André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry – Richard Coeur de Lion
(b. Liège, 11 February 1741 – d. Montmorency, 24 September 1813)
André Ernest Modeste Grétry was born February 11 1741, in Liège, part of the French speaking Wallonia region in Belgium. He eventually gained French citizenship and died in 1813 at the Hermitage, formerly the house of Rousseau, in Montmorency, France, after a long and successful career as an opera composer whose works remained popular from the 1770s into the early 19th century.
Grétry received his earliest musical training as a choirboy at the church of St Denis in Liège, where his father worked as a violinist. Grétry showed promise at a young age and was provided with composition and counterpoint lessons with local musicians. It was during this time he was exposed to Italian opera, which inspired Grétry and motivate him to pursue his musical studies in Italy. In 1759 he was awarded a place at the Collège de Liège in Rome, where he studied with Giovanni Battista Casali. Grétry composed his first opera, La vendemmiatrice, a well-received intermezzo prepared for the 1765 Carnival and performed at the Aliberti theatre in Rome. Grétry moved to Geneva in 1766, where he had the opportunity to meet Voltaire and compose his first opéra comique, Isabelle et Gertrude. At this point, Grétry had found his niche and continued to compose opéra comique for the duration of his lifetime.
Grétry arrived in Paris in 1767 and eventually gained the patronage of the Swedish Count of Creutz, who supported the production of his first opera, Le Huron in 1768. Grétry’s first six Parisian operas were the results of a partnership with the well-known writer Jean François Marmontel. The operas were wildly successful and established Grétry as a prominent and popular composer in Paris. His name continued to grow as he produced more successful operas and Marie Antoinette appointed him her director of music in 1774, so that he became known in musical circles across the European continent. The Belgian government awarded Grétry with multiple honors, and the Grand Théâtre in Brussels obtained the rights to many of his works. Grétry composed over 50 operas over his career, and although he continued to compose up to the 19th century, Zémire et Azor (1771) and Richard Coeur-de-lion (1784) are considered Grétry’s finest operas. …
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