François-Adrien Boieldieu (December 16, 1775–October 8, 1834) was a French composer, mainly of operas, often called “the French Mozart,” who specialized in the form of the French opéra comique and helped transform it into a more serious form of early romantic opera. Born under the Ancien Régime in Rouen, Boieldieu received his musical education at the local Rouen Cathedral, first from the children’s choirmaster, Urbain Cordonnier, and then organ and piano from the organist Charles Broche. Even before he learned to read music, Boieldieu was taking part in church music performances, learning the music by ear. During the Reign of Terror, Rouen was one of the few towns to maintain a significant musical life and in 1793 a series of concerts was organized featuring the celebrated violinist Pierre Rode and the tenor Pierre-Jean Garat. In 1791, Boieldieu was appointed organist at the church of St. André in Rouen. It was during this time that Boieldieu composed his earliest works to texts written by his father, such as La fille coupable in 1793, followed by Rosalie et Mirza in 1795. They brought him immediate success. Before long he was also appearing as a pianist, including some of his own works in his programs.
During the Revolutionary period, Boieldieu left for Paris in the summer of 1796 and started work as a piano tuner. Opéra-comique, hybrid works close to classic opera but containing spoken dialogue. Was traditionally performed at the Salle Favart. In 1791, a company set up home in a new theatre, the Théâtre Feydeau, previously reserved for the opera buffa. Over the course of ten years, the Favart and the Feydeau companies were rivals. In 1797, Boieldieu offered the Feydeau La famille suisse and L’heureuse nouvelle. In 1798, he presented the Favart with Zoraime et Zulmare, which brought him extraordinary success. The spiritual heir of André Grétry, Boieldieu focused on melodies which avoided too much ornamentation, set to light but intelligent orchestration. He became professor of piano at the conservatory in 1798. In 1800, he scored a veritable triumph with Le calife de Bagdad. Although his reputation is largely based upon his operas, Boieldieu also composed other works. Among them was his Harp Concerto in C, written in 1800–1801 and one of the masterpieces of the harp repertory.In 1802 Boieldieu married dancer Clotilde Mafleurai. His next successful opera was Ma Tante Aurore in1803.
In 1804, following the breakdown of his marriage to the dancer Clotilde, Boieldieu set off for Saint Petersburg, Russia, to take up the post of court composer to the tsar and conductor of the Imperial Opera, where he stayed until 1810. There he composed nine operas, including Aline, reine de Golconde (1804) et Les voitures versées (1808). On his return to France he won back Parisian audiences with La jeune femme en colère (1811), Jean de Paris (1812), Le nouveau seigneur du village (1813) and a dozen other works. Three years later he was appointed court composer and accompanist. He also became professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire in 1817, a post he held until 1826, and succeeded Étienne Nicolas Méhul as one of the forty members of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. He received the Légion d’honneur in 1820. In the early 1820s, Boieldieu didn’t compose much due to ill health
In 1825 Boieldieu produced his masterpiece, La dame blanche, based on episodes from two novels by Walter Scott. The libretto by Eugène Scribe is built around the theme of the long lost child fortunately recognized at a moment of peril. It was a massive success both in France and internationally, and remained in the European repertoire for many decades. Boieldieu remained separated from Clotilde until her death in 1827, at which point he married the singer Jeanne Phillis-Bertin. Boieldieu’s next — and last — opera, Les deux nuits (1829), didn’t fare so well. Gradually the composer lost the ability to speak, no doubt due to consumptive laryngitis or cancer of the larynx. The bankruptcy of the Opéra-Comique and the revolution of 1830 added to his woes. As a result, he had financial problems, but eventually received a pension from the French government.
Unable to compose, Boieldieu turned to painting; some of his paintings still can be seen at the Rouen Museum. On September 25, 1834, he made his last public appearance at the premiere of Adolphe Adam’s Le chalet. In this way, he stylishly passed on the baton to his brilliant pupil. Boieldieu died in Varennes-Jarcy. Five days after his death, Boieldieu was given a state funeral. On November 13, 1834,his heart was interred in Rouen, in a tomb paid for by that city, while his body was interred in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. He was survived by a son Adrien Louis Victor who was also a composer. Boieldieu’s work illustrates the evolution of French operatic music in the generation following the French Revolution. In its lighter aspects, his style was compared to Gioacchino Rossini’s. His scenes of mystery and romance, particularly in La Dame blanche, are akin to those of Carl Maria von Weber. He also composed numerous romances for voice and harp or piano and several piano sonatas.
The following work by Boieldieu is contained in my collection:
Harp Concerto in Three Tempi (1800).
—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources