Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Unique Discovery in the Library of Castle d'Ursel, Hingene, Belgium

Academic journal article Fontes Artis Musicae

Unique Discovery in the Library of Castle d'Ursel, Hingene, Belgium

Article excerpt

Unique Discovery in the Library of Castle d'Ursel, Hingene, Belgium.

Recently four scores, presumed lost, by Italian composer Gaspare Spontini (1774-1851) were rediscovered in the library of Castle d'Ursel in Hingene. The find consists of four autograph manuscripts of three operas and a cantata which had been considered by specialists to be definitively lost:

--Il quadro parlante (melodramma buffo, 1800, Palermo)

--Il geloso e l'audace (drama giocoso, 1801, Rome)

--Le metamorfosi di Pasquale ossia Farsa (farsa giocosa, 1802, Venice)

--L'eccelsa gara (cantata, 1806, Paris)

It seems very likely that these scores have ended up in the ducal library via the descendants of Celeste Erard (1790-1878), Spontini's wife and member of the renowned family of piano and harp makers. Sabine Franquet de Franqueville (1877-1941), the wife of Robert, Duke d'Ursel (1873-1955), was descended on her mother's side from the Erards and the Spontini scores must have come into the possession of the d'Ursel family in this way.

Gaspare Spontini (1774-1851) is one of the great names in opera history. He was much admired by Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner and his work remains relevant today, as witnessed by the recent DVD recording of his opera La fuga in maschera (2014) and the performances of La vestale at the Monnaie Opera House in Brussels (2015), and of Olimpie at the Champs-Elysees Theatre in Paris (2016).

These four newly-discovered works date from a period in Spontini's life that has been less studied for want of available sources, namely the transition between his early career in Italy and his activities in Paris, where he was supported by the Empress Josephine.

Spontini specialist Anselm Gerhard writes of this period in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians: "At least 12 of his operas had their first performances in Italy, and it seems that he must have visited Rome, Florence, and perhaps Venice between 1796 and 1802--although little research has been done into the details of his early career or the dates of performance of several of his works (many of the scores are not preserved)". …

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