The triumph of La Vestale

La Vestale, dated 1805, was staged in Paris on December 15th, 1807, at the Théâtre de L’Académie Impériale de Musique, in the presence of empress Giuseppina. Giulia, the vestal, was interpreted by the great soloist Caroline Branchu, together with the authoritative Etienne Lainez in the role of Licinio. Enriched by exceptional corps de ballet and by extraordinary instrumentalists, as the horn player Frédéric Duvernoy, which Spontini had entrusted with the “solo” of Julia’s aria in the second act, La Vestale received a clamorous success and had a run of two hundreds nights. Certain vocal lines, the fusion of the italianismis with the sensuality of French, the ancient set, rich in temples, imperial eagles, the iconographies of the ancient Rome: all constituted historical and ideological references in which Napoleon and the imperial court could perfectly recognize themselves. Napoleon’s divorce from his wife Giuseppina separated Spontini from his protectress, but not from the emperor who always placed faith and protection in him, as the following honours and offices awarded to the musician demonstrate: thanks to a suggestion of Napoleone himself, in 1809 it was commissioned to Spontini an opera of historical-commemorative character, the Fernando Cortez; in 1810 La Vestale received a prize as the best opera represented in the preceding decade; in the same year Spontini was named main conductor of the Théâtre Italien de Paris, position that he will maintain up to 1812, and of the Theater of the Empress; in 1813 he was also named member of the jury entrusted to examine new librettos proposed to the Opera.

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William Shakespeare