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 Michael William Balfe

Michael William Balfe

Birth
Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland
Death 20 Oct 1870 (aged 62)
Ware, East Hertfordshire District, Hertfordshire, England
Burial Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England
Plot North Choir
Memorial ID 20583 · View Source
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Composer, Singer. His fame rests on his opera "The Bohemian Girl" (1843), a colorful melodrama about a band of gypsies who kidnap a nobleman's daughter and raise her as their own. Its soprano aria "I Dreamt I Dwelled in Marble Halls" is a standard recital piece. Balfe was born in Dublin, the son of a dancing master. He was taught the violin as a child and his first job was in the orchestra of London's Drury Lane Theatre. Possessing a fine baritone voice, he made his operatic debut in 1823 and came to prominence as Figaro in an 1827 Paris production of Rossini's "The Barber of Seville", under the composer's supervision. He then performed in Italy for eight years, culminating in an engagement at La Scala. Balfe's singing was praised but his habit of "improving" old operas by adding his own arias caused some resentment among audiences. His first opera, "I Rivaldi di se stessi", was mounted in Palermo in 1829. Following further successes in this field Balfe returned to London in 1835, where he established himself as the leading composer of English-language opera with "Siege of Rochelle" (1835), "The Maid of Artois" (1836), and "Catherine Grey" (1837). A talented melodist and a shrewd judge of British musical taste, Balfe skillfully combined Italian tradition with the English ballad-style. Many of his arias became popular songs in their day. "The Bohemian Girl", his biggest hit, ran for a record 100 nights at Drury Lane and was soon performed in major cities throughout the world. It is the only one of his 28 operas that is still heard today. Balfe pursued dual careers as a composer and singer until 1846, when he was appointed conductor of Her Majesty's Theatre. He also accepted several commissions from La Scala and the Paris Opera, and was awarded France's Legion of Honor. In 1864 Balfe retired to his estate in Hertfordshire and lived out his days as a gentleman farmer. A cenotaph for the composer was placed in Westminster Abbey in 1882, and there is a stained glass window dedicated to him in Dublin's St. Patrick's Cathedral. As the most famous Irish composer of the 19th Century, Balfe was celebrated in several works by his compatriot, author James Joyce.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 28 Feb 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 20583
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Michael William Balfe (5 May 1808–20 Oct 1870), Find A Grave Memorial no. 20583, citing Westminster Abbey, Westminster, City of Westminster, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .