Music with Ease > 19th Century French Opera > Life of Auber
The Life of Daniel-François-Esprit Auber
It has been remarked that Thomas wrote his earlier operas under the influence of Auber and Halévy. Several of Aubers operas are still popular abroad, but only two, named above, have held the stage in this country. Auber was born in Normandy in 1782, the son of one of kings officers of the chase. He was sent to London to qualify for a commercial career, but returned more determined than ever to be a musician. He became a pupil of Cherubini, whom he ultimately succeeded as Director of the Paris Conservatoire, and to whom he owed his technical mastery of the art. His long, active career as a dramatic composer began when he was twenty, but he did not make any lasting impression until about thirteen years later. "Masaniello," produced in 1828, was his first grand opera, and it raised him to the heights of fame. It was the first of the three works which, in rapid succession, completely revolutionized the repertoire of the Paris Grand Opera, the other two being Rossinis "William Tell" (1829), and Meyerbeers "Robert le Diable" (1831). It was followed by a long series of works; but besides the elegant "Fra Diavolo," Aubers most popular opera at home and abroad, only "Le Domino Noir" need be mentioned. His last work, "Le Reve dAmour," was produced when he was eighty-eight.
Auber was a thorough Parisian. Not even the dangers of the Prussian siege would induce him to leave the beloved capital; and indeed his death, in May 1871, was partly caused by the horrors of the Commune. He was a notable wit, and hundreds of good stories are told of him. He had a fad of never being present at the performance of his own works. "If I assisted at one of my works, I should never write another note in my life," he said. Auber was the last great representative of opera comique. It is worth observing, perhaps, that he was one of the models chosen by the young Wagner about the time Wagner wrote "Die Feen" ("The Fairies").