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Giacomo Meyerbeer

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Biography

A member of a German-Jewish wealthy merchant family in Berlin, Meyerbeer waa a noted composer of opera who brought great innovations to the stage and also affected the concept of `grand' in Grand Opera. He studied composition wih Zelter, Weber and Vogler and participated in a study tour of Italy where he became known foremost as a pianist. While in Italy, however, he had the opportunity to meet with a number of librettists and singers. During this tour he wrote six operas including "Il crociato in Egitto" which gained him repute comparble to Rossini. For the rest of his life, from approximately 1825, Meyerbeer resided predominanly in Paris though he also lived a somewhat peripatetic existence. His operas were all produced in major Europan cities and he was constantly auditioning new singers. During the mid-nineteenth century, Meyerbeer was unquestionably the most active operatic composer collaborating with the librettist Scribe. Together they produced "Les Huguenots," "Le prophete," and "L'africaine." Characteristically Meyerbeer's music called for huge choruses and crowd scenes which added volumes to the sound emitted from the stage. He had a keen awareness of the abilities and sensitivities of different singers and composed parts accordingly. Meyerbeer's sense of the grandiose was also demonstrated in difficult and extensive solo passages and his melodic passages, particularly in ballet scenes, demonstrated his holistic appraoch to the operatic medium. With a penache for the horrific and a penchant for historical accuracy, the operas of Meyerbeer were full productions and conceptually consistent with the addage that opera is the most complete form of artistic expression. ~ Keith Johnson

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