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A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Mondonville, Jean de

< A Dictionary of Music and Musicians

MONDONVILLE, Jean Joseph Cassanea de, born at Narbonne Dec. 24, 1711, died at Belleville near Paris Oct. 8, 1773, son of well-born but poor parents. His taste for music showed, itself early, and he acquired considerable powers of execution as a violinist. After travelling for some time he settled in Lille, where he was well received, and still more so at the Concerts Spirituels in 1737. Having achieved success in Paris as a violinist and composer of popular chambermusic and organ pieces (for Balbâtre), Mondonville attempted the stage, but his first opera, 'Isbe' (Académie, April 10, 1742), failed. In 1744 he succeeded Gervais as Surintendant de la Chapelle du Roi, and under court patronage he produced, at the Académie 'Le Carnaval du Parnasse' (Sept. 23, 1749), an opéra-ballet in 3 acts, containing some graceful music. When the contest between the partisans of Italian and French music, known as the Guerre des Bouffons, arose in 1752 in consequence of the success of 'La Serva padrona,' Mondonville, a protégé of Mme. de Pompadour, was chosen champion of the national school; and his opera 'Titon et l'Aurore' (Jan. 9, 1753) owed its success largely to this circumstance. 'Daphnis et Alcimadura' (Dec. 29, 1754), a pastoral in the Langue d'Oc, in which he introduced many Provencal airs, completed his popularity; and of this he made use to procure his appointment as director of. the Concerts Spirituels. That post he occupied for seven years (1755–62), showing great ability both as an administrator and conductor, and producing at the Concerts with much success three short oratorios, 'Les Israelites au Mont Oreb,' 'Les Fureurs de Saül,' and 'Les Titans.' 'Les Fêtes de Paphos' (May 9, 1758), originally written for Mme. de Pompadour's private theatre, was the only opera performed at the Académie during the same period. His last operas, 'Thésée' (1767) and 'Psyché' (1769, a mere adaptation of the 3rd act of 'Les Fêtes de Paphos'), were unsuccessful.

There is a good portrait of Mondonville in pastel by Latour, now in the possession of M. Ambroise Thomas. The physiognony is that of a man, cunning, patient, and fond of money; the arch of the eyebrows indicating a musician gifted with melody, and a good memory. He holds a violin in his hand; possibly a hint from the artist that posterity would rank the virtuoso and conductor higher than the composer. However this may be, his music has long been forgotten.

His son (born in Paris, 1748, died there 1808), had some reputation as a violinist and oboist.

[ G. C. ]