Personalities | André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry | Classical Era | Opera
Grétry, who was born in Liège, composed two intermezzi before he headed for Paris and his preferred genre, the opéra comique. His first success, Le Huron (1768), came a year after his arrival and was followed in 1769 by the equally well received Lucile and Le tableau parlant (‘The Talking Picture’). Grétry charmed French audiences with his elegant, expressive melodies and their distinctly Italian grace. A string of successes encouraged Grétry to spread his musical wings with his composition of Andromaque (‘Andromache’, 1780), which was based on Racine’s play about the Trojan War. This was a big, dramatic subject, with rather too much tragedy for Grétry’s particular talent, which was somewhat overstretched by it. However, the opera considered to be Grétry’s masterpiece, Richard Coeur-de-Lion (‘Richard the Lionheart’, 1784) lay ahead of him and received its first performance in Paris. This opera in three acts was based on the thirteenth-century fable telling the story of King Richard and his faithful minstrel Blondel. Blondel’s air ‘Une fèvre brûlante’ was an early example of the reminiscence motif, which is repeated throughout the opera as a reminder of a place, a person or other feature of the story.
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