La Vestale. Tragédie lyrique en Trois Actes de Mr. Jouy [...] Dédiée à Sa Majesté l'Impératrice et Reine.
Folio (274 x 350 mm). Title leaf, dedication leaf, 511 pp., engraved throughout. Original red morocco dedication binding with ornamental gilt spine and borders, giltstamped title and ornaments to covers. Gilt inner dentelle; leading egdes gilt. Blue silk endpapers.
First edition of Spontini's most important and best-known opera. A superb copy, bound in sumptuous red morocco and decorated in the Empire Style, dedicated by the composer to Caroline Branchu, the famous black French opera soprano who played the title role of the young vestal at the première on 15 December 1807. The gilt title on the upper cover reads "Hommage d'Amitié / à Madame Branchu / par G. Spontini" and on the lower cover, below the monogram "CB": "De tout ce que je dois / Aux charmes de votre art / N'attendez pas que je convienne / Si vous acceptez votre part / Vous diminueriez trop la mienne". "La Vestale" was very well received and instantly achieved the status of a masterpiece.
Rose Timoléone Caroline Branchu, née Caroline Chevalier de Lavit (1780-1850) was born in Haiti, then the French colony of Saint-Domingue. Of mixed white and black ancestry, she was educated at the Paris Conservatory from the age of 16. As a singer attached to the royal court she is said to have been the mistress of Napoléon.
Some foxing and staining, imperceptible repairs to binding. Latterly in the collection of Pierre Bergé (his bookplate on the pastedown).