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Boieldieu, François-Adrien

paris opera operas rouen

Boieldieu, François-Adrien, celebrated French opera composer; b. Rouen, Dec. 16, 1775; d. Jarcy, near Grosbois, Oct. 8, 1834. His father was a clerical functionary who at one time served as secretary to Archbishop Larochefoucauld; his mother owned a millinery shop; the parents were divorced in 1794. Boieldieu received his musical instruction from Charles Broche, then was apprenticed to Broche as an asst. organist at the church of St. André in Rouen. When he was 17 his first opera, La Fille coupable (to his father’s libretto), achieved a production in Rouen (Nov. 2, 1793). He composed patriotic pieces which were in demand during the revolutionary period. His Chant populaire pour la Fête de la Raison for Chorus and Orch. was presented at the Temple of Reason (former cathedral) in Rouen on Nov. 30, 1793. His second opera, Rosalie et Myrza, was also staged in Rouen (Oct. 28, 1795). He was befriended by the composer Louis Jadin and the piano manufacturer Erard; he met Cherubini and Méhul, and made a tour in Normandy with the tenor Garât. A facile composer, Boieldieu produced one opera after another and had no difficulties in having them staged in Paris. Particularly successful was Le Calife de Bagdad (Paris, Sept. 16, 1800), which appealed to the public because of its exotic subject and pseudo-oriental arias. On March 19, 1802, Boieldieu married the dancer Clotilde Mafleu-rai, but separated from her the following year. Opportunely, he received an invitation to go to Russia. His contract called for an attractive salary of 4, 000 rubles annually, in return for writing operas for the Imperial theaters in St. Petersburg. He attended to his duties conscientiously, and produced operas every year. His salary was raised, but Boieldieu decided to leave Russia in 1811 and return to Paris. His estranged wife died in 1826, and Boieldieu married the singer Jenny Phillis. True to his custom, he resumed composing operas for the Paris theaters. In 1817 he was appointed prof, of composition at the Paris Cons.; he resigned in 1826. In 1821 he was named a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur. After a number of insignificant productions, he achieved his greatest success with his Romantic opera La Dame blanche, fashioned after Walter Scott’s novels The Monastery and Guy Mannering; the dramatic subject and the effective musical setting corresponded precisely to the tastes of the public of the time. It was produced at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on Dec. 10, 1825, and became a perennial success in Paris and elsewhere; it was produced in London on Oct. 9, 1826, and in N.Y. on Aug. 24, 1827. In 1833 he received a grant of 6, 000 francs from the French government and retired to his country house at Jarcy, where he died. During the last years of his life he became interested in painting; his pictures show a modest talent in landscape. He was also successful as a teacher, numbering among his pupils Fétis, Adam, and P.J.G. Zimmerman. Boieldieu composed about 40 operas, of which several were written in collaboration with Méhul, Berton, Hérold, Cherubini, Catel, Isouard, Kreutzer, and Auber; 9 of these operas are lost. Boieldieu’s significance in the history of French opera is great, even though the nationalistic hopes of the French music critics and others that he would rival Rossini did not materialize; Boieldieu simply lacked the tremendous power of invention, both in dramatic and comic aspects, that made Rossini a magician of 19 th -century opera. Boieldieu’s natural son, Adrien-Louis Victor Boieldieu (b. Paris, Nov. 3, 1815; d. Quincy, July 9, 1883), was also a composer; his mother was Thérèse Regnault, a singer. He wrote 10 operas, including Marguerite, which was sketched by his father but left incomplete, and L’Aïeule .

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