Balfe, Michael William
Balfe, Michael William
Balfe, Michael William, notable Irish composer; b. Dublin, May 15, 1808; d. Rowney Abbey, Hertfordshire, Oct. 20, 1870. He was the son of a dancing master, and as a small child played the violin for his father’s dancing classes. He subsequently took violin lessons with O’Rourke. After his father’s death on Jan. 6, 1823, Balfe went to London, where he studied violin with Charles Edward Horn and composition with Carl Friedrich Horn. In 1824 he was engaged as a violinist at the Drury Lane Theatre; also sang in London and in the provinces. His patron, Count Mazzara, took him to Italy in 1825, where he took composition lessons with Federici in Milan and voice lessons with Filippo Galli and also produced his first ballet, La Perouse (1826). He met Rossini, who advised him to continue singing lessons with Bordogni; in 1828 he was engaged as principal baritone at the Italian Opera in Paris. In Italy he married the Hungarian vocalist Lina Rosa (b. 1808; d. London, June 8, 1888). Returning to England in 1833, he devoted himself to the management of opera houses and to composition. He was manager of the Lyceum Theatre during the 1841-42 season. He made London his principal residence, with occasional visits to Vienna (1846), Berlin (1848), St. Petersburg, and Trieste (1852–56). Apart from his administrative duties, he displayed great energy in composing operas, most of them to English librettos; of these, The Bohemian Girl, produced at the Drury Lane Theatre in London on Nov. 27, 1843, obtained an extraordinary success and became a perennial favorite on the English stage; it was also tr. into French, German, and Italian. In 1864 he retired to his country seat at Rowney Abbey. His daughter, Victoire, made her debut as a singer at the Lyceum Theatre in London in 1857.
DRAMATIC: Opera: 3 early operas in Italian, 7 rivali di se stessi (Palermo, 1829), Un avertimento ai gelosi (Pavia, 1830), and Enrico IV al Passo della Marna (Milan, Feb. 19, 1833); in French, L’Étoile de Séville (Paris Opéra, Dec. 17, 1845). The following operas were produced in English at Drury Lane and Covent Garden in London and other theaters: The Siege of Rochelle (Drury Lane, London, Oct. 29, 1835); The Maid of Artois (May 27, 1836); Catherine Grey (May 27, 1837); Joan of Arc (Nov. 30, 1837); Diadeste, or The Veiled Lady (May 17, 1838); Falstaff(in Italian, July 19, 1838); Këolanthe, or The Unearthly Bride (March 9, 1841); Le Puits d’amour (Opéra-Comique, Paris, April 20, 1843; in Eng. as Géraldine, Princess’s Theatre, London, Aug. 14, 1843); The Bohemian Girl (Drury Lane Theatre, London, Nov. 27, 1843); Les Quatre Fils Aymon (Opéra-Comique, Paris, July 9, 1844; in Eng. as The Castle of Aymon, Princess’s Theatre, London, Nov. 20, 1844); The Daughter of St. Mark (Nov. 27, 1844); The Enchantress (May 14, 1845); The Bondman (Dec. 11, 1846); The Maid of Honour (Dec. 20, 1847); The Sicilian Bride (March 6, 1852); The Devil’s in It (July 26, 1852); Moro, the Painter of Antwerp (Jan. 28, 1882; orig. produced as Pittore e duca, Trieste, Nov. 21, 1854); The Rose of Castille (Oct. 29, 1857); Satanella, or The Power of Love (Dec. 20, 1858); Bianca, or The Bravo’s Bride (Dec. 6, 1860); The Puritan’s Daughter (Nov. 30, 1861); Blanche de Nevers (Nov. 21, 1863); The Armourer of Nantes (Feb. 12, 1863); The Sleeping Queen, operetta (Aug. 31, 1864); The Knight of the Leopard (Liverpool, Jan. 15, 1891; orig. produced in London as II talismano, June 11, 1874). vocal Mazeppa, a cantata, and 2 other cantatas; ballads; glees; songs.
W.A. Barrett, B.: His Life and Work (London, 1882); G. Biddlecombe, English Opera From 1834 to 1864 With Particular Reference to the Works of M. B. (N.Y., 1994).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire