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Definition: Balfe, Michael William from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


English composer

Born in Dublin, Ireland, of English parents, he made his debut as a violinist at the age of eight, having begun to compose two years earlier. During a year in Italy (1825-26) under Rossini, he was inspired to become an opera singer, which he did with considerable success. In 1833 he went to England, and in 1846 was appointed conductor of the London Italian Opera. Of his numerous operas, operettas and other compositions, the most enduring success was The Bohemian Girl (1843).

Summary Article: Balfe, Michael William
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Irish composer and singer. He was a violinist and baritone at Drury Lane, London, when only 16. In 1825 he went to Italy, where he sang in Palermo and at La Scala, Milan, and in 1846 he was appointed conductor at Her Majesty's Theatre, London. His operas include The Bohemian Girl (1843).

Balfe was the son of a dancing master. On the death of his father in 1823, he was sent to London as a pupil of Charles Edward Horn (1786–1849). He studied composition with Karl Friedrich Horn and appeared as a singer in Weber's Der Freischütz at Norwich. In 1825 Count Mazzara became his patron and took him to Italy, where he introduced him to Luigi Cherubini. He then went to Paris, met Rossini, and in 1827 appeared as Figaro in his opera The Barber of Seville at the Théâtre Italien.

Three years later he sang at Palermo and produced his first opera there, I rivali di se stessi. At Milan he sang with the soprano Maria Malibran and at Bergamo he met the Hungarian singer Lina Rosa, whom he married. Early in 1833 he returned to London and appeared in concerts. His first English opera, The Siege of Rochelle, was produced at Drury Lane, London, in 1835 and the next year Malibran sang in The Maid of Artois. In 1842 he went to live in Paris for some years and worked there with great success, though in 1843 he returned for a time to produce The Bohemian Girl in London, for which he is most famous today. Triumphant visits to Berlin in 1849 and St Petersburg in 1852 followed, and in 1854 he produced Pittore e Duca at Trieste. That year he finally returned to England, having bought property in Hertfordshire, where he took to farming.

WorksOpera 29, among which are Un avvertimento ai gelosi (Pavia, 1830), The Siege of Rochelle (1835), The Maid of Artois, Joan of Arc (1837), Falstaff (1838), Le Puits d'amour, The Bohemian Girl (1843), Les Quatre Fils Aymon (Paris, 1844), The Bondman, The Maid of Honour, The Sicilian Bride, The Rose of Castile, Satanella (1858), The Armourer of Nantes (1863), Il Talismano.

Other operetta The Sleeping Queen; ballet La Pérouse; three cantatas, including Mazeppa; and many songs.

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