Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > Life of Halévy
The Life of Jacques François Halévy
Jacques François Halévy, who has been coupled with Auber, was born in Paris in 1799, and died at Nice in 1862. He was a Jew, his real name being Levi. He, too, was a pupil of Cherubini and the Conservatoire. Also, like Gounod and Thomas, he won the Prix de Rome, which takes the holder for three years to Italy. He became a prolific writer for the stage, and distinguished himself as a professor at the Conservatoire. His operas, from the first in 1827 to the unfinished "Vanina dOrnano," completed by Bizet, make a very long list in the musical dictionaries, and show a wonderful versatility of style.
But not one met with a reception at all to be compared with "La Juive" ("The Jewess"), produced at the Grand Opera, Paris, on February 23, 1835. This is his chef-doeuvre, and by it the esteem in which he was held as a composer was immeasurably increased. Gounod and Bizet (who married his daughter, Geneviève) were among his many renowned pupils.
With Cherubini, the ruler of the operatic stage in Paris, he maintained his friendship to the last, though it was often rudely put to the proof. The late Sir Charles Hallé tells how Cherubini once went to see the production of one of Halévys operas from the composers box. He kept complete silence there till, after the second Act, Halévy asked: "Maestro, have you nothing to say to me?" To which Cherubini snarled back: "I have been listening to you for two hours, and you have said nothing to me."