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Summary Article: Meyerbeer, Giacomo
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

German composer. His spectacular operas include Robert le Diable (1831) and Les Huguenots (1836). From 1826 he lived mainly in Paris, returning to Berlin after 1842 as musical director of the Royal Opera.

His father Herz Beer, a banker, gave him every facility to develop his precocious gifts. He was at first trained as a pianist and had some lessons from Clementi during the latter's stay in Berlin. He played in public at the age of seven, but afterwards studied theory and composition under Carl Zelter, Bernhard Weber, and Georg Vogler, and in 1810 moved to the latter's house at Darmstadt, where he was a fellow student with Carl Maria von Weber. His first opera was produced at Munich in 1812 and the second at Stuttgart in 1813. He then went to Vienna and, hearing Hummel play, he retired for further piano studies, after which he appeared again as a virtuoso.

On Salieri's advice he went to Italy in 1815 to study vocal writing, and produced his first Italian opera at Padua in 1817. In 1823 he tried his luck in Berlin, but without much success, and having produced Il crociato at Venice in 1824, went to Paris for its first performance there in 1826. He settled and spent much time there for the rest of his life. He wrote no new work between 1824 and 1831, among the reasons being his father's death, his marriage, and the loss of two children. In 1831 Robert le Diable made him sensationally fashionable in Paris. This opera, followed by Les Huguenots and Le Prophète established Meyerbeer as a master of the French grand opera, with ingredients including strong local colour, a sure sense of history, novel instrumental effects, and extended ballets. In 1842 the King of Prussia appointed him general music director in Berlin. He visited Vienna and London in 1847 and the latter again in 1862, when he represented German music at the Great Exhibition. His health began to fail about 1850, and one of his most evocative operas, L'Africaine, was left uncompleted at his death.

WorksOperaJephthas Gelübde (1812), Alimelek, oder Die beiden Kalifen, Romilda e Costanza (1817), Semiramide riconosciuta (1819), Emma di Resburgo (1819), Margherita d'Anjou (1820), L'esule di Granata, Das Brandenburger Tor, Il crociato in Egitto (1824), Robert le Diable (1831), Les Huguenots (1836), Ein Feldlager in Schlesin (1844), Le Prophète (1849), L'Etoile du Nord (1854), Le Pardon de Ploërmel (Dinorah), L'Africaine (1865), Judith (unfinished).

Other monodrama Thevelindens Liebe; incidental music to Michael Beer's (his brother's) drama Struensee, Blaze de Bury's Jeunesse de Goethe, and Aeschylus' Eumenides; masque Das Hoffest von Ferrara; ballet Der Fischer und das Milchmädchen (1810); oratorio Gott und die Natur (1811); Stabat Mater, Te Deum, psalms, and other church music; several cantatas, including two for the Schiller centenary, 1859, seven sacred cantatas (Klopstock) for unaccompanied chorus; March for ditto, three Torch Dances, Coronation March, Overture in the Form of a March for the London Exhibition; piano works; songs.

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