Saturday, May 27, 2017

Born Today May 27: Jacques Fromental Halévy (Not So Silent Edition)


French composer [Jacques] Fromental Halévy was born Jacques-Françoise-Fromental-Élie Halévy on this date in Paris.  His father was cantor, who served as secretary to the Jewish community Paris; his father was also a writer and teacher of Hebrew.  At the age 9 or 10, he entered Conservatoire de Paris; later he became a protege of Luigi Cherubini.  by 1819, he had won the Prix de Rome with an original cantata.  He was to travel to Rome after this, but his departure was delayed due to the untimely of his mother.  He did eventually accept his first commission there, and this brought him his first wide spread recognition.  Upon his return to France, he became the chorus master at the Theater Italien; in this capacity, he struggled to get an early opera of his performed.  After he was able to get the performance staged, the critics were quite harsh.  None the less, he was able to secure the job of chorus master at the Opera.  He also became a professor of harmony and accompaniment at the Convervatoire, where he was first schooled.  There, he had an impressive list of students (see link below).  The work that he is mostly remembered for today, La Juive, an opera that debuted in 1835.  It would become a favorite of both Mahler and Wagner, and was a favorite of Caruso to sing.  A year later he accepted a position at the Institut de France.  By two decades later, he was serving as a major promoter of the arts, rising to secretary of the Académie des Beaux-Arts.  It was noted that his health and mental capacity had begun to markedly decline by this time.  Whether he actually had some form of early on-set dementia cannot be known, but at least one acquaintance wrote a description of him in early 1855 that would point in that sad direction.  Halévy died in Nice on the 17th of March, 1862 at the age of 62.  His body was transported back to Paris for burial in the Montmartre Cemetery.  As far a films are concerned, two films in the late silent era featured his music.  Both of them were early Vitagraph sound shorts.  The first of these was Va prononcer la mort in 1927.  The next, also dating from 1927 has a doozy of a title:  Giovani Martinelli, Tenor, Assisted by Louis D'Angelo, Bass, of the Metropolitan Opera Company, in a Duet from Act IV of the Opera "La Juive".  The most recent use of his music came in 2005 in Nóe a made for television French film of his opera of the same name.  

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