François-Auguste Gevaert – Quentin Durward, opéra-comique en 3 actes (1858)
(Huise, 31 July 1828 – Brussels, 24 December 1908)
In the nineteenth century performing musicians and composers, budding talents as well as established names, came from all over Europe to Paris, at that time the ‘capitale de la musique’. They were looking for recognition from the public and the critics, and also tried their luck for sure. ‘Everyone talks about music, everyone is engaged in this art, loves and cherishes it. It is more than a taste, more than a fashion, it is a necessity.’ These are the words of A.L. Maillot in 1863 about the impact of the Parisian music culture. And he also pointed out the hierarchy in the musical genres: the opera in particular was very popular and consequently held in highest esteem. There was a great box-office potential, drawing a public hungry for opera.
According to François-Joseph Fétis the interest in opera was far bigger in Paris than for example in Belgium: ‘For the inhabitants of Paris a new opera is an event everybody is interested in; in Belgium the indifference towards something that has not been in vogue elsewhere is invincible. The operas of Grisar, Limnander and Gevaert have been successful in Brussels, Ghent, Liège and Antwerp because they had been so in Paris; but if ‘Quentin Durward’ had been performed in the Monnaie Theatre before being applauded at the Opéra-Comique, it would not have had five representations. Nothing will be able to change this country’s dispositions.’ Thus for an opera composer it was essential to obtain ‘le baptême de Paris’ (‘the Paris baptism’) before being successful in his own country. A fortunate debut in a Paris opera house could mean the starting of an international career.
Read full English, Flemish and German preface > HERE