L’Africaine (in four volumes with French libretto, with supplements)
(b. Tasdorf [now Rüdersdorf] near Berlin, 5 September 1791 – d. Paris, 2 May 1864 )
Grand opéra in five acts on a libretto by Eugène Scribe
4 fl (2 dbl. pic), 2 ob, 2 eh, 2 cl, 2 bcl, 4 bn, 4hn, 2 valve hn, 2 valve cnt, 2 tpt, 2 valve tpt, 2 bug,
3 tbn, o, 3 timp, perc (b dm, cym, tgl, dm, side dm, tam, glock) 4 hp, str
28. April 1865
ca. 3h 45 min
From the very outset of his brilliant career as an opera composer, Giacomo Meyerbeer was a thorn in the side of Germany’s music critics. Instead of helping to create a “German national opera” like his fellow-student Carl Maria von Weber, he preferred to travel to Italy. Then, after his initial operatic successes in the Italian style, he proceeded to Paris, where he perfected the genre of grand opéra together with the playwright and librettist Eugène Scribe. While Meyerbeer triumphed in Europe’s musical capitals from 1831 until his death in 1864, veritable smear campaigns were launched against him in Germany, denouncing this operatic superstar as a grandstanding arranger of empty vacuities. Yet Meyerbeer was not just an opera composer, though he viewed himself as such and all his major works are operas. His oeuvre also encompasses a great many vocal and instrumental compositions.
Giacomo Meyerbeer (originally Meyer Beer) was the son of a wealthy industrialist and a banker’s daughter. His childhood home was open to the arts and served as a favorite meeting place for artists and intellectuals. At the age of seven he began to take piano lessons from Franz Seraphinus Lauska (1764-1825), formerly court pianist in Munich but now resident in Berlin, where he taught the Prussian princes. Under Lauska’s tutelage the boy prepared his first composition exercises at the age of eight. Beginning in 1805 he received systemic instruction, first with Carl Friedrich Zelter (1758-1832) and from 1807 with Bernhard Anselm Weber (1764-1821). It was Weber who kindled the boy’s passion for the theater.
In early 1810 Meyerbeer moved to Darmstadt, where he became a pupil of the music educator and composer Georg Joseph Vogler (one of his fellow pupils would later become very famous: Carl Maria von Weber). By then he had already turned out several pièces d’occasion. It was also in 1810 that he adopted the composite surname Meyerbeer, though it was only officially registered in 1822. He assumed the name of Jakob, which he altered to Jacques or Giacomo when living abroad. Though he ranked as a superior pianist by his early twenties, it had always been his goal to become a composer. At the beginning of 1813 he traveled to Vienna, where he met Spohr, Beethoven, and Salieri. In late 1814 he relocated to Paris, though with little success, and at the beginning of 1816 he traveled at Salieri’s suggestion to Italy in order to master the Rossini style. It was during his Italian years (1816-24) that he adopted the nom de plume Giacomo Meyerbeer. His opera Il Crociato in Egitto, premièred in Italy on 7 March 1824, was a rousing success and permanently established his fame. ..
Read full preface > HERE