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 Gaspare Spontini

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Gaspare Spontini

Composer, Conductor. A pioneer of early Romantic music, he played an influential role in the development of French Grand Opera. His masterpiece, "La Vestale" (1807), is still heard today. Gaspare Luigi Pacifico Spontini was born in Maiolati (now Maiolati Spontini), Italy. The son of peasants, he was provided with an early education by an uncle who hoped he would become a priest. Instead he studied music at the Naples Conservatory and saw his first opera, "Li puntigli delle donne" (1796), staged in Rome. He replaced Cimarosa as music director for the Palermo court in 1800 while turning out several comic operas that spread his popularity throughout Italy. Hoping to conquer France as well, he moved to Paris in 1803 but found audiences there unsympathetic to his light Neopolitan style. Beginning with "Milton" (1804), Spontini sought to unite the classical operatic theories of Gluck with the French taste for opulent spectacle; it won him the favor of Empress Josephine, who appointed him court composer in 1805. "La Vestale" was his greatest success and most perfectly realized work, richly orchestrated and original in its melodic invention. It led Napoleon himself to commission the equally successful music drama "Fernand Cortez" (1809). He also served as conductor of the Theatre Italien from 1810 to 1812. A skilled political intriguer, Spontini survived the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy but his last great opera, "Olimpie" (1819), was hooted off the Paris stage after six performances. The following year he accepted King Friedrich Wilhelm III's invitation to become music director of Berlin. His arrival coincided with the rise of Karl Maria von Weber, whose nationalist opera "Der Freischutz" (1821) divided the city's music scene into Spontini vs. Weber factions for many years. The aging Italian musician became increasingly choleric in answering his critics, and in 1842 he was finally dismissed from his post after being charged with slander. He spent his remaining years in retirement in his hometown. His house there is now a museum. Although his fame gradually faded, Spontini left his mark on future great composers. Berlioz idolized him, Meyerbeer envied his talent, while Wagner once claimed that modern melody had its origins in Spontini's music. After a century of neglect, "La Vestale" enjoyed a number of revivals and was recorded by conductor Ricardo Muti in 1995.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bobb Edwards
  • Added: 22 Jun 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 20031481
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Gaspare Spontini (14 Nov 1774–24 Jan 1851), Find A Grave Memorial no. 20031481, citing Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, Maiolati Spontini, Provincia di Ancona, Marche, Italy ; Maintained by Find A Grave .