Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > Life of Boieldieu
The Life of François Adrien Boieldieu
François Adrien Boieldieu was born at Rouen in 1775. His father was secretary to the Archbishop, and the boy joined the cathedral choir. His mother, a milliner, had been divorced, and the father remarried. The home was unhappy, and Boieldieu went to live with the cathedral organist, who alternately gave him lessons and whacked him. On one occasion he ran way, and had to be brought back from Paris. Two little operas which he produced in Rouen, before he was twenty, were so well received that he was encouraged to try his luck in the capital.
His first fortunate venture was the once-popular "Califè de Bagdad." After one of the successful performances of this opera, Cherubini accosted the elated composer in the lobby of the theatre with the words: "Malheureux! are you not ashamed of such underserved fortune?" The idea was that Boieldieu had not yet mastered the technique of his profession. He took the hint, and underwent a severe course with Cherubini himself. After an interval of twelve years he produced one of his best works, though now seldom heard -- "Jean de Paris," which had a brilliant success. Then, in 1825, came "La Dame Blanche," the best of all his productions. He wrote only one opera after this, but it was diffidently received, and he laid aside his pen for ever.
Boieldieu had a somewhat unhappy career. He married a dancer in 1802, and, partly at least, to escape the domestic misery which resulted, fled next year to St. Petersburg, where he remained till 1810. In 1817 he was made professor of composition at the Conservatoire. From this position he retired in 1829 with a good pension, which was, however, reduced next year. Subsequently, his finances being unsatisfactory, he was reinstated at the Conservatoire by his own desire, but he died soon afterwards (1834) from consumption. The troubles of his later years were softened by his second wife, by whom he had a son, Adrien, not without a modest fame as a composer.