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Gaspare Spontini

Gaspare Spontini (14 November, 1774 – 24 January, 1851) was an Italian opera composer and conductor. Born in Maiolati (province of Ancona), Spontini 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, Sponinti was an important figure in French opera seria[?]. In his more than twenty operas, Spontini strove to adapt Gluck's classical tragèdie lyrique to the contemporary taste for melodrama.

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 the Empress Josephine, its premiere at the Paris Opera established Spontini as one of the greatest Italian composers of his age. His contemporaries Cherubini[?], Meyerbeer, Berlioz and Wagner considered it a masterpiece. Spontini's later, likewise highly regarded "Olympie" (1819) met with indifference, leading him to leave Paris for Prusia, where he became Chief Music Director were he became Kappelmeister[?] and chief conductor at the Berlin Volksopera[?].

During the 20th century, Spontini's operas were only rarely performed. 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 bass-baritone Renato Bruson[?]. (An unofficial recording is in circulation.) In 1995(?), conductor Ricardo Muti[?] recorded it for Sony with a cast of lesser-known singers.

Other revivals of Spontini include Agnes di Hohenstaufen at the Maggio Musicale festival in Florence in 1954, 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 Carlos[?] (Naples) conducted by Gabriele Santini.

Spontini's operas

  • Li puntigli delle donne (Rome, 1796)

  • Il finto pittore (Rome, 1797)

  • L’eroismo ridicolo (Naples, 1798)

  • I quadri parlanti (Palermo, 1800)

  • Gli Elisi delusi (Palermo, 1800)

  • Gli amanti in cimento (3 November, 1801, Rome, Teatro Valle)

  • Le metamorfosi di Pasquale (1802, Venice)

  • Milton (27 Noevember, 1804, Paris)

  • Julie (12 July, 1805, Paris)

  • La vestale (15 December, 1807, Paris)

  • Fernand Cortez (28 November, 1809, Paris)

  • Pèlage (23 August, 1814, Paris)

  • Olimpie (22 December, 1819, Paris)

  • Nurmahl (27 May, 1822, Berlin, Opera)

  • Agnes von Hohenstaufer (12 June, 1829 Royal Opera Berlin)

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