spontini

Olimpie is an opera in three acts by Gaspare Spontini. The French libretto, by Armand-Michel Dieulafoy and Charles Brifaut, is based on the play of the same name by Voltaire (1761). Olimpie was first performed on 22 December 1819 by the Paris Opéra at the Salle Montansier. When sung in Italian or German, it is usually given the title Olimpia.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

In 1842, a disillusioned Spontini, chagrined at the success of Giacomo Meyerbeer and others in Germany, returned to Italy, where he died in 1851. [5]

Bibliography (French) Gaspare Spontini by Patrick Barbier, bleu nuit éditeur, 2017, 176 p. ( ISBN   978-2-3588-4067-5)


For the opera

Other compositions

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 cinema 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 tutelar" 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 1993, conductor Riccardo Muti recorded it in the original French language with Karen Huffstodt, Denyce Graves, Anthony Michaels-Moore and Dimitri Kavrakos.

Other revivals of Spontini include Agnes von Hohenstaufen in Italian as Agnese di 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, both recorded live. Fernand 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).

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  1. Gerhard (n. d) §2
  2. Silke, p. 22.
  3. Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini: Gaspare Spontini Archived 2014-12-01 at the Wayback Machine
  4. Todd (2003), pp. 167-168.
  5. Gerhard (n. d) §4
  6. ‹See Tfd› (in Dutch) "Unieke partituren van Spontini ontdekt in het kasteel van Hingene". VRT, 27 June 2016