Personalities | Ambroise Thomas | Late Romantic | Classical

(Am-brwaz’ To-mas’) 1811–96
French composer

Thomas studied with Le Sueur at the Paris Conservatoire, where he became Director in 1871. After winning the 1832 Prix de Rome, he composed the first of his 20 operas, La double échelle (‘The Double Ladder’, 1837). His first successes, Le Caïd (‘The Cadi’, 1849) and Songe d’une nuit d’été (‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, 1850), show the influence of Gounod and Rossini. Yet Mignon (1866), based on Goethe’s novel, introduced into French opera a radical new dramatic intensity, with expansive melodies and colourful orchestration to convey the heroine’s passions and jealousies. Mignon was an immediate hit; at its thousandth performance (1894) Thomas was awarded the Légion d’Honneur. While Hamlet (1868), with a contrived happy ending, was a success, his final opera, Françoise de Rimini (1882), was not.

Recommended Recording:
Mignon, soloists, Ambrosian Opera Chorus, Philharmonia (cond) Antonio de Almeida (Sony)

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