À la vie, Halévy!
My two-volume study of the French opera composer Fromental Halévy was published today (Cambridge Scholars Publishing), written in collaboration with Robert Ignatius Letellier, the Meyerbeer and grand opéra expert.
Halévy was regarded as the leading French opera composer of his day (1830s to 1850s). He was admired by Berlioz, Wagner, and Mahler; his pupils included Massenet and Saint-Saëns; and Bizet was his son-in-law.
Today, he is almost forgotten, except for one opera, La Juive, a powerful drama of anti-Semitism and fanaticism in the Middle Ages. (Halévy, like Meyerbeer and Offenbach, was Jewish.)
The book was my COVID project; a labour of love – and a fulfilment of a vow.
In 2017, I went to Paris to hear the first performance in almost a century of La Reine de Chypre. Although the tenor’s voice gave out (poor chap, he was a substitute for a substitute, and had only seen the score that morning), it was electrifying. The crowd (despite objections to the tenor) were enthusiastic, and thought the music was wonderful. Halévy could still please an audience – if only he were given more of a chance.
Afterwards, I caught a metro from the concert hall to the Palais Garnier, the Paris opera house. Halévy’s bust sits on the façade, and the building was inaugurated in 1875 with a performance of La Juive. In the moonlight, I vowed to do what I could to revive Halévy’s memory.
Three years later, the stars aligned – et voilà!
Some sample chapters are on Google Books; you can read the Introduction here.