A carte-de-visite portrait of French composer Jacques-François-Fromental-Élie Halévy (1799-1862), usually known as Fromental Halévy.
Born in Paris, the son of a cantor, the name Fromental, by which he is generally known, reflects that he was born on the feast-day of that name in the French revolutionary calendar which was operative at that time. He entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of nine or ten (accounts differ) and in 1819 won the Prix de Rome.
The first commission that brought him to public attention was a Marche Funebre et De Profundis en Hebreu for three voices and orchestra, which was commissioned for a public service in memory of the assassinated Duc de Berry, performed on 24 March 1820.
Halévy’s first major triumph was with La Juive in 1835, which became one of the cornerstones of the French repertoire for the next century. One of the grandest of grand operas, Mahler said of it ‘I am absolutely overwhelmed by this wonderful, majestic work. I regard it as one of the greatest operas ever created.’ Other admirers included Richard Wagner, who never directed against Halévy the same anti-Semitic animosity to which he subjected Meyerbeer.
After La Juive, his real successes were relatively few. However, Halévy became a leading bureaucrat of the arts, becoming Secretary of the Academy and presiding over various committees.
The artist Delacroix wrote in his diary (5 February 1855) a stark description of a visit to the composer. ‘I went on to Halévy’s house, where the heat from his stove was suffocating. His wretched wife has crammed his house with bric-a-brac and old furniture, and this new craze will end by driving him to a lunatic asylum. He has changed and looks much older, like a man who is being dragged on against his will. How can he possibly do serious work in this confusion? His new position at the Academy must take up a great deal of his time, and make it more and more difficult for him to find the peace and quiet he needs for his work. Left that inferno as quickly as possible. The breath of the streets seemed positively delicious.’
Fromental Halévy died in retirement at Nice on 17 March 1862.
Photographed by Pierre Petit of 31, place Cadet, Paris, identified recto on the mount in the lower margin and by his backplate on the reverse of the mount.
condition: Excellent, despite a couple of small black marks in the area of the background.
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