Halévy, Jacques (François) Fromental Élie

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HALÉVY, JACQUES (François ) FROMENTAL ÉLIE (1799–1862), French operatic composer. He was born in Paris, the son of Elie Halfon *Halévy. He entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of ten, studied composition with Cherubini, and won the Rome Prize in 1819 for his cantata "Herminie." He taught at the conservatory from 1816, becoming professor of counterpoint and fugue in 1833, and of composition in 1840. His students included Bizet (who later became his son-in-law) and Gounod. Halévy's fame rests primarily on his grand opera La Juive (1835), and his comic opera L'Eclair of the same year, achievements which he never equaled. He composed about 20 operas (among them Le Juif errant; 1852), five cantatas, and ballets. His writings include memoirs of his activity in the Académie des Beaux Arts, of which he became permanent secretary in 1854.

Halévy's operatic style was greatly influenced by Meyerbeer, especially in the dazzling orchestration that was much in favor at the time. In La Juive, a renaissance story of a prince in love with a Jewess (libretto by Scribe), he portrayed effective characters in situations of dramatic tension: Eleazar's aria "Rachel, quand du Seigneur" has remained one of the star items in the repertoire of dramatic tenors.

Halévy's attitude to Judaism seems to have been consciously neutral. In 1820 he composed a "Marche Funèbre et De Profundis" for three voices (text: Ps. 130 in Hebrew), for the memorial service to the Duc de Berry in the synagogue in the Rue Saint-Avoye, now Rue du Temple. His cantata "Noé" (Noah) was completed post-humously by Bizet. Richard Wagner wrote in praise of Halévy's works, and also arranged a potpourri for two violins from his La Reine de Chypre (1841).

Halévy's brother Léon (*Halévy family) wrote one of the first biographies of Halévy, F. Halévy, ses œuvres (1863).


mgg, s.v.; Grove, Dict., s.v.; M. Curtis, in: Musical Quarterly, 39 (1953); Sendrey, Music, index.

[Josef Tal]

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Halévy, Jacques (François) Fromental Élie

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