Composer. He was the most celebrated creator of French grand opera. This style emphasized lavish spectacle and stagecraft, often at the expense of musical and dramatic quality. By sheer talent Meyerbeer managed to overcome many of the ludicrous conventions of the genre, but his grand operas have vanished from the repertory and are rarely performed today. They are "Robert le Diable" (1831), "Les Huguenots" (1836), "Le Prophete" (1849), and "L'africaine" (premiered 1865, after his death). The first two were especially popular in their day. "Les Huguenots" was given over 1000 performances in Paris, and influenced the young Richard Wagner (though he later vehemently denied this). The son of a wealthy merchant, he was born Jakob Beer in Berlin. He added "Meyer" to his surname after receiving an inheritance from a rich relative. A child prodigy, he studied with Muzio Clementi, Abbe Vogler, and Antonio Salieri. On Salieri's advice he went to Italy in 1815, where he changed his first name to "Giocomo" and wrote six Italian operas, each more successful than the last, climaxing with the international success of "Gli Amori de Teolinda" (1824). In 1827 Meyerbeer settled in Paris and dominated its musical scene for over 30 years. He was made a Commander of France's Legion of Honor, Kapellmeister of Berlin (after 1842), and received many other European honors.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards