Gaspare Spontini

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Franz Krüger : Gaspare Spontini

Gaspare Luigi Pacifico Spontini (* 14. November 1774 in Maiolati (now Maiolati Spontini ) in Jesi , Papal States , today province of Ancona ; †  24. January 1851 ) was an Italian composer and conductor.

life and work

Spontini was one of five children from poor parents and, like his brothers, was initially supposed to become a priest. But he showed early signs of a special musical talent. From 1793 to 1795 he studied at the Conservatorio della Pietà de 'Turchini in Naples with Giacomo Tritto and perhaps with Domenico Cimarosa . After he had already achieved success as an opera composer in Italy, he went to Paris in 1803, where he achieved initial success with his works Milton and Julie for the Opéra-Comique from 1804 and was then appointed chamber composer for the Empress Joséphine .

In 1807 Spontini composed La vestale , his most famous opera to this day, written with the support of the Empress. After the premiere at the Paris Opera, Spontini was able to establish himself as one of the most important composers of his time. Contemporaries Luigi Cherubini and Giacomo Meyerbeer viewed La vestale as a masterpiece, and composers of the next generation such as Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner admired it. This was followed in 1809 by the opera Fernand Cortez , which he revised in 1817, and Olimpie (1819 after Voltaire ), which he revised a second time (again in French) in 1821 for Berlin (German version: ETA Hoffmann ) and in 1826 for Paris.

From 1810 to 1812 he was director of the Théâtre de l'Impératrice , director of the “ Concert spirituel ” and from 1814 court composer. In 1820 he followed a request from the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. to move to Berlin , where he took over the post of general music director and first conductor at the Royal Opera House and became a member of the Sing-Akademie . Here he composed Borussia , Tempo di marcia trionfale as the Prussian national anthem. He retained his position as general music director until his death, but was "dispensed from his functions" in 1841 at the age of 67. On May 31, 1842, he was accepted as a foreign member of the Prussian order Pour le Mérite for science and the arts. Subsequently, Spontini lived again in Paris and returned to his place of birth (near Jesi ) from 1850 (shortly before his death) .


In the first two decades of the 19th century, Spontini was an important figure in French tragedy lyrique . In his more than 20 operas he endeavored to adapt the style of Gluck's classical works to the taste of the time: he composed large, contrasting scenes, used Italian melos as well as the pathos of French drama, which highlighted the monumentality of French in a special way Tried to do justice to the empire . His masterpiece and his greatest success was the opera La vestale .

Spontini's operas were rarely performed in the 20th century. Probably the best-known modern production is the revival of La vestale with Maria Callas under the direction of Luchino Visconti at La Scala in Milan for the opening of the season in 1954, Spontini's 180th year of birth. This performance was also the Scala debut of the tenor Franco Corelli . Maria Callas recorded the arias Tu che invoco and O Nume tutela from La vestale in 1955 in the recording studio, just as Rosa Ponselle had done in 1926. In 1969 the conductor Fernando Previtali reanimated the opera again with the soprano Leyla Gencer and the bass-baritone Renato Bruson (an unofficial recording of this performance is in circulation). In 1995 Riccardo Muti made a recording with lesser known singers.

Other recordings of works by Spontini are Agnes von Hohenstaufen from 1954 at the Maggio Musicale in Florence, conducted by Vittorio Gui , and in 1970 with Montserrat Caballé and Antonietta Stella, conducted by Riccardo Muti. Fernand Cortez was performed again in 1951 in Naples with the young Renata Tebaldi under the direction of Gabriele Santini and at the beginning of the 21st century (Paris 2002, Madrid 2003 and 2006 at the Erfurt Theater ) under the musical direction of the French conductor Jean-Paul Penin .


Spontini married Marie Catherine Céleste Érard on August 3, 1811 (* July 10, 1790 in Paris, † September 30, 1878 there), a niece of the piano manufacturer Sébastien Érard , to whom he later dedicated his opera Agnes von Hohenstaufen . The couple had no children.



  • Li puntigli delle donne (Francesco Cerlone), farsetta per musica 2 acts (Carnival 1796, Rome)
  • Adelina Senese o sia l'Amore secreto ( Giovanni Bertati , La principessa d'Amalfi ), dramma giocoso 2 acts (October 10, 1797, Venice, Teatro San Samuele )
  • Il finto pittore farsetta / melodramma buffo? (Rome ?, 1797/1798; Palermo, Teatro Santa Cecilia, 1800)
  • L'eroismo ridicolo (D. Piccinni), farsa per musica 1 act (Carnival 1798, Naples, Teatro Nuovo sopra Toledo)
  • Il Teseo riconosciuto (Cosimo Giotti), dramma per musica 2 acts (May 22, 1798, Florence, Regio Teatro degli Intrepidi)
  • La finta filosofa (D. Piccinni), commedia per musica 2 acts (July 1, 1799, Naples, Teatro Nuovo sopra Toledo); Extension of L'eroismo ridicolo; extended new version, dramma giocoso per musica 3 acts (11 Feb. 1804 Paris, Opéra-Comique, Salle Favart)
  • La fuga in maschera (G. Palomba), commedia per musica 2 acts (Carnival 1800, Naples, Teatro Nuovo sopra Toledo)
  • I quadri parlanti , melodramma buffo (1800, Palermo, Teatro Santa Cecilia)
  • Gli Elisi delusi (M. Monti), melodramma buffo 2 acts (August 28, 1800, Palermo, Teatro Santa Cecilia)
  • Gli amanti in cimento (Bertati?), Dramma giocoso 2 acts (November 3, 1801, Rome, Teatro Valle )
  • Il geloso e l'audace (drama giocoso, 1801, Rome)
  • Le metamorfosi di Pasquale ( G. Foppa ), farsa giocosa per musica 1 act (January 16, 1802, Venice, Teatro Giustiniani in San Moisè )
  • La petite maison (Joseph Marie Armand Michel Dieulafoy / N. Gersin), opéra-comique 3 acts (May 12, 1804, Paris, Opéra-Comique, Salle Feydeau )
  • Milton (Victor-Joseph Etienne de Jouy / Joseph Marie Armand Michel Dieulafoy), fait historique 1 act (November 27, 1804, Paris, Opéra-Comique, Salle Favart)
  • Julie, ou Le pot de fleurs (Antoine Gabriel Jars), comédie en prose, mêlée de chants 1 act (March 12, 1805, Paris, Opéra-Comique, Salle Favart)
  • L'eccelsa gara (cantata, 1806, Paris)
  • La vestale (Victor-Joseph Etienne de Jouy after Johann Joachim Winckelmann , Monumenti antichi inediti, 1767), tragédie lyrique 3 acts (December 15, 1807, Paris, Opéra )
  • Fernand Cortez (Victor-Joseph Etienne de Jouy / Joseph-Alphonse d'Esménard based on a tragedy by Alexis Piron), Opera 3 acts (November 28, 1809 Paris, Opéra); 2nd version (revised by Victor-Joseph Etienne de Jouy), Opera 3 acts (May 28, 1817 Paris, Opéra); 3rd version in German as Fernand Cortez or Die Eroberung von Mexico (revised by M. Théaulon de Lambert, translated by JC May), Opera 3 acts (April 6, 1824 Berlin, Königliches Opernhaus ); 4th version (revised by Karl August von Lichtenstein), Opera 3 acts (February 6, 1832 Berlin, Royal Opera House)
  • Pélage, ou le Roi et la paix (Victor-Joseph Etienne de Jouy), Opera 2 acts (23 August 1814, Paris, Opéra)
  • Les dieux rivaux, ou Les fêtes de Cythère (with Henri Montan Berton , Rodolphe Kreutzer , and Louis-Luc Loiseau de Persuis) (Joseph Marie Armand Michel Dieulafoy / C. Brifaut), opéra-ballet 1 act (June 21, 1816, Paris , Opéra)
  • Olimpie (Joseph Marie Armand Michel Dieulafoy / Charles Brifaut based on the tragedy of the same name by Voltaire), tragédie lyrique 3 acts (December 22, 1819, Paris, Opéra); 2nd version in German as Olimpia (revised and translated by ETA Hoffmann), Opera 3 acts (May 14, 1821 Berlin, Königliches Opernhaus); 3rd version again in French as Olimpie , tragédie lyrique 3 acts (February 28, 1826, Paris, Opéra)
  • Lalla Rûkh (SH Spiker after T. Moore, Lalla Rookh), Festival (January 27, 1821, Berlin, Royal Palace )
  • Nurmahal, or the Rose Festival of Cashmir (CA Herklots after T. Moore, Lalla Rookh), lyrical drama with ballet 2 acts (May 27, 1822, Berlin, Royal Opera House)
  • Alcidor (Guillaume M. Théaulon de Lambert / C. Nutty after Rochon de Chabannes, German translation by CA Herklots), magic opera with ballet 3 acts (23 May 1825, Berlin, Royal Opera House)
  • Agnes von Hohenstaufen , lyrical drama 2 acts or large historical-romantic opera 3 acts (first act: May 28, 1827, the whole opera on June 12, 1829, Berlin, Königliches Opernhaus, revised 1829 and 1837)

Works for wind orchestra

  • 1837: Torch dance
  • 1838: Olympic Overture


Web links

Commons : Gaspare Spontini  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. The Order Pour le Mérite for Science and the Arts. The members of the order , Volume 1 (1842–1881), Berlin 1975, p. 104 with picture on the opposite page
  2. Manuscript in the Kasteel d'Ursel in the district of Hingene near Bornem
  3. Manuscript in the Kasteel d'Ursel in the district of Hingene near Bornem
  4. Manuscript in the Kasteel d'Ursel in the district of Hingene near Bornem
  5. Manuscript in the Kasteel d'Ursel in the district of Hingene near Bornem