Belgian-born French composer. He wrote about 40 operas, and was a leading figure in the development of opéras-comiques, which included spoken dialogue. He is best known through the arrangement of his Zémire et Azor (1771) made by the conductor Thomas Beecham.
Grétry was a chorister at the church of St Denis, Liège, and received his initial musical training from his father (a violinist) and local church musicians. By 1759 he had already composed some symphonies and church music, which won him a scholarship to study in Rome, Italy, where he remained until 1765, when he produced the intermezzo La vendemmiatrice. After a time in Geneva, Switzerland, he went to Paris, France, in 1767 to make his way as an opera composer. From 1768 he produced a continuous stream of opéras-comiques, the most popular being Richard Cœur-de-Lion (1784), an early example of a rescue opera. He was made an inspector of the Paris Conservatory on its foundation in 1795, and the same year became one of the original members of the Institut de France. He published his memoirs in three volumes 1789–97, and wrote other literary works.
WorksOpera-comiqueLa vendemmiatrice (1765), Isabelle et Gertrude, Le Huron (1768), Lucile, Le Tableau parlant (1769), Silvain, Les Deux Avares, L'Amitié à l'épreuve, Zémire et Azor (1771), L'Ami de la maison, Le Magnifique, La Rosière de Salency, La Fausse Magie (1775), Les Mariages samnites (several versions), Matroco (1777), Le Jugement de Midas, Les Fausses Apparences, ou L'Amant jaloux (1778), Les Événements imprévus, Aucassin et Nicolette (1779), Thalie au Nouveau Théâtre, Théodore et Paulin (later L'Épreuve villageoise), Richard Cœur-de-Lion (1784), Les Méprises par ressemblance, Le Comte d'Albert (1786), Le Prisonnier anglais (later Clarice et Belton), Le Rival confident, Raoul Barbebleue (1789), Pierre le Grand, Guillaume Tell (1791), Basile, Les Deux Couvents, Joseph Barra, Callias (1794), Lisbeth, Le Barbier du village, Elisca. Produced at the Paris Opéra: Céphale et Procris (1773), Les Trois Ages de l'opéra (1778), Andromaque, La Double Épreuve, ou Colinette à la cour, L'Embarras des richesses (1782), La Caravane du Caire, Panurge dans l'île des lanternes (after Rabelais, 1785), Amphitryon, Aspasie, Denys le Tyran, La Fête de la raison, Anacréon chez Polycrate (1797), Le Casque et les colombes (1801), Delphis et Mopsa, and others.
Grétry, André Ernest Modeste