Michael William Balfe (15 May 1808 – 20 October 1870) was an Irish composer, best-remembered for his opera The Bohemian Girl .
The Bohemian Girl is a ballad opera composed by Michael William Balfe with a libretto by Alfred Bunn. The plot is loosely based on a Cervantes tale, La Gitanilla.
After a short career as a violinist, Balfe pursued an operatic singing career, while he began to compose. In a career spanning more than 40 years, he composed at least 29 operas, almost 250 songs and other works. He was also a noted conductor, directing Italian Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre for seven years, among other conducting posts.
Her Majesty's Theatre is a West End theatre situated on Haymarket in the City of Westminster, London. The present building was designed by Charles J. Phipps and was constructed in 1897 for actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who established the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the theatre. In the early decades of the 20th century, Tree produced spectacular productions of Shakespeare and other classical works, and the theatre hosted premieres by major playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw, J. M. Synge, Noël Coward and J. B. Priestley. Since the First World War, the wide stage has made the theatre suitable for large-scale musical productions, and the theatre has accordingly specialised in hosting musicals. The theatre has been home to record-setting musical theatre runs, notably the First World War sensation Chu Chin Chow and the current production, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, which has played continuously at Her Majesty's since 1986.
Balfe was born in Dublin, where his musical gifts became apparent at an early age. He received instruction from his father, a dancing master and violinist, and the composer William Rooke.His family moved to Wexford when he was a child. Between 1814 and 1815, Balfe played the violin for his father's dancing-classes, and at the age of seven composed a polacca.
Dublin is the capital and largest city of Ireland. It is on the east coast of Ireland, in the province of Leinster, at the mouth of the River Liffey, and is bordered on the south by the Wicklow Mountains. It has an urban area population of 1,173,179, while the population of the Dublin Region, as of 2016, was 1,347,359, and the population of the Greater Dublin area was 1,904,806.
William Michael Rooke, was an Irish violinist and composer.
Wexford is the county town of County Wexford, Ireland. Wexford lies on the south side of Wexford Harbour, the estuary of the River Slaney near the southeastern corner of the island of Ireland. The town is linked to Dublin by the M11/N11 National Primary Route; and to Rosslare Europort, Cork and Waterford by the N25. The national rail network connects it to Dublin and Rosslare Europort. It had a population of 20,188 according to the 2016 census.
In 1817, he appeared as a violinist in public, and in this year composed a ballad, first called "Young Fanny" and afterwards, when sung in Paul Pry by Madame Vestris, "The Lovers' Mistake". In 1823, upon the death of his father, the teenaged Balfe moved to London and was engaged as a violinist in the orchestra of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. He eventually became the leader of that orchestra.While there, he studied violin with Charles Edward Horn and composition with Charles Frederick Horn, the organist, from 1824, at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.
A ballad is a form of verse, often a narrative set to music. Ballads derive from the medieval French chanson balladée or ballade, which were originally "danced songs". Ballads were particularly characteristic of the popular poetry and song of Ireland and Britain from the later medieval period until the 19th century. They were widely used across Europe, and later in Australia, North Africa, North America and South America. Ballads are often 13 lines with an ABABBCBC form, consisting of couplets of rhymed verse, each of 14 syllables. Another common form is ABAB or ABCB repeated, in alternating 8 and 6 syllable lines.
Lucia Elizabeth Vestris was an English actress and a contralto opera singer, appearing in works by, among others, Mozart and Rossini. While popular in her time, she was more notable as a theatre producer and manager. After accumulating a fortune from her performances, she leased the Olympic Theatre in London and produced a series of burlesques and extravaganzas, especially popular works by James Planché, for which the house became famous. She also produced his work at other theatres she managed.
The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, commonly known as Drury Lane, is a West End theatre and Grade I listed building in Covent Garden, London, England. The building faces Catherine Street and backs onto Drury Lane. The building is the most recent in a line of four theatres which were built at the same location, the earliest of which dated back to 1663, making it the oldest theatre site in London still in use. According to the author Peter Thomson, for its first two centuries, Drury Lane could "reasonably have claimed to be London's leading theatre". For most of that time, it was one of a handful of patent theatres, granted monopoly rights to the production of "legitimate" drama in London.
While still playing the violin, Balfe pursued a career as an opera singer. He debuted unsuccessfully at Norwich in Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz . In 1825, Count Mazzara took him to Rome for vocal and musical studies and introduced him to Luigi Cherubini. Balfe also pursued composing: in Italy, he wrote his first dramatic work, a ballet, La Perouse. He became a protégée of Rossini's, and at the close of 1827, he appeared as Figaro in The Barber of Seville at the Italian opera in Paris.
