François-Adrien Boieldieu – Ma Tante Aurore
(b. Rouen, 16 December 1775 – d. at his country estate Jarcy near Paris, 8 October 1834)
François-Adrien Boieldieu was one of the most celebrated French composers of the early 19th century. With the exception of La Dame Blanche, which still receives occasional performances, the majority of his output of c. 40 operas have however not withstood the test of time. Still in the repertoire are his Concerto for Harp and some of the operatic overtures. He was born in Rouen, on the River Seine in northern France, c. 135 km from Paris. Neither of his parents had a musical background, his father worked for the Church as a secretary and his mother owned a millinery shop. Francois-Adrien showed an unusual talent for music at an early age and received lessons from various musicians in the city. At age 16, he was appointed organist at the church of St. André in Rouen. As a teenager he also gave a number of concerts as a pianist which featured some of his own compositions. At age 17 his first opera, La fille coupable, was performed to acclaim in Rouen. This was followed by another success two years later with the opera Rosalie et Mirza. In 1796 Boieldieu moved to Paris where he found work as a piano tuner, at the same time continuing to compose. He had moderate successes with the operas La famille Suisse, L’heureuse nouvelle and Zoraime et Zulmare. After these initial successes, he had no problems having his operas staged in Paris. His first big triumph came in 1800 with the comic opera Le calife de Bagdad, which also became popular in other European lands. Its overture is an occasional concert item to this day. In 1804, he was offered and accepted a well-paid position in Saint Petersburg Russia, as court composer to Tsar Alexander I, staying there until 1811. He composed at an astonishing pace, completing and staging nine operas during his time in Saint Petersburg. Upon his return to France, he quickly composed a number of highly successful operas, including Jean de Paris, which reestablished his standing with Parisian audiences. Boieldieu was a highly esteemed musician at the time, eventually appointed as a professor of piano and later professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire. He became one of the forty members of the Académie des Beaux-Arts and received the Légion d’honneur in 1820. His most famous work, La Dame blanche, dates from 1825 and was one the most often performed operas in Paris in the entire 19th century. It still receives occasional stagings to this day.
Ma Tante Aurore is a playful comic opera with a libretto by Charles de Longchamps. It premiered at the Opera-Comique in 1803. The controlling aunt after whom the work was named is a colorful old woman who has been spurned in love and has become addicted to Gothic romances, all the rage in the Parisian literary world at the time. It is an excellent example of the early nineteenth century French opera comique style with its spoken dialogue, numerous literary allusions, singable, tuneful melodies and transparent musical textures.
The brief (5’30”) sparkling overture is in two parts with a slow introduction followed by a lively second part. It is scored for a classical size orchestra including normal strings with pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns. Elegance, restraint and melodic invention are its hallmarks.
Karl Hinterbichler, University of New Mexico, 2023
For performance material please contact Schott, Mainz.