the generous Jewish composer who made the mistake of helping Wagner – Telegraph Blogs

Meyerbeer surrounded by his most well-known creations

The greatest approach to respect Giacomo Meyerbeer, whose one hundred and fiftieth anniversary got here and handed earlier this month with no squeak of a church mouse, is to take heed to Rienzi, Tannhäuser, Die Meistersinger and Parsifal. Meyerbeer, one of the most carried out operatic composer of the nineteenth century and at one time astonishingly thought-about as necessary as Beethoven, was of course a A-listing composer whose greatest concepts have been improved and lived on in different composers’ works. He was Salieri to Wagner’s Mozart. And, of course, Jewish.

No different composer suffered a fall as precipitous as that of Meyerbeer (nicely, perhaps Salieri:by the way, Salieri taught Meyerbeer). For 5 many years he dominated European opera after which disappeared virtually utterly from view.

Meyerbeer’s Grand Operas current visible and musical spectacles. That means infinite set items inside a typical 5-act construction with obligatory ballet sequence. The music is bombastic, typically containing extra star elements in a single opera than Il trovatore and La traviata mixed. And they’re extraordinarily exhausting to sing, placing monumental calls for on the voice. Seasoned singers reminiscent of José van Dam learnt Les Huguenots, carried out it, and by no means returned to the work once more. For others like Dame Joan Sutherland and Samuel Ramey, Meyerbeer shaped half of their calling playing cards.

The rise of Richard Wagner and his bitter debunking of Meyerbeer, his one-time protector, is one other key think about the demise of his stage work.

When a penniless younger Wagner arrived in Paris, he sucked as much as the wealthy Jewish composer in the most embarrassing means, declaring himself his “slave”. Meyerbeer had saved him from hunger, he declared. According to Jessica Duchen, the failure of Tannhäuser‘s premiere in Paris led Wagner to activate all issues Parisian, together with Meyerbeer. By now Wagner had picked up trendy anti-Semitism and mixed it with staggering ingratitude – Meyerbeer, who had lent him cash and launched him to innumerable contacts, solely “had the look of helping”, he stated.

In 1850 Wagner wrote the notorious anti-Semitic pamphlet Das Judenthum in der Musik (Judaism in Music). His assault, he claimed, was written to “clarify to ourselves the involuntary repellence possessed for us by the nature and character of the Jews”, and accommodates toxic accusations towards his previous patron. “As a Jew, [Meyerbeer] owned no mom-tongue, no speech inextricably entwined amongst the sinews of his inmost being…” It will get worse.

This diatribe was one other nail in Meyerbeer’s coffin, culminating in the Nazi ban on his music many years later. It additionally raises the query: would Wagner have been such a vile racist if he hadn’t encountered the handy hate determine of the tremendous-rich Meyerbeer?

With attribute hypocrisy, Wagner was not above ransacking Meyerbeer’s concepts. It has lengthy been a joke, because of Hans von Bülow, that Rienzi was “Meyerbeer’s greatest opera”. In his e-book Wagner Beyond Good and Evil, John Deathridge factors out that Act II of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg would by no means have existed with out the mannequin of Act III of Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots. “Meistersinger is a grand opera – delivered as if Wagner is making an attempt to outdo Meyerbeer.”

Degas’s 1871 portray of the lifeless nuns ballet from Robert Le Diable

Perhaps the most blatant instance of Wagner outdoing Meyerbeer is in Parsifal. In Robert le diable, Meyerbeer triggered a sensation by having a ballet sequence by which zombie nuns rise from their graves to seduce Robert, Duke of Normandy. This dramatic concept is air-lifted virtually immediately into Act II of Parsifal, the place Klingsor’s magic flower maidens carry out a mesmerising dance of seduction round the hero.

If broader dramaturgical buildings influenced Wagner, the melodic conception in Verdi’s grand operas are strongly redolent of Meyerbeer’s. The fanfares of Les Huguenots might simply have come from Aida. There are affinities between Meyerbeer’s music for L’étoile du nord and Les vêpres siciliennes. Similarly, Inès’s romance “Adieu, mon doux rivage” in L’Africaine instantly knowledgeable Aida’s “O patria mia”, and the record goes on.

Berlioz was one other admirer of Meyerbeer’s music. Meyerbeer was a serious sponsor of the youthful composer (as he was with Wagner). Both Les Troyens and L’Africaine share a thematic idea, specifically the defence of the French Empire. It was a time when France was buying colonial energy in Algeria and Morocco, and the two operas each check with historic conquests in African territories (In Les Troyens that is manifested by means of Dido’s prophecy of a future African ruler, Hannibal, attacking Rome to avenge her wrongs).

Meyerbeer’s music continued to be tailored, transposed and reconstructed proper into the twentieth century. Frederick Ashton’s ballet Les Patineurs makes use of music from Meyerbeer, organized by Constant Lambert. But he by no means regained his place in his heyday – not by a great distance. None of his anniversaries, in 1891, 1914, 1964, 1991 and this yr noticed any commemoration actions (a video of L’Africaine from final November at La Fenice was briefly out there on Medici TV, however that’s about it).

In 1898, George Bernard Shaw, writing in The Perfect Wagnerite, commented that “these days younger individuals can’t perceive how anybody might have taken Meyerbeer’s affect critically”. I suppose it holds true to today. I do not discover he rewards prolonged listening, like Wagner. But sure excerpts (like the overture to L’étoile du nord above) are completely pleasant.

We mustn’t overlook, nevertheless, that Meyerbeer invented a style, grand opera, which has lived on via different composers. Even if we’re bored by his music, we should always acknowledge his monumental contribution to the stage and keep in mind his fairly disgusting remedy by anti-Semites. His legacy lives on – however not in the approach he meant 10:27 pm – Source: telegraph.co.uk
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