The praise given to his concerto for the violin, which was played at the Paris Conservatoire by Mazas, encouraged him to undertake a resetting of an old comic opera, Julie (1811). He also began to study with the renowned Luigi Cherubini. In 1813 the unfavourable reception of his one-act debut opera Le séjour militaire put an end for some years to his attempts as composer. But his failure in business, and the death of his father in 1819, compelled him once more to turn to music. He produced another opera, Le testament et les billets-doux (1819), which was no better received than the former.
But he persevered, and the next year was rewarded by the complete success of La bergère châtelaine, an opera in three acts. This was the first in a long series of brilliant successes. In 1822 began his long association with librettist Eugène Scribe. Their first opera, Leicester, shows evidences of the influence of Gioacchino Rossini in its musical style. Auber soon developed his own voice, however: light, vivacious, graceful, and melodious--characteristically French.
Le maçon (1825) was his first major triumph, staying in the repertory until the 20th century, with 525 performances at the Opéra-Comique alone. Auber achieved another triumph in La muette de Portici, also known as Masaniello after its hero. Produced in Paris in 1828, it rapidly became a European favorite. The duet Amour sacré de la patrie (meaning "Sacred Love of the Homeland") was welcomed like a new Marseillaise; its performance at Brussels on 25 August 1830, in which Adolphe Nourrit sang the leading tenor role, engendered a riot that became the signal for the Belgian Revolution that drove out the Dutch. Official and other dignities testified to the public appreciation of Auber's works. In 1829 he was elected a member of the Institute.
Fra Diavolo,which premiered on 28 January 1830, was his most successful opera. That same year, 1830, he was named director of the court concerts. Next year, on 20 June, 1831, he had another big success, with Le philtre,starring the great tenor, Adolphe Nourrit. The libretto was translated into Italian and set by Donizetti as L'elisir d'amore, one of the most successful comic operas of all time. Two years later, on 27 February 1833, Gustave III, his second grand opera, also triumphed and stayed in the repertory for years.
The libretto was to be used twice more, first by Saverio Mercadante for Il reggente, with the action transferred to Scotland, and, next by Giuseppe Verdi, as Un ballo in maschera. He enjoyed several more successes, all at the Opéra-Comique. These were Le cheval de bronze (1835), L'ambassadrice (1836), Le domino noir (1837), Les diamants de la couronne (1841) and La part du diable (1843). In the meantime, in 1842, at the wish of King Louis Philippe, he succeeded Cherubini as director of the Conservatoire. Auber was also a member of the Legion of Honour from 1825, and attained the rank of commander in 1847.
That year also saw the premiere of Haydée, another opéra comique, even though it was on a serious subject. The tenor lead in Haydée was sung by the same Gustave Roger who, two years later, created the title role in Meyerbeer's Le prophète at the Opéra. Napoleon III made Auber his Imperial Maître de Chapelle in 1857. In his later years, Auber's output slowed down considerably. The 1850s were marked by Manon Lescaut, an opéra comique with a tragic end (1856), and revisions of Le cheval de bronze and Fra Diavolo (both 1857).
He had one major success in the 1860s: Le Premier jour de bonheur (Opéra comique, 1868). Despite his slowdown in composing, he remained a well-loved figure, known for witty sayings and personal generosity. He survived the German siege of Paris in 1870-71, but died during the upheaval of the Paris Commune on 13 May 1871. Today, the Rue Auber leads up to the Paris Opera House. and the nearest RER station is called Auber, in his honor.
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