Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/681

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SPONTINI.

entirely new shape. Esme'nard was dead, and for the alterations in the poem Jouy was entirely responsible. The 3rd act now became the ist, the 1st act the 2nd, and a part of the 2nd the 3rd; some passages were suppressed and others added, and the part of Montezuma was entirely new. Jouy had introduced Montezuma into his ori- ginal sketch, but thinking the part weak and undramatic had omitted it in the first libretto. It now reappeared. The part of Amazily is simplified as regards her appearances, but the character is strengthened. In the earlier play love has stifled her patriotism, now she is divided between her lover and her country, producing a conflict of emotions truly dramatic. By putting the execution of the Spanish prisoners at the opening of the opera, and thus showing the Mexican people in all their savage barbarity, the poet hoped to dispose the audience more decidedly in favour of the victorious Spaniards, and to make the conquest of Mexico a clear necessity. But his success in this was not com- plete ; the sympathies of the audience still wavered between the heroism of the conquerors and the misfortunes of the 'conquered. The reception of the music was as favourable as ever, but on the libretto opinions were divided. The delay in the appearance of Cortez till the 2nd act, was felt to lessen the interest in Amazily's love, Alvar's danger, and all that concerns the Spaniards. This is undeniably true, but on the other hand the 2nd act gains so immeasurably in strength that the loss is more than counterbalanced. More serious objections might be urged against the 3rd act, which after the exciting events of the first two inevitably falls flat; and this Spontini proposed to remedy by a third revision. In November 1823, the poet Thdauleon came to Berlin to write the libretto of ' Alcidor,' and Spontini commissioned him to remodel the 3rd act, which he did as follows : Amazily falls into the power of the Mexican priests, who, in defiance of Monte- zuma, prepare to sacrifice her, but at the last moment Cortez appears with his Spaniards, and saves his love. This exciting scene, with most effective music, brings up the interest of the last act to the level of the others. The pianoforte score, arranged by F. Naue, and published by Hofmeister of Leipzig, gives the opera as it stood after this third and final revision. The full score came out in Paris in the fortieth year after Spontini's retirement from Berlin. The

3rd act in its second form may be found in ouy's '(Euvres completes,' vol. ii. p. 187. In 1810 Spontini became conductor of the Italian opera, which was united with the Come'die Fra^aise under the title of 'Theatre de 1'Impe'ratrice,' and located at the Oddon. He formed a distinguished company of singers, im- proved the orchestra, and threw more variety into the repertoire. One signal service was his production for the first time in Paris of Don Juan ' in its original form. He remodelled Catel's ' Semiramide,' with fresh numbers of his own, and revived it with some success. 1 He also in- i Fe"tu.

��SPONTINI.

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��stituted Concerts Spirituels, at which he success- fully introduced such works as Mozart's Re- quiem, Haydn's Symphonies, and extracts from the ' Creation.' But he did not keep the con- ductorship long. Differences arose between him- self and Alexandre Duval, the director of the theatre, and in 1812 Spontini was dismissed from his post by M. de Rdmusat, surintendant of the Imperial theatres.

On the restoration of the Bourbons in 1814 Spontini was reinstated, but soon gave up the post to Catalan! for a money consideration. His conduct as conductor of the opera does not give a favourable idea of his character. When Count Briihl was in Paris, Spontini was described to him by the managers of the Opdra as ' grasping and indolent ; ill-natured, treacherous, and spite- ful.' 2 Catalan! too always averred that he had treated her badly. Some, however, took a more favourable view, and maintained that he had been both zealous and successful in his efforts for the furtherance of art. Fdtis believed that it was not Spontini but Duval who should have been dismissed in 1812. It is curious thus to find the same difference of opinion in Paris with regard to Spontini's character which was after- wards so noticeable in Berlin.

On the soth May 1814, Louis XVIII became king of France, and in commemoration of the event Jouy and Spontini wrote a festival-opera in 2 acts called ' Pelage, ou le Roi de la Paix.' The first performance took place Aug. 23, 1814. The work is of no value, and must have been very quickly composed. The subject is idyllic, breathing only soft emotions, and therefore en- tirely contrary to the nature of Spontini's talent. The opera was dedicated to the king, who ap- pointed Spontini his 'Dramatic composer in or- dinary.' It is often said that Spontini's music displays the spirit of the age of Napoleon. The remark is true so far as the martial splendour, the vehement energy, the overpowering massive effect of his grand operas are concerned. In all this the spirit of the time is recognisable enough. But it resides in the music only ; and it would be very wrong to conclude that Spontini him- self was an adherent of Napoleon a politics or person. He was as little of an imperialist as Weber (notwithstanding his songs in the cause of liberty) was a democrat. Art and Politics are two distinct things, and if Spontini did do homage to Louis after enjoying the favour of Napoleon there is no need to blame him.

He next took part with Persuis, Berton, and Kreutzer in an ope'ra-ballet, ' Les Dieux rivaux,' produced June a 1 , 1 8 1 6, in hon our of the marriage of the Due de Berri. Spontini's share was confined to two or three dances, and a song, ' Voici le Roi, Fran9ais fideles,' of little value. Other ballet- music however, composed for Salieri's ' Dana'ides,' rises to the level of 'Cortez' and the * Vestale." The opera, revived with this addition Oct. 22, 1817, was enthusiastically received.

But these pieces d'occosion sink into insignifi- cance before the grand opera 'Olympia,' ' imitated*

  • Letter of Brtthl to Frederic William III, Oct. 8, 1819.

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