Norwich is a historic city in Norfolk, England. Situated on the River Wensum in East Anglia, it lies approximately 100 miles (161 km) north-east of London. It is the county town of Norfolk and is considered the capital of East Anglia, with a population of 141,300. From the Middle Ages until the Industrial Revolution, Norwich was the largest city in England after London, and one of the most important.
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, and was one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school.
Der Freischütz, Op. 77, J. 277, is a German opera with spoken dialogue in three acts by Carl Maria von Weber with a libretto by Friedrich Kind. It premiered on 18 June 1821 at the Schauspielhaus Berlin. It is considered the first important German Romantic opera, especially in its national identity and stark emotionality.
Balfe soon returned to Italy, where he was based for the next eight years, singing and composing several operas. He met Maria Malibran while singing at the Paris Opera during this period. In 1829 in Bologna, Balfe composed his first cantata for the soprano Giulia Grisi, then 18 years old. She performed it with the tenor Francesco Pedrazzi with much success. Balfe produced his first complete opera, I rivali di se stessi, at Palermo in the carnival season of 1829—1830.
Maria Felicia Malibran was a Spanish singer who commonly sang both contralto and soprano parts, and was one of the best-known opera singers of the 19th century. Malibran was known for her stormy personality and dramatic intensity, becoming a legendary figure after her death at age 28. Contemporary accounts of her voice describe its range, power and flexibility as extraordinary.
The Paris Opera is the primary opera and ballet company of France. It was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV as the Académie d'Opéra, and shortly thereafter was placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully and officially renamed the Académie Royale de Musique, but continued to be known more simply as the Opéra. Classical ballet as it is known today arose within the Paris Opera as the Paris Opera Ballet and has remained an integral and important part of the company. Currently called the Opéra National de Paris, it mainly produces operas at its modern 2700-seat theatre Opéra Bastille which opened in 1989, and ballets and some classical operas at the older 1970-seat Palais Garnier which opened in 1875. Small scale and contemporary works are also staged in the 500-seat Amphitheatre under the Opéra Bastille.
Bologna is the capital and largest city of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, at the heart of a metropolitan area of about one million people.
Around 1831, he married Lina Roser (1806–1888), a Hungarian-born singer of Austrian parentage whom he had met at Bergamo.The couple had two sons and two daughters. Their younger son, Edward, died in infancy. Their elder son, Michael William Jr., died in 1915. Their daughters were Louisa (1832–1869) and Victoire (1837–1871). Balfe wrote another opera Un avvertimento ai gelosi at Pavia, and Enrico Quarto at Milan, where he had been engaged to sing in Rossini's Otello with Malibran at La Scala in 1834. An unpopular attempt at "improving" Giacomo Meyerbeer's opera, Il crociato in Egitto , by interpolated music of his own, compelled Balfe to throw up his engagement at the theatre La Fenice in Venice.
Balfe returned to London with his wife and young daughter in May 1835. His initial success took place some months later, with the premiere of The Siege of Rochelle on 29 October 1835 at Drury Lane. Encouraged by his success, he produced The Maid of Artois in 1836; which was followed by more operas in English.
In July 1838, Balfe composed a new opera, Falstaff, for The Italian Opera House, based on The Merry Wives of Windsor , with an Italian libretto by S. Manfredo Maggione. The production starred his friends Luigi Lablache (bass) in the title role, Giulia Grisi (soprano), Giovanni Battista Rubini (tenor), and Antonio Tamburini (baritone). The same four singers had premiered Bellini's, I puritani at the Italian Opera in Paris in 1835.
In 1841, Balfe founded the National Opera at the Lyceum Theatre, but the venture was a failure. The same year, he premiered his opera, Keolanthe. He then moved to Paris, presenting Le Puits d'amour (1843) in early 1843, followed by his opera based on Les quatre fils Aymon (1844) for the Opéra-Comique (also popular in German-speaking countries for many years as Die vier Haimonskinder) and L'étoile de Seville (1845) for the Opéra. Their librettos were written by Eugène Scribe and others.Meanwhile, in 1843, Balfe returned to London where he produced his most successful work, The Bohemian Girl , on 27 November 1843 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The piece ran for over 100 nights, and productions were soon mounted in New York, Dublin, Philadelphia, Vienna (in German), Sydney, and throughout Europe and elsewhere. In 1854, an Italian adaptation called La Zingara was mounted in Trieste with great success, and it too was performed internationally in both Italian and German. In 1862, a four-act French version, entitled La Bohemienne was produced in France and was again a success.
From 1846 to 1852, Balfe was appointed musical director and principal conductor for the Italian Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre,with Max Maretzek as his assistant. There he first produced several of Verdi's operas for London audiences. He conducted for Jenny Lind at her opera debut and on many occasions thereafter.
