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date: 10 July 2020

Vestale, La (‘The Vestal Virgin’)(i)locked

  • Anselm Gerhard

Extract

(‘The Vestal Virgin’)

Tragédie lyrique in three acts by Gaspare Spontini to a libretto by (Victor-Joseph-)Etienne de Jouy; Paris, Opéra, 15 December 1807.

Jouy was unable to interest any of the famous composers (Méhul, Boieldieu or Cherubini) in his libretto, and in 1804 he offered it to Spontini, who had just made his mark in Paris with his first opéras comiques. Jouy quoted as his source only an account given by J. J. Winckelmann of an event in the year 269 bc . But the plot agrees in significant details with an anonymous pantomime of 1786, Julia, ou La vestale, adapted from Jean-Gaspard Dubois-Fontanelle’s verse tragedy Ericie, ou La vestale (1767). This was the origin of a remarkably concentrated tragédie lyrique, with no subplots at all, looking back to the era of Gluck in many external details, but bearing the mark of entirely new dramatic principles.

The opera, mostly composed in 1805...

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