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Gaspare Spontini

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

Born in Maiolati in the province of Ancona, now Maiolati Spontini, 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. His single great masterpiece and success was La Vestale.

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 Empress Joséphine, 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 like Berlioz and Wagner admired it.

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