Personalities | Ambroise Thomas | High Romantic | Opera
The French composer Ambroise Thomas was a staunch anti-Wagnerian, regarding this and other ‘modern’ influences as dangerous to French music. Thomas’s music, which included nine stage works written between 1837 and 1843, was firmly in the French musical tradition. Of these works, the most successful was La double échelle (‘The Double Ladder’, 1837). Thomas also wrote several opéras comiques, using Auber as his model, enlivening the genre and making it more Romantic. One opéra comique, Le songe d’une nuit d’ été (‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, 1850) had no connection with Shakespeare’s play, although Shakespeare appeared in it. Le songe was Thomas’s passport into the French Academy of Music, where he was elected in 1851 to succeed Gaspare Spontini (1774–1851). Appointed professor at the Conservatoire in 1856, he graduated to director in 1871 and remained in the post until his death. Thomas was always susceptible to the influence of other composers and most especially to Charles Gounod. His Mignon (1866), imitated Gounod’s Faust and he repeated the exercise by modelling his Hamlet (1868) on Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette.
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