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Adolphe Adam: Adolphe Adam, in full Adolphe-Charles Adam, (born July 24, 1803, Paris, France—died May 3, 1856, Paris), French composer whose music for the ballet Giselle (1841) is noted for its easy grace and cogency. It has retained its popularity with dancers and audiences to the present day.
Adolphe Adam wrote more than 70 operas, of which the most popular in their day were Le Châlet (1834), Le Postillon de Longjumeau (1836), and Giralda (1850). In his ballets — which he composed for production in London, Berlin, and St. Petersburg, as well as Paris — he skillfully coordinated the music with choreographic demands. His works were successful during the mid-19th century, but few, other than Giselle, are regularly revived.
Although his father, Louis Adam, was a pianist, teacher and composer of some importance in Paris, Adolphe Adam was discouraged from taking up music himself as a profession. His father sent him to an ordinary school and refused to allow him musical instruction, which the lad, however, acquired secretly. When he was fourteen, his father relented to the extent that the boy was allowed to enter the Paris Conservatoire, but only after Adolphe Adam had solemnly sworn that he would never compose music for the theatre!
The first instrument which the young musician mastered was the organ, which was soon followed by the harmonium on which he used to improvise and compose tunes. One of his teachers was the composer BoTeldieu, master of the opera comique, who took a particular interest in his young pupil. Adolphe Adam was later to acknowledge that most of what he knew of composition came from Bo'ieldieu. It was certainly Bo'ieldieu who led him away from his solemn promise to his father, towards the attractions of the theatre and opera comique. When BoTeldieu's La Dame blanche was being prepared for performance in 1825, he allowed his twenty-two-year-old pupil to compose the overture, or rather to construct it from Bo'ieldieu's themes.
Opera in 1844 were failures, but his reputation in comic opera is secure, though apart from Le Postilion de Longjumeau few of them are encountered on the stage today. Adolphe Adam also composed a number of ballet scores, not only for Paris but also for Berlin, St Petersburg and London. One of these, Giselle, produced at the Paris Opera in 1841, is still immensely popular with ballet audiences today.
Adolphe Adam was generous in his encouragement of younger composers. In 1847 he founded the Theatre National, to produce new works by young composers. The 1848 revolution put an end to this enterprise, in which Adolphe Adam lost all his savings, and incurred debts which were to cripple him for the remainder of his life. In 1849 he became a professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire. His death in 1856 was sudden.
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