Personalities | Etienne-Nicolas Méhul | Early Romantic | Opera

1763–1817, French

Euphrosine (1790), the second opera composed by Méhul, was an opéra comique containing a duet that not only became instantly popular, but also used a comparatively new musical device, the reminiscence motif. In Gardez-vous la jalousie (‘Beware of Jealousy’) Méhul wrote alternating thirds to represent ‘jealousy’ and repeated it throughout the opera. This was only one way in which Méhul made his name as an innovative composer. In typical Romantic fashion, he made imaginative use of the orchestra, giving it a greater share in the drama on stage. In Ariodant (1799), set in the world of knightly adventures, Méhul provided dark, moody orchestration to add expressiveness to the music. Méhul’s career coincided with the French Revolution and its aftermath and some of his work inevitably reflected contemporary politics. For example, he was commissioned, possibly by Napoleon, to write an opera – La prise du pont de Lodi (‘The Capture of the Bridge at Lodi’, 1797) – celebrating Napoleon’s victory over the Austrians in Italy in 1796. Four years later, Méhul embarked on a series of comedies, but reverted to a biblical theme for his last successful opera Joseph (1807), which contained the graceful melody and realistic atmosphere that were his trademarks.

Introduction | Early Romantic | Opera
Personalities | Giacomo Meyerbeer | Early Romantic | Opera


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