Personalities | Camille Saint-Saëns | High Romantic | Opera

1835–1921, French

Camille Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy as both pianist and composer. He began composing when he was six. At 10, he gave his first piano recital, and entered the Paris Conservatory aged 13. At 17, in 1852, Saint-Saëns wrote his prizewinning Ode à Sainte-Cécile (‘Ode to Saint Cecilia’) and at 18, he produced his first symphony. Gounod, Rossini, Liszt and Berlioz were all mightily impressed with Saint-Saëns, as was Wagner, who called him ‘the greatest musical mind of our time’. Saint-Saëns, in his turn, greatly admired Wagner. A prolific composer, he wrote orchestral, piano and vocal music, as well as 13 operas, including most notably La princesse jaune (‘The Yellow Princess’, 1872), his masterpiece and chief contribution to the present-day operatic repertoire, Samson et Dalila, and Henri VIII (1883). La princesse jaune was an operetta, a style Saint-Saëns did not subsequently pursue. Henri VIII, which dealt with the second, fated, marriage of the English King Henry VIII to Anne Boleyn, was a grand opéra, perhaps rather too lavish for Saint-Saëns, whose natural style was quintessentially French – neatly proportioned, polished, elegant, disciplined.

Introduction | High Romantic | Opera
Major Operas | Samson et Dalila by Camille Saint-Saëns | High Romantic
Personalities | Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld | High Romantic | Opera
Techniques | Operetta | Turn of the Century | Opera


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