Charles Louis Ambroise Thomas
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Thomas, Charles Louis Ambroise
Born Aug. 5, 1811, in Metz; died Feb. 12,1896, in Paris. French composer. Member of the Institut de France (1851).
The son of a music teacher, Thomas graduated in 1832 from the Paris Conservatory, where he studied piano with F. W. Kalkbrenner and composition with J. F. Lesueur. He made his debut as a composer of operas in 1837 with La Double Echelle (based on a play by E. Scribe). Thomas is known for his lyric operas, a genre he helped create. These include Mignon, based on Goethe’s novel Wilhelm Master’s Apprenticeship (1866; Paris, Opera Comique), and Hamlet, based on Shakespeare’s play (1868; Paris, Opera). Thomas’ lyric operas exhibit both the merits and the defects of the genre, in which the emphasis on melody, elegance, and theatrical effect impoverishes the social and philosophical content of the literary sources used. Thomas’ other works include two operas comiques—Le Caid (1849) and Le Songe d’une nuit d’été (1850; based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream)—and the ballet La Tempéte (1889; based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest).
Thomas taught at the Paris Conservatory, where he became a professor in 1852 and served as director from 1871 to 1893. J. Massenet was among his students.