William Vincent Wallace
William Vincent Wallace
At the age of 18 he was organist of the Thurles Roman Catholic Cathedral and taught piano at the Ursuline Convent. He fell in love with a pupil, Isabella Kelly, whose father consented to their marriage in 1831 on condition that Wallace become a Roman Catholic and take the name of Vincent. Restless and adventurous as a young man, Wallace, with his wife and infant son, his sister Elizabeth, a soprano, and his brother Wellington, a flautist, emigrated in 1835 to Australia and gave family concerts. The family went to Sydney in 1836, and opened the first Australian music school. Elizabeth, a very accomplished pianist, married a well-known Australian singer, John Bushelle, with whom she gave many recitals.
Wallace also imported pianos and gave recitals in Australia under the patronage of General Sir Richard Bourke. Having separated from his wife, he began a roving career. Wallace claimed that from Australia he went to New Zealand on a whaling-voyage in the South seas, visited most of the interior provinces of India and spent some time in tiger-hunting, and finally visited Chile, Peru and Argentina, giving concerts in the large cities of those countries. In 1841, Wallace conducted Italian opera in Mexico, and in the early 1840s he made a successful tour of the United States, and helped to found the New York Philharmonic Society. He returned to London in 1845 and made various appearances as a pianist.
In November of that year, his opera Maritana was performed at Drury Lane with great success, and was later presented in Vienna, at Covent Garden and in Australia. Wallace's sister, Elisabeth, appeared at Covent Garden in the title role in 1848. Maritana was followed by Matilda of Hungary (1847), Lurline (1860), The Amber Witch (1861), Love's Triumph (1862) and The Desert Flower (1863) (based on the libretto of Halévy's Jaguarita l'Indienne). He also published a number of compositions for the piano.
Vincent Wallace was a cultivated man and an accomplished musician, whose work as an operatic composer, at a period by no means encouraging to music in England, has a distinct historical value. Like Michael William Balfe, he was born an Irishman, and his reputation as one of the few composers known beyond the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at that time is naturally coupled with Balfe's. In 1850, Wallace became an American citizen after a marriage in New York with Helen Stoepel, a pianist, and sister of composer Robert Stoepel. In later years he became almost blind, and he died in poor circumstances at the Château de Bagen, Sauveterre de Comminges, near Barbazon, Haute Garonne, France, (the Pyrennes mountains) on 12 October 1865 leaving a widow and two children; he was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London. Read more on Last.fm.
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