Locally, Teatro Grattacielo which has previously devoted itself to verismo operas, will this Saturday be presenting Spontini’s La Vestale at the Gerald Lynch Theater.
Indra Thomas will be singing the leading role in Italian as did Callas, but Chris’s Cache offers up three broadcasts of the work in its original French with the vestal sung by Gundula Janowitz, Michèle Le Bris and Alexandra Deshorties.
The most famous 20th century Vestale before Callas was Rosa Ponselle for whom the Met revived the opera in the mid-1920s in anticipation of her taking on Bellini’s Norma. Spontini’s most famous work would be the only opera Ponselle performed in Italy—in Florence in 1933.
After Callas who performed the opera just five times, several reigning divas also took on the work, always in Italian: Leyla Gencer, Montserrat Caballé, Adelaide Negri, and Renata Scotto whose interpretation can be heard here.
Nearly forty years after Callas, Riccardo Muti produced the work in French for the opening of La Scala’s 1993-94 season. His Julia was Karen Huffstodt although Maria Dragoni was originally announced. In 2002, the English National Opera produced Vestale for Jane Eaglen in English.
Perhaps encouraged by the Brussels production heard today, the Theater an der Wien mounted a French La Vestale starring Elza van den Heever and Michael Spyres. It will be revived next year at the Paris Opéra again with van den Heever and Spyres who included Licinius’s aria on his acclaimed Baritenor recording.
The ever-enterprising Palazetto Bru Zane recently released a French Vestale recording featuring an impressive Marina Rebeka in the title role. Rebeka next takes one of the opera’s most important antecedents, Cherubini’s Médée, next month at the Berlin Staatsoper.
Spontini: La Vestale
Julia: Gundula Janowitz
La Grande Vestale: Ruza Baldani
Licinius: Gilbert Py
Cinna: Gianpaolo Corradi
Le Souveraine Pontife: Agostino Ferrin
Conductor: Jesus Lopez-Cobos
23 February 1974
Julia: Michèle Le Bris
La Grande Vestale: Nadine Denize
Licinius: Robert Dume
Cinna: Claude Meloni
Le Souveraine Pontife: Jacques Mars
Chorale et Orchestre Lyrique de l’ORTF
Conductor: Roger Norrington
Julia: Alexandra Deshorties
La Grande Vestale: Sylvie Brunet-Grupposo
Licinius: Yann Beuron
Cinna: Julien Dran
Le Souveraine Pontife: Jean Teitgen
Conductor: Alessandro De Marchi
Each Vestale can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a box with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.