Open main menu
LECOCQ, Alexandre Charles, born in Paris June 3, 1832; entered the Conservatoire in 49, and in 50 obtained the first prize for harmony and accompaniment. He took the second prize for fugue in Halévy's class in 1852, and at the same time greatly distinguished himself in the organ class. After this however he obtained no further scholastic distinctions, and either because he tired of Halévy's want of method, or because he was anxious to come before the public, left the Conservatoire towards the close of 1854. He found the usual difficulty in obtaining access to the stage, and would probably have had to wait a long time, but for a competition for an operetta opened by Offenbach in 1856. He was bracketed with Bizet, and 'Le Docteur Miracle' was produced at the Bouffes Parisiens April 8, 1857. The operetta was evidently the work of a clever musician, who understood how to write for the voice. Notwithstanding this good beginning the small theatres still closed their doors to him, and Lecocq was driven to teaching for a livelihood. He then tried a different line, publishing in conjunction with Besozzi a collection of eacred songs for women's voices called 'La Chapelle au Couvent' (1865)—less incongruous when we remember that he was a good organist; but the stage was irresistible, and a little one-act piece 'Le Baiser à la Porte' (1864) was followed by 'Les Ondines au Champagne' (1865) [App. p.698 "produced at the Folly Theatre, London, in Sept. 1877"], 'Le Myosotis' (1866), 'Le Cabaret de Ramponneau' (1867), and 'Fleur de The,' 3 acts (1868) [App. p.698 "given by the Variétés company at the Lyceum, on June 12, 1871, and in English at the Criterion, Oct. 9, 1875"]. This last piece was a brilliant success. Lecocq at last found himself established with the public, and produced in rapid succession 'L'Amour et son carquois,' 2 acts (1868); 'Gandolfo' and 'Le Rajah de Mysore,' both in one act (1869) [App. p.698 "'Le Rajah de Mysore' was given in English at the Park Theatre, Feb. 15, 1875"]; 'Le beau Dunois,' 1 act (1870) [App. p.698 "given at the Lyceum by the French company, May 25, 1871"]; 'Le Barbier de Trouville' and 'Le Testament de M. de Crac,' both in 1 act (1871); 'Sauvons la caisse,' 1 act, and 'Les Cent [1]Vierges,' 3 acts (1872) [App. p.698 "versions of 'Les cent Vierges' were given at the Britannia Theatre, May 25, 1874, and at the Gaiety, Sept. 14 of the same year"]; 'La Fille de Mme. Angot,' 3 acts (1873)[2] which ran for 500 nights consecutively [App. p.698 "produced in another English version, at the Gaiety, Nov. 10, 1873. The date of the original production of this work is Dec. 4, 1872. This, the 'Cent Vierges,' and 'Giroflé-Girofla' were all produced first in Brussels, where the composer resided from 1870 to 1873"]; 'Les [3]Prés St. Gervais' and 'Giroflé-[4]Girofla' both in 3 acts (1874); 'Les Jumeaux de Bergame,' 1 act, and 'Le Pompon,' 3 acts (1875); 'La petite Mariée,' 3 acts (1876) [App. p.698 "given in French at the Opera Comique, London, May 7, 1876"]; 'Kosiki' and 'La Marjolaine,' both in 3 acts (1877) [App. p.698 "'La Marjolaine' was produced at the Royalty in English, Oct. 11, 1877"]; 'Le petit Duc' and 'Camargo,' both in 3 acts (1878) [App. p.698 "A version of 'Le petit Duc' was given at the Philharmonic Theatre on April 27, 1878"]; and finally 'La petite Mademoiselle,' 3 acts (1879) [App. p.698 "produced at the Alhambra, Oct. 6, 1879"]. To this long list must be added detached songs and other trifles thrown off by his rapid and untiring pen. Lecocq has profited by the false system momentarily in the ascendant among French musicians. Our learned composers, encouraged by some of the managers, overload their operas with orchestral writing and substitute the lyric for the dramatic element—to the ruin of French opéra comique. But Lecocq realizes that what the public really like are light, gay, sparkling melodies. His aim has been to dethrone Offenbach, and as he has the advantage of writing correctly, he has had little trouble in attaining a popularity even greater than that formerly possessed by the composer of 'Orphée aux Enfers.' His style is not a very elevated one, and makes no demand on the poetry or the intellect of the composer; but it requires tact, ease, freedom, and above all, animation. These qualities are conspicuous in Lecocq's operettas, which have become universally popular, owing to the life, brio, and easy gaiety which pervade them.

[ G. C. ]

Appendix p.698:

The following works, written since the publication of the article in vol. ii., are to be added:—'La jolie Persane,' 1879; 'Le Grand Casimir,' 1879 (in English at the Gaiety, Sept. 27 of that year); 'Le Jour et la Nuit,' 1881 (in English at the Strand, as 'Manola,' Feb. 11, 1882); 'Le Cœur et la Main,' 1882; 'La Princesse aux Canaries,' 1883 (in English as 'Pepita', Liverpool. Dec. 30, 1886, and at Toole's Theatre, London, Aug. 30, 1888). A recent attempt at a higher class of music, 'Plutus,' produced at the Opéra Comique, Paris, March 31, 1886, failed and was withdrawn after eight representations, but another essay in the same direction, 'All Baba,' produced at the Alhambra, Brussels, Nov. II, 1887, was more successful.

[ A. C. ]

  1. In London, at St. James's Theatre (French), June 21, 73.
  2. Ditto, at St. James's Theatre (French), May 17, 73; at Royal Philharmonic Theatre (English, Byron), Oct. 4. 73.
  3. Ditto, at Criterion Theatre (English, Reece), Nov. 28, 74.
  4. Ditto, at Opera Comique (French), June 6, 74; at Royal Philharmonic Theatre (English), Oct. 3, 74.