Adolphe Adam, Master of the Opéra-Comique, 1824-1856
The composer Adolphe-Charles Adam (1803-1856) is known all over the world for the famous Christmas anthem ‘Minuit chrétiens’ (‘O Holy Night’). However, he wrote much more than just this. His ballet Giselle (1841) is the quintessence of mystical Romanticism and one of the most enduring works of the dance repertoire. Adam composed a series of ballets, principally for the Paris Opéra, establishing this genre as a serious and integral musical form. His last work was Le Corsaire (1856) which reaches sublime heights. However, Adam was just as famous as a composer for the lyric stage. With Boieldieu, Hérold and Auber, he forms one of the quartet of masters that represent the second school of that profoundly French genre of the opera-comique. The charming and elegant Le Chalet (1834) received over 1500 performances in Paris, and the exuberant and adorable Le Postillon de Lonjumeau (1836) is still played on stages throughout the world.
This study considers this gentle, unassuming composer’s life and work, examining his 42 operas and 14 ballets in the context of the vibrant musical scene in Paris during the decades 1820-1860.
Robert Ignatius Letellier was educated in Grahamstown, Cambridge, Salzburg, Rome and Jerusalem. He is a member of Trinity College, Cambridge, the Salzburg Centre for Research in the Early English Novel, the Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, and the Institute for Continuing Education at Madingley Hall, Cambridge. His publications number over 100 items, including books and articles on the early English novel, the Gothic novel, Sir Walter Scott, the Bible, and European culture. He has specialized in the Romantic opera, especially the work of Giacomo Meyerbeer and Fromental Halévy, the opéra-comique and Daniel-François-Esprit Auber, the Operetta, the Romantic Ballet, and Ludwig Minkus.
Nicholas Lester Fuller is a journalist and studied Literature and History at the Australian National University and Sydney University. He has a specialist engagement with French opera of the 19th century, and has written articles on Massenet, Meyerbeer, Gounod, Reyer, and Hérold for MusicWeb International. He has also reviewed for Limelight, the Australian classical music magazine.
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