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Francois Adrien Boieldieu: Francois Adrien Boieldieu (b. Rouen, 16 Dec 1775; d. Jarcy, 8 Oct 1834).
Francois Adrien Boieldieu's father was a clerk in the office of the Archbishop of Rouen's secretary, and his mother was a milliner. He studied music locally, with the organist of Rouen Cathedral who, though an excellent musician and a pupil of Martini, was also a somewhat violent drunkard. When Francois Adrien Boieldieu was eighteen, he composed an opera, La Fille coupable, to a libretto by his father, and it was performed at Rouen with some success. Two years later, he and his father collaborated on a second opera, again successfully, as a consequence of which the young composer made his way to Paris in order to further his career. There he met many of the leading composers of the day, among them Cherubini, and did not find it difficult to get commissions. His first opera to be staged in Paris was La famille Suisse which was favourably received at the Theatre Feydeau where it was given a run of thirty performances. Other operas followed, including the enormously successful Le Calif e de Bagdad which was produced at the Opera-Comique.
Though immediately popular with the audiences for whom they were written, Francois Adrien Boieldieu's early operas are not among his best, for they lack the style and individuality of his later work. The chamber music which he also composed in his first years in Paris was sufficiently liked for Francois Adrien Boieldieu to be appointed professor of pianoforte at the Conservatoire in 1798, but it was not until he began to study counterpoint with Cherubini that his work for the theatre came to exhibit signs of increasing maturity. In 1802 Francois Adrien Boieldieu married a dancer, but the marriage did not last, and the following year he accepted an appointment as conductor of the Imperial Opera in St Petersburg, though not before one of his most attractive operas, Ma Tante Aurore, had been staged with great success in Paris at the Theatre Feydeau.
Francois Adrien Boieldieu stayed in Russia for eight years, composing at least ten operas as well as a vast number of marches for the Tsar's military bands, and then returned to Paris to find that he had not been forgotten and that Paris audiences were keen to hear his new works. Jean de Paris was a riotous success in 1812, and it was followed by a number of stage works, most of them written in collaboration with other composers. In 1817, Francois Adrien Boieldieu became professor of composition at the Conservatoire. It was not until 1825 that he produced his finest opera, the charming and tuneful La Dame blanche which immediately proved to be his greatest success, and which is still today regarded as one of the masterpieces of French opera eomique. Scribe's libretto, put together from Sir Walter Scott's The Monastery and Guy Mannering, and Francois Adrien Boieldieu's amiable succession of melodies suit each other, and the composer's use of 'Robin Adair' and other Scottish tunes gives the work a unique quasi-Scottish flavour.
La Dame blanche proved to be its composer's last successful work for the stage. His final years were spent in ill-health, though a second marriage, happier than the first, helped to alleviate this and his financial worries. Of his operas, only La Dame blanche is performed with any frequency today, but it alone is sufficiently beguiling to keep Francois Adrien Boieldieu's name alive.
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