Spontini and Wagner
In 1840 Frederick William III, Gaspare Spontini’s principal support in Berlin, died. In 1841, after continuous disputes with von Redern, the new superintendent, Gaspare Spontini was accused of lese-majesty and sentenced, in July, to nine month’s imprisonment. In 1842, once dismissed the musician from the office, Frederick William IV assigned him a pension. The musician had also to suffer the humiliation to see his charge submitted to the fierce enemy Meyerbeer. In Germany, during these years of burning disappointments, it is the city of Dresden to bestow him a great honour: La Vestale produced in Dresden in 1844 was in fact welcomed in an enthusiastic way. In this occasion Spontini met and collaborated with Richard Wagner. In the same year Spontini is honoured with the papal title of Sant’Andrea. “The widely fame of Italian opera’s composers, as Cherubini and Spontini, could not arise from the German operetta, but it could only spring in Italy …. Auber, Boieldieu and finally me too, we all learned a lot from it…” (Richard Wagner, Vita, Torino, 1953). In November 1844, after the triumph of La Vestale in Copenhagen, Spontini went to Dresden where Wagner, Director at the Court’s Theater, had been entrusted to stage the magnificent Spontini’s opera. Richard Wagner was impressed and dazzled by Gaspare Spontini’s request to be allowed to use a black baton of ebony with white endings, instead of a light one, as usual: the musician distinguished himself at Wagner’s eyes for the strength with which he held the baton at half hilt, and for the vehemence, worthy of a marshal, with which he ordered more than conducted the orchestra. Richard Wagner’s autobiography is full of memories dedicated to Gaspare Spontini; these are exceptional and enlightening memoirs with which the German musician succeeds in penetrating and fixing forever the moral and musical stature of our Maestro from the Marche region. Wagner photographed Gaspare Spontini’s anguish when he realized not to be able anymore, after the Agnese, to venture in the orchestration of another opera that could exceed his beloved masterpiece, and experienced thoroughly the author’s observation that after La Vestale there was not any theatre work which had not been inspired by his scores (an example is the Barber of Seville, that contains sixteen beats similar to Spontini’s opera). Another surprising quotation is the one concerning R. Wagner’s persuasion that without the interval of sixth exceeding of La Vestale the whole modern melody would not exist at all; and also another one, containing Spontini’s bitter assertion against that nation, Germany, considered more careful in appreciating F. J. Mendelssohn Bartholdy and F. Liszt, at King of Prussia’s court in Berlin, than in becoming a centre of European music’s renovation.