Giaccomo Meyerbeer

German Born 05 Sep 1791 Died 02 May 1864

Born Jakob Liebmann Beer in Vogelsdorf, Germany, he was later to take the first name Giacomo in order to sound more like an Italian opera composer.  The surname was a compound with his orginal.  He studied with the Abbe Vogler at Darmstadt, alongside Carl Maria von Weber, from 1810 until 1812.  In 1811 his oratorio Gott und die Natur was performed in Berlin, and his subsequent operatic composition was guided by Salieri, who encouraged a lyrical Italian influence to counter Meyerbeer's Germanic counterpoint.

In 1815 he moved to Venice, where he continued to compose while his fame, and productions of his works, spread throughout Europe.  A productive association was formed with librettist Eugene Scribe, beginning with Robert le Diable (1827).  The award of the French Legion d'Honneur and his election to the French Institute in 1834 convinced him to move to Paris, where he was to complete his greatest work, Les Hugenots (1836).  The performance of this opera in Berlin in 1842 led to an invitation to the post of Generalmusikdirektor from King Wilhelm IV, which Meyerbeer gladly accepted.

Lamentably, Meyerbeer was not well liked by his fellow composers.  Rossini was jealous of his success on the stages of Paris, and despite the aid he gave to Wagner (both financially and as a conductor of his works), Meyerbeer's Jewish faith, and nature of his work, were targets for Wagner's anti-Semetic diatribes.

Meyerbeer's final years were occupied with revising his opera L'Africaine.  Scribe's death in 1861 was a severe blow, but Meyerbeer persevered and oversaw the rehearsals for the premiere in 1864.  However, a sudden death prevented him from seeing the first performance.

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