Giacomo Meyerbeer

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Meyerbeer, Giacomo

(jä`kōmō mī`yərbĕr), 1791–1864, German operatic composer. He traveled in Italy and experimented in various styles of composition, but his real success came only with his spectacular French grand operas—Robert le Diable (1831) and his masterpiece, Les Huguenots (1836), a tragic study of religious violence that was long popular with audiences. For these and two other grand operas, Le Prophète (1849) and L'Africaine (1865), ScribeScribe, Augustin Eugène
, 1791–1861, French dramatist and librettist. He began his prolific and highly successful writing career with vaudeville sketches. One of the first playwrights to mirror bourgeois morality and life, he infused 19th-century French opera and
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 was the librettist. Two opéras comiques are noteworthy, L'Étoile du nord (1854) and Dinorah (1859). He calculated the taste of his public with tremendous success and was much imitated, notably by WagnerWagner, Richard
, 1813–83, German composer, b. Leipzig. Life and Work

Wagner was reared in a theatrical family, had a classical education, and began composing at 17.
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 in Rienzi. Later Wagner condemned Meyerbeer in anti-Semitic screeds.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Meyerbeer, Giacomo


(pseudonym of Jakob Liebmann Meyer Beer). Born Sept. 5, 1791, in Tasdorf, near Berlin; died May 2, 1864, in Paris. Composer. Son of a Jewish banker.

Meyerbeer studied music under M. Clementi (piano) and C. F. Zelter and under G. J. Vogler, who directed his interest to opera. From 1816–1824, Meyerbeer lived in Italy, where he mastered the operatic style and composed several operas, the most successful of which was The Crusader (produced in 1824 in Venice and in 1825 in Paris). He was appointed general music director in Berlin in 1842.

Meyerbeer’s originality as a composer became evident in the early 1830’s. His artistic development was influenced by various schools, including the German and the Italian. He created the heroic romantic grand opera style. Even his early compositions revealed his penchant for heroic themes and images and broad conceptualization. He wrote his best works, including the opera Robert the Devil (1831, Paris), in the 1830’s and 1840’s for the Paris Opera. The libretti were by E. Scribe. In the opera The Huguenots (1836, Paris; in Russian, The Guelphs and the Ghibellines), his conception of opera was most fully and most perfectly embodied. But some of the shortcomings of his operatic style were revealed in The Prophet (1849, Paris; known in Russian as The Siege of Ghent and later, as John of Leiden), and The African Woman (1865, staged posthumously) gave evidence of the growing crisis in his creative work.

The fundamental characteristics of his operatic style are an intensely developed plot that is effective on stage, striking heroic characters, colorful crowd scenes, psychological and visual contrasts, and a desire to impart social significance to drama. The development of the whole is subordinated to a precise musical dramaturgical line, with the grand finale and the culmination of each act clearly separated. He greatly influenced 19th-century opera. Eventually, however, there was a reaction against “Meyerbeerism” and its superficiality—a reaction that, at times, detracted from authenticity and natural emotions. His comic operas The North Star (1854, Paris) and The Pardon of Ploermel (Dinorah; 1859, Paris) are considered less significant than his other operas. Meyerbeer also composed cantatas, choral and orchestral works, piano pieces, art songs, and music for the theater, including music for the drama Struensee by M. Beer, his brother.


Kremlev, IU. A. Dzhakomo Meierber. [Leningrad] 1936.
Sollertinskii, I. I. Dzhakomo Meierber, 2nd Moscow, 1962.
Khokhlovkina, A. A. Zapadnoevropeiskaia opera. Moscow, 1962. Pages 350–65.
Curzon, P. H. de. Meyerbeer. Paris [1910].
Becker, H. Der Fall Heine-Meyerbeer. Berlin, 1958.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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