Home » Uncategorized » Aimé Maillart and his Les Dragons de Villars Overture

Aimé Maillart and his Les Dragons de Villars Overture


Louis-Aimé Maillart (March 24, 1817 – May 26, 1871) was a French composer, best known for his operas, particularly Les Dragons de Villars and Lara.  Maillart was born on Mar. 24, 1817, in Montpellier, Departement de l’Hérault, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.   He studied at the Paris Conservatory from 1833, learning composition from Aimé-Ambroise-Simon Leborne and Fromental Halévy, harmony from Antoine Elwart, and violin from Paul Guérin and Andre Gretry, and winning the Prix de Rome in 1841 for his cantata Lionel Foscara. He traveled to Italy for three years, before returning to France and composing six operas, all first performed in Paris.

Maillart’s early operas include Gastilbelza, l’homme à la carbine (1847) in three acts based on Hugo at the initiative of Adolphe Adam to open the National Theatre (later the Theatre Lyrique)., and the one-act Le moulin des Tilleuls (1849) at the Opéra-Comique.  Les dragons de Villars (1856), an opéra-comique in three acts, is the best known.  The libretto by Lockroy and Eugène Cormon was said to have been borrowed from La Petite Fadette by Georges Sand, updated by the librettists to the time of Louis XIV.  The piece was first offered to the director of the Opéra-Comique, Émile Perrin, who found the piece too dark. . It was next offered to one of the Seveste brothers at the Théâtre-Lyrique, who also rejected.  Finally, it was premiered at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris on September 19, 1856, was also popular in Germany (under the title Das Glöckchen des Eremiten), and received a performance in New York City.

The premiere of Les dragons de Villars was very successful.   The opera, which had notched up 153 performances at the Théâtre Lyrique by 1863, was to become popular throughout Europe, as well as being staged in New Orleans (1859) and New York (1868). It reached Mauritius in 1872.   Revived at the Opéra-Comique in 1868, it achieved 377 performances at that theatre.  He was awarded the Legion of Honor in 1860.  After Les pêcheurs de Catane (1860) came Maillart’s second most famous work, Lara (1864), based on a poem of the same name by Lord Byron.  Maillart retired from Paris in 1870 with the arrival of German troops, fell ill while fleeing the Siege of Paris, and died the following year on May 26, 1871, in Moulins, Departement de l’Allier in the Auvergne region of France at age 54. He is buried in Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.

Louis-Aimé Maillart is known for his talent for melody, and strength to inspire a wide audience beyond the French borders.   He left behind six operas, three cantatas and masses.   “Les Dragons de Villars” (1856) was for many years a warhorse of the Paris Opera repertory Mahler conducted the piece in Budapest in 1888, and Furtwängler conducted it in Strasbourg in 1910.  A production was also mounted at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin in Paris on June 3, 1935. The opera was in the repertory of the Opéra de la Monnaie in Brussels from 1942 to 1953. More recently, it was staged in 1986 in Montpellier. Its overture and the vocal numbers “Espoir charmant” and “Ne parle pas, Rose” are occasionally performed today.

The following work by Aime Maillart is contained in my collection:

Les Dragons de Villars: Overture.

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources


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