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Balfe
Balfe
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whom he shortly afterwards married. His next engagement was at Pavia, where he superintended the production of Rossini's 'Mosè in Egitto' and brought out a new work of his own, 'Un Avvertimento ai Gelosi,' in which the celebrated buffo Ronconi made his second appearance on the operatic stage. From Pavia he returned to Milan, where he received a commission for an opera for the Scala. This work, 'Enrico Quarto al Passo del Marno,' though very successful from an artistic point of view, brought Balfe only 200 francs, though even this small pecuniary success was compensated for by the fact that the work attracted the attention of Malibran to the composer. With this great artist he next went on an operatic and concert tour which ended at Venice, and on the recommendation of Malibran and her impresario, Puzzi, Balfe in 1833 returned to England. He was commissioned by Arnold to write an English opera for the opening of the newly built Lyceum Theatre, and in six weeks he produced the 'Siege of Rochelle.' Owing to some hitch in the negotiations, the work was not brought out by Arnold ; but it was promptly secured by Alfred Bunn, the manager of Drury Lane, where it was produced with immense success on 29 Oct. 1835. The libretto was by Edward Fitzball, a versifier who is said once to have described himself as a 'lyric poet.' and was founded on a romance by Madame de Genlis ; the principal parts were sung by Henry Phillips, Paul Bedford, and Miss Shirreff. Balfe's next work, 'The Maid of Artois,' was written to a libretto furnished by Bunn, the first of those astonishing farragoes of balderdash which raised the Drury Lane manager to the first rank amongst poetasters. The opera (for which Balfe received 100l.) was written for Malibran, who appeared in it with the greatest success on 27 May 1836. The 'Maid of Artois' was followed at intervals by 'Catherine Grey' (libretto by George Linley), 'Joan of Arc' (libretto by Fitzball), and 'Diadeste' (libretto by Fitzball), all of which were produced at Drury Lane in 1837 and 1838, though only the last, an opera buffa, was as successful as the composer's earlier works had been. In 1838 Balfe was commissioned by Laporte, the manager of the Italian Opera, to write a work for Her Majesty's Theatre. In accordance with this request he composed a version of the 'Merry Wives of Windsor,' which was produced on 19 July 1838. 'Falstaff,' which contains some of its composer's best music, achieved great success, as could hardly fail to be the case, since the chief parts were sung by such artists as Grisi, Albertazzi, Rubini, Tamburini, and Lablache. Bunn's management of Drury Lane coming to an end in 1838, Balfe accepted an engagement in an opera company at Dublin, after fulfilling which he produced several of his operas in the principal towns of Ireland, and after a successful tour in the west of England returned to London and resolved to start an English opera company on his own account. He opened the Lyceum on 9 March 1841 with a new work of his own, 'Keolanthe' (libretto by Fitzball) ; but though the opera was in every respect successful, internal dissensions broke up the company, and before the end of May the theatre had to be closed. Once more the disheartened composer left England, and again it was in Paris that his good fortune returned to him. A concert was given in order to introduce his works to the Parisian public, and the result was so satisfactory that Scribe, unsolicited, offered to write him a libretto for the Opéra Comique. This work, 'Le Puits d'Amour,' was produced in April 1843, where it achieved remarkable success. Every mark of distinction was showered upon the composer; Louis-Philippe offered him the cordon of the Legion of Honour, and, when his nationality prevented him from accepting it, proposed that he should become a naturalised Frenchman, offering to procure for him a post at the Paris Conservatoire. In the same year as his Parisian triumph, Balfe was recalled to London to superintend the production of an English version of 'Le Puits d'Amour' at the Princess's Theatre, and also to arrange with Bunn for a new opera for Drury Lane. This work was his famous 'Bohemian Girl,' the libretto of which was concocted by Bunn on the foundation of a ballet by St. Georges, the subject of which in its turn was taken from one of the novels of Cervantes. The 'Bohemian Girl' was produced at Drury Lane on 27 Nov. 1843, the principal characters being played by Miss Rainforth, Miss Betts, Harrison, by Stretton, Borrani, and Darnset. The work ran for more than a hundred nights, and was translated into German, Italian, and French, being received everywhere with the greatest success. The following year (1844) witnessed the production at Paris of 'Les Quatre Fils Aymon' and in London of 'The Daughter of St. Mark,' in the libretto of which latter work Bunn excelled himself. These were followed at a short interval by 'L'Etoile de Séville' (Paris, 1845). In 1846, on the secession of Sir Michael Costa, Balfe was appointed conductor of the Italian Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre, then under the management of Lumley, a post for which he