In 1851, in anticipation of the Great International Exhibition in London, Balfe composed an innovative cantata, Inno Delle Nazioni, sung by nine female singers, each representing a country. Balfe continued to compose new operas in English, including The Armourer of Nantes (1863), and wrote hundreds of songs, such as "When other hearts", "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls" (from The Bohemian Girl), "Come into the Garden, Maud", "Killarney" and "Excelsior" (a setting of the poem by Longfellow).His last opera, nearly completed when he died, was The Knight of the Leopard and achieved considerable success in Italian as Il Talismano.
Balfe retired in 1864 to Hertfordshire, where he rented a country estate. He died at his home in Rowney Abbey, Ware, Hertfordshire, in 1870, aged 62, and was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery in London, next to fellow Irish composer William Vincent Wallace, who had died five years before. In 1882, a medallion portrait of him was unveiled in Westminster Abbey. A London County Council plaque unveiled in 1912 commemorates Balfe at 12 Seymour Street, Marylebone.
In all, Balfe composed at least 29 operas. [ citation needed ]He also wrote several cantatas (including Mazeppa in 1862) and a symphony (1829). Balfe's only large-scale piece that is still performed regularly today is The Bohemian Girl.
Operas, with first performances
Recordings of Balfe's work include the following:
Thomas Augustine Arne was an English composer. He is best known for his patriotic song Rule Britannia, a version of God Save the King, which became the British national anthem, and the song A-Hunting We Will Go. Arne was a leading British theatre composer of the 18th century, working at Drury Lane and Covent Garden.
Sir Julius Benedict was a German-born composer and conductor, resident in England for most of his career.
(William) Vincent Wallace was an Irish composer and musician. In his day, he was famous on three continents as a double virtuoso on violin and piano. Nowadays, he is mainly remembered as an opera composer of note, with key works such as Maritana (1845) and Lurline (1847/60), but he also wrote a large amount of piano music that was much in vogue in the 19th century. His more modest output of songs and ballads, equally wide-ranging in style and difficulty, was also popular in his day, some numbers being associated with famous singers of the time.
Alfred Bunn was an English theatrical manager. He was married to Margaret Agnes Bunn, a minor actress, in 1819.
Edward Fitzball was a popular English playwright, who specialised in melodrama. His real surname was Ball, and he was born at Burwell, Cambridgeshire.
The Maid of Artois is an opera by Michael William Balfe, written in 1836 to a libretto by Alfred Bunn, manager of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London, who based his work on Eugène Scribe's stage version of Abbé Prévost's novel Manon Lescaut.
Augustus Frederick Glossop Harris was a British actor and theatre manager.
Les diamants de la couronne is an opéra comique by the French composer Daniel Auber, first performed by the Opéra-Comique at the second Salle Favart in Paris on 6 March 1841. The libretto is by Auber's regular collaborator, Eugène Scribe with the help of Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges.
James Henry Mapleson was an English opera impresario, probably the leading figure instrumental in the development of opera production, and of the careers of singers, in London and New York City in the second half of the 19th century.
Josef Staudigl was an Austrian bass singer.
The Rose of Castille is an opera in three acts, with music by Michael William Balfe to an English-language libretto by Augustus Glossop Harris and Edmund Falconer, after the libretto by Adolphe d'Ennery and Clairville for Adolphe Adam's Le muletier de Tolède (1854). It was premiered on 29 October 1857, at the Lyceum Theatre, London.
George Bartley (1782?–1858) was an English stage comedian. He was successful in playing comic old men and bluff uncles, and Falstaff became his favourite character. He had roles in many Shakespearean Comedies throughout his career spanning over half a century.
George Herbert Buonaparte Rodwell (1800–1852) was an English composer, musical director, and author.
William Roxby Beverly or Beverley (c.1810–1889) was an English theatrical scene painter, known also as an artist in oils and watercolour. William John Lawrence, writing in the Dictionary of National Biography, considered him second only to Clarkson Stanfield among British scene painters of the 19th century.
William Harrison was an English tenor and opera impresario. He was best known for creating roles in new operas by British composers from the 1840s to the early 1860s. Among those who composed for him were William Vincent Wallace, Michael William Balfe and Julius Benedict. After working for Alfred Bunn at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Harrison set up a company in partnership with the soprano Louisa Pyne, which enjoyed success in North America and London in the 1850s.
Henry Robinson Allen was an Irish-born operatic tenor.
Rebecca Isaacs was an operatic soprano of the mid-19th century who was the Directress of Operas at the Strand Theatre and who created the role of Leila in Satanella at the Royal Opera House in 1858.
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