Spohr: Beauty And The Beast

Shiree Kidron (soprano), Matthew Pena (tenor), Paul Shikany (tenor), Robert Stafford (baritone), Marissa Famiglietti (soprano), Rachel Calloway (mezzo-soprano), Kristin Knutson (vocals), Manhattan School of Music Opera Orchestra, Cristopher Larkin (conductor)

Catalog #: TROY0787-88
Release Date: July 1, 2005
Format: Digital

In his heyday, Louis Spohr reigned as the leading contemporary representative of the great German tradition: the heir apparent of Mozart in his mastery of the forms of absolute music, particularly the symphony and the string quartet. As a professional violinist, Spohr was essentially self-taught, diligently studying the music of Haydn and Mozart in the 1790's. His initial concentration was composing for his own instrument, eventually writing fifteen concertos for the violin. He is also credited for being the first conductor to use a baton (albeit in rehearsals only) and make the use of reference letters in scores and parts (i.e., "we'll begin at letter C.") Spohr's style reflects the melodic influence of Mozart and an interest in more advanced harmony, resulting in an output that includes nine symphonies, several clarinet concertos, thirty-six string quartets, an octet, a nonet and much more. He also composed several oratorios, one of the most important being The Last Judgement (1826). Among his many operas were Faust (1813), considered a landmark in the path to German Romantic opera, and his most enduring work, Jessonda (1823). On the basis of Faust's popularity, Spohr was hired in 1817 to become director of the Frankfurt Opera. After discarding plans for an adaptation of the medieval story The Black Huntsman (Carl Maria von Weber had "beaten him to the punch" by adapting it as Der Freischutz), Spohr tackled the famous legend of Beauty and the Beast, as written by poet Johan Jakob Ihlee based on a four-decade-old French libretto, Zemire et Azor, originally meant for French composer Andre Gretry. In his score, Spohr aimed at something lighter and more winsome than Faust, a melodically attractive opera with some fashionable Rossinian elements that went on the receive performances throughout Germany and remained at least on the fringes of the repertory during most of the 19th century. The opera is cast in two acts, divided into seventeen numbers. The first performance was given under his direction on April 4, 1819. Needless to say, here is a story that has been passed down through many forms and to many audiences over the years, whether we speak of the classic French film based on Jean Cocteau's adaptation or the wildly popular Disney animated movie. Spohr's wonderfully melodic score combines with this beloved tale to provide a memorable listening experience for both aficionados of Romantic Opera and those who love the sheer fantasy of Beauty and the Beast.


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Title Composer Performer
Beauty and the Beast Louis Spohr Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater, Christopher Larkin, conductor


  • "Spohr's music is melodic ....inventive and atmospheric... The performers are sincere and...perform this opera with passion and conviction."

    – Fanfare

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