Henri Tomasi's reputation as a composer was founded on the success of two of his operas, L'Atlantide and Miguel Manara. Miguel Manara, also called Don Juan de Manara, is the tale of a mystical Don Juan who renounces the sins of the flesh, and is based on the work of a Lithuanian poet, Oscar Vladislav de Lubicz Milosz. Written between 1941 and 1944, it was first performed in Munich at the Prinzregenten on 29 March 1956.
A prolific composer best known for his opera and ballet, Tomasi was also a successful conductor. Along with Prokofiev, Poulenc, Honegger and Milhaud, he founded the contemporary music group 'Triton' in the 1930s and, though influenced by his French contemporaries, always maintained an individual compositional voice.
Tomasi was born in Marseilles on 17 August 1901 of Corsican descent. After studying under Gaubert at the Paris Conservatoire, he won the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1927, but it was two of his operas, L'Atlantide and Miguel Mañara, that established his reputation.
After World War II, Tomasi's works reflect the darker side of mankind, with L'éloge de la folie in particular introducing the spectre of Nazism to the theatre. In 1952 he won the Grand Prix de la Musique Française and he continued to conduct at opera houses throughout the world until his death in 1971.
Although Tomasi's operas are his best-known works, he also composed many orchestral pieces, including a number of important concertos. His music can be dissonant but is always intensely expressive and often colourful.