With two of the French grand operas of Gaspare Spontini enjoying major revivals this fall, Trove Thursday presents a third in the manner they always used to be done (in Italian translation with world-class divas): Olimpie, a tragédie lyrique, featuring the seemingly mismatched pairing of Pilar Lorengar and Fiorenza Cossotto.
For a relatively long-lived itinerant composer, Spontini was not particularly prolific and was more likely to revise his older works than compose new ones. His fame now, such as it is, rests primarily with three works he composed for Paris where he went to work in his late 20s and became a favorite of Empress Josephine.
The Maggio Fiorentino is currently presenting Fernand Cortez ou La Conquête du Mexique, while next month the Theater an der Wien mounts La Vestale with Elza van den Heever and Michael Spyres, both works performed in their original language.
Recently I glanced at the posts on “Opera-L” and learned that as expected it‘s still 1959 with Zinka Milanov a red-hot topic. And of course, the battle royal between fans of Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi rages on as if they were still regularly performing.
Julia in Spontini’s Vestale was one of Callas’s most celebrated roles and its Scala revival began her revered collaboration with director Luchino Visconti. But Tebaldi who is often accused of having the narrower repertoire actually sang two Spontini heroines: Amazilly in Cortez and the title role of Olimpie, both in the expected Italian.
Thinking about Lorengar with Cossotto I was reminded that they both appear in the Decca recording of another Gluck-influenced opera but one that premiered some 20 years before Olimpie: Cherubini’s Médée conducted by Lamberto Gardelli alongside Gwyneth Jones and Bruno Prevedi in the Lachner version (currently out of print).
They also performed together onstage at least once: at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1971 as Elisabetta and Eboli in Verdi’s Don Carlo.
Spontini: Olimpie (in Italian)
Teatro alla Scala
6 June 1966
Olimpie: Pilar Lorengar
Statira: Fiorenza Cossotto
Cassandre: Franco Tagliavini
Antigone: Giangiacomo Guelfi
L’Hiérofante: Nicola Zaccaria
Hermas: Silvio Maionica
Un Prêtre: Alfredo Giacomotti
Conductor: Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
Olimpie can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 files will appear in your download directory.
In addition, nearly 300 other podcast tracks are always available free from iTunes, or via any RSS reader. The archive which lists all Trove Thursday offerings in alphabetical order by composer has been recently updated.