Composer. He was a forerunner of the French lyric theatre. His music drama "Mignon" (1866) was one of the most popular operas of the 1800s, and is still performed today. Charles Louis Ambroise Thomas was born into a musical family in Metz, France. He studied at the Paris Conservatory under Lesueur and won the Prix de Rome for his cantata "Hermann et Ketty" (1832). Although he occasionally ventured into grand opera, he was more comfortable with the less restrictive opera-comique genre and scored several successes in this field, including "La Double Echelle" (1837), "Le Caid" (1849), "Raymond" (1851), and "Psyche" (1857). Perhaps under the influence of Gounod's "Faust" (1859), Thomas developed a simpler, more melodic style for "Mignon", which made him internationally famous. "Hamlet" (1868), his most ambitious work, is occasionally revived but suffers as a poor adaptation of Shakespeare (the librettists gave it a happy ending). In 1856 Thomas was appointed professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory and he served as its director from 1871 until his death. Initially a moderate in terms of musical evolution, he grew more conservative with age, using his powerful position to oppose the innovations of Franck and Debussy and refusing Faure a professorship for many years. (Faure would become Conservatory director in 1905). The failure of his last compositions, the opera "Francoise de Rimini" (1874) and the ballet "La Tempete" (1889), reinforced his curmudgeonly attitude. On the occasion of the 1000th Paris performance of "Mignon" in 1894, Thomas was awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.
Bio by: Bobb Edwards
Ambroise Thomas / Metz 1811 - 1896 Paris