Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Francois-Adrien Boieldieu (1775-1834)
French composer of comic opera born at Rouen on the I 5th of December 1775. He received his first musical education from M. Broche, the cathedral organist, who appears to have treated him very harshly. He began composing songs and chamber music at a very early age - his first opera, La Fille coupable (the libretto by his father), and his second opera, Rosalie et Myrza, being produced on the stage of Rouen in 1795. Not satisfied with his local success he went to Paris in 1795. His scores were submitted to Cherubini, Mehul and others, but met with little approbation. Grand opera was the order of the day. Boieldieu had to fall back on his talent as a pianoforte player for a livelihood. Success came at last from an unexpected source. P. J. Garat, a fashionable singer of the period, admired Boieldieu's touch on the piano, and made him his accompanist.
Thus Boieldieu's reputation gradually extended to wider circles. In 1796 Les Deux lettres was produced, and in 1797 La Famille suisse appeared for the first time on a Paris stage, and was well received. Several other operas followed in rapid succession, of which only Le Calife de Bagdad (1800) has escaped oblivion. After the enormous success of this work, Boieldieu felt the want of a thorough musical training and took lessons from Cherubini, the influence of that great master being clearly discernible in the higher artistic finish of his pupil's later compositions.
In 1802 Boieldieu, to escape the domestic troubles caused by his marriage with a celebrated balletdancer of the Paris opera, took flight and went to Russia, where he was received with open arms by the emperor Alexander. During his prolonged stay at St Petersburg he composed a number of operas. He also set to music the choruses of Racine's Athalie, one of his few attempts at the tragic style of dramatic writing. In. 1811 he returned to his own country, where the following year witnessed the production of one of his finest works, Jean de Pails, in which he depicted with much felicity the charming coquetry of the queen of Navarre, the chivalrous verve of the king, the officious pedantry of the seneschal, and the amorous tenderness of the page.
He succeeded Mehul as professor of composition at the Conservatoire in 1817. Le Chapeau rouge was produced with great success in 1818. Boieldieu's second and greatest masterpiece was his Dame blanche (1825). The libretto, written by Scribe, was partly suggested by Walter Scott's Monastery, and several original Scottish tunes cleverly introduced by the composer add to the melodious charm and local colour of the work. On the death of his wife in 1825, Boieldieu married a singer. His own death was due to a violent attack of pulmonary disease. He vainly tried to escape the rapid progress of the illness by travel in Italy and the south of France, but returned to Paris only to die on the 8th of October 1834. [Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)]
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