Andre Ernest Modeste Gretry

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Composer of light opera and sacred works; b. Liège, Belgium, Feb. 8, 1741; d. Montmorency (near Paris), Sept. 24, 1813. His father, a Walloon, was a church violinist, and Grétry was trained as a choirboy at Saint-Denis. At 12 he qualified for more specialized study and was drawn first to instrumental and church compositions, producing six symphonies from 1758 and, c. 1759, a solemn Mass. Through the influence of Henri Moreau, Grétry was sent to Liège College in Rome (176066). There he composed motets, De Profundis ; a string quartet, and a flute concerto, among other works. In 1765 he composed his first light opera. He determined then that his career lay in light opera, and by 1767 he was in Paris. Though he found his forte late, he had assessed himself well: no contrapuntist, he had vocal, melodic gifts that carried excellently to the theater. He contributed over 60 works to the repertory of the Opéra-Comique, and achieved the success associated with popular theater. Best known of his dramatic pieces are Le Tableau parlant (1769), Zémire et Azor (1771), L'Amant jaloux (1778), and Richard Coeurde-Lion (his masterpiece; 1784). Grétry was a diarist of merit, and his observations on the effects of music on the human pulse comprise an early example of experimentation now bearing fruit in music therapy.

Bibliography: Music. Collection complète, 49 v. (Leipzig-Brussels 18831937). Literary works. Oeuvres complètes, ed. l. solvay and e. closson, 4 v. (Brussels 191922). o. strunk, ed. Source Readings in Music History (New York 1950) 711727, from the Mémoires. s. clercx, Grétry (Brussels 1944). g. chouquet, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom 9v. (5th ed. London 1954) 3:792797. d. j. grout, A Short History of Opera, 2 v. (2d, rev. and enl. ed. New York 1965). j. bellman, "Aus alten Märchen : The Chivalric Style of Schumann and Brahms," The Journal of Musicology 13 (1995) 125126. d. charlton, Grétry and the Growth of the Opéra Comique (Cambridge 1986). y. lenoir, ed., Documents Grétry dans les collections de la Bibliothèque Royale Albert I (Brussels 1989). l. m. stones, "André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry" in International Dictionary of Opera 2 v., ed. c. s. larue (Detroit 1993) 553556; "Zémire et Azor " in International Dictionary of Opera 2 v., ed. c. s. larue (Detroit 1993) 14791480. p. vendrix, ed., Grétry et l'Europe de l'Opéra-Comique (Brussels 1992).

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Grétry, André Ernest Modeste (b Liège, 1741; d Montmorency, Paris, 1813). Belg. (later Fr.) composer. Comp. mass for 4 vv. 1759, thereby winning patronage enabling study in Rome 1761–5. His intermezzo La Vendemmiatrice was successfully prod. 1765. Visited Geneva, where he met Voltaire, and returned to Paris 1767. In Paris his opéras-comiques, from Le Tableau parlant, 1769, quickly found favour. During the next 35 years he wrote some 50 operas, of which the best were Zémire et Azor (1771), L'Amant jaloux (1778), L'Épreuve villageoise (1784), La Caravane du Caire (1783) and Panurge dans l'île des lanternes (1785). His finest work is said to be his most serious opera, Richard Cœur de Lion (1784). Also comp. requiem, motets, str. qts., 6 pf. sonatas, fl. conc., and songs. His melodic gift was immense, but his lack of mastery of harmony and counterpoint was a permanent defect. Wrote several treatises. Standard edn. of his works in 42 vols. financed by Belg. Govt. from 1883.