Messager, André (Charles Prosper)
Messager, André (Charles Prosper)
Messager, André (Charles Prosper), celebrated French composer and conductor; b. Montiuc.on, Allier, Dec. 30, 1853; d. Paris, Feb. 24, 1929. He studied at the École Niedermeyer in Paris with Gigout, Fauré, and Saint-SaëBns (composition), A. Lassel (piano), and C. Loret (organ). In 1874 he became organist at St.-Sulpice. He was active as a conductor at the Folies-Bergère, where he produced several ballets. After conducting Brussels’s Eden-Théâtre (1880), he returned to Paris as organist of St. Paul-St. Louis (1881) and as maître de chapelle at Ste. Marie-des-Baugnolles (1882-84). He subsequently was music director at the Opéra-Comique (1898–1903); also managed the Grand Opera Syndicate at London’s Covent Garden (1901–07). He was conduc tor of the Concerts Lamoureux (1905) and music director of the Paris Opera (1907–14); was also conductor of the Société des Concerts da Conservatoire from 1908 until 1919; under the auspices of the French government,he visited the U.S. with that orchv giving concerts in 50 Americancities (1918); also toured Argentina (1916). Returning to Paris, he again conducted at the Opera- Comique; led a season of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1924. As a conductor, Messager played an important role in Paris musical life; he conducted the premiere of Pelléas etMélisande (1902), the score of which Debussy dedicated to him. His initial steps as a composer were auspicious; his Sym. (1875) was awarded the gold medal of the Société des Compositeurs and performed at the Concerts Colonne (Jan. 20, 1878); his dramatic scene Don Juan et Haydée (1876) was awarded a gold medal by the Academy of St. Quentin. He wrote several other works for orch. (Impressions orientals, Suite funambulesque, etc.) and some chamber music, but he was primarily a man of the theater. His style may be described as enlightened eclecticism; his music was characteristically French, and more specifically Parisian, in its elegance and gaiety. He was honored in France; in 1926 he was elected to the Academie des Beaux Arts. He was married to Hope Temple (real name, Dotie Davis; 1858-1938), who was the author of numerous songs. His stage works (1st perf. in Paris unless otherwise given) included François les-Bas-Bleus (Nov. 8, 1883; score begun by F. Bernicat and completed after his death by Messager), La Fauvette du temple (Nov. 17, 1885), La Béarnaise (Dec. 12, 1885), Le Bourgeois de Calais (April 6, 1887), Isoine (Dec. 26, 1888), La Basoche (May 30, 1890; greatly acclaimed), Madame Chrysanthéme (Jan. 26, 1893; to a story similar to Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, produced 11 years later; but Puccini’s dramatic treatment eclipsed Messager’s lyric setting), Le Chavalier d’Harmental (May 5, 1896), Véronique (Dec. 10, 1898), Les Dragons de I’imperatrice (Feb. 13, 1905), Fortunio (June 5, 1907), Béatrice (Monte Carlo, March 21, 1914), and Monsieur Beaucaire (Birmingham, April 7, 1919). Other stage works were Le Mart de la Reine (Dec. 18, 1889), Mies Dollar (Jan. 22, 1893), La Fiancée en loterie (Feb. 15, 1896), Les Pities Michu (Nov. 18, 1897), La Petite Fonctionnaire (May 14, 1921), and Passionnément (Jan. 15, 1926). His ballets included Fleur d’oranger (1878), Les Vins de France (1879),Mignons et villains (1879), Les Deux Pigeons (1886), Scaramouche (1891), Amants éternels (1893), Le Chevalier aux fleurs (1897), Le Procès des roses (1897), and Une Aventure de la guimard (1900). He also wrote incidental music.
H. Février, A. M.: Man maître, mon ami (Paris, 1948); M. Augé-Laribé, A. M.: Musicien de théâtre (Paris, 1951); J. Wagstaff, A. M.: A Bio- Bibliography (N.Y., 1991).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire