Categories: German Notables.
Also Known As: "El Komponist Jakob Meyerbeer"
A German opera composer of Jewish birth who has been described as perhaps the most successful stage composer of the nineteenth century.
Meyerbeer's birthname was Jacob Liebmann Beer; he was born in Tasdorf (now a part of Rüdersdorf), near Berlin, then the capital of Prussia, to a Jewish family. His father was the enormously wealthy financier Judah Herz Beer (1769–1825) and his mother, Amalia (Malka) Wulff (1767–1854), to whom he was particularly devoted, also came from the moneyed elite. Their other children included the astronomer Wilhelm Beer and the poet Michael Beer. He was to adopt the surname Meyerbeer on the death of his grandfather Liebmann Meyer Wulff (1811) and the first name Giacomo during his period of study in Italy, around 1817.
In 1826, shortly after the death of his father, Meyerbeer married his cousin, Minna Mosson (1804–1886). The marriage which may have been 'dynastic' in its origins proved to be stable and devoted; the couple were to have five children, of whom the three youngest (all daughters) survived to adulthood.
Later years -
Increasing ill-health (or possibly hypochondria) now began to restrict Meyerbeer's output and activities. The death of his beloved mother in 1854 was also a blow. However the success of L'étoile du nord in 1854 demonstrated that he could still pack the theatres. Following this he began on two new projects, an opera by Scribe based on the biblical story of Judith, and an opéra comique, Le pardon de Ploërmel, (also known as Dinorah, the title given to the Italian version performed at London) to a libretto by Jules Barbier. The latter premiered on 4 April 1859 at the Opéra Comique at Paris; the former, like many previous projects, remained only as sketches. The death of Scribe in 1861 was a further disincentive to Meyerbeer to proceed with his operatic work in progress. In 1862, in accordance with his original contract with Scribe, he paid Scribe's widow compensation for not completing Judith.
Nevertheless, Meyerbeer's last years saw the composition of a good deal of non-operatic music, including a Coronation March for William I of Prussia, (1861), an overture for the 1862 International Exhibition in London, and incidental music (now lost) to Henry Blaze de Bury's play La jeunesse de Goethe (1860). He composed a few settings of liturgical material, including one of the 91st Psalm (1853); and also choral works for the synagogue at Paris.
Meyerbeer died in Paris on 2 May 1864. Rossini, who, not having heard the news, came to his apartment the next day intending to meet him, was shocked and fainted. He was moved to write on the spot a choral tribute (Pleure, pleure, muse sublime!). A special train bore Meyerbeer's body from the Gare du Nord to Berlin on 6 May, where he was buried in the family vault at the Jewish cemetery in Schönhauser Allee.
L'Africaine was eventually premiered after Meyerbeer's death at the Salle Le Peletier on 28 April 1865 in a performing edition undertaken by François-Joseph Fétis.
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