Price: $750.00

                 NEAR MINT CONDITION              

Verso autographed carte de visite photograph by the British photographer, Robert Jefferson Bingham who ran his business in Paris c. 1851.  The photograph dedicated to a Mademoiselle Ellisson includes a 5 bar musical quotation from his 1850 Italian language Shakespeare opera, “La Tempesta”.  A rare combination!

Halevy (1799-1862) was an unusually prolific composer, important composition pedagogue and one of the most powerful musicians in mid 19th Century Paris.  Despite his oeuvre which included thirty three operas, opera comiques and operettas.  Also, orchestra works, works for concert band, chamber and solo works.  Popular in his day, today, his fame rests on his masterpiece, the opera “La Juive”.  Though a number of his other operas, such as “La Reine de Chypre”, “Le Magicienne”, “L’Eclair” and “Charles VI” are sometimes performed and recorded by opera companies who specialize in rare repertory.

His 1850 opera “La Tempesta” was a commission by Benjamin Lumley of Her Majesties Theatre after Mendelssohn had turned the idea down as too complicated a plot for opera and Meyerbeer was too busy to take the project on. (Interestingly, Lumley also Jewish went to three Jewish composer’s for this particular work.) Halevy was selected due to his reputation as a congenial perfectionist and Eugene Scribe had already prepared the libretto, with an Italian translation by Pietro Gianone. The work was his second Italian language opera, the first was “Clari” was written for Maria Malibran with a libretto by Gianone for the 1828 season at the Theatre Italien. The work is based upon Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and a starry cast included Henriette Sontag (soprano soloist at both premeires of Beethoven’s 9th symphony and Missa Solemnis) as Miranda, bass Luigi Lablache as Calaban, his son baritone Frederic Lablache as Antonio, Filippo Coletti as Prospero and the famed prima ballerina Carlotta Grisi as Ariel. (The dancer cousin of Giulia Grisi.)  Halevy and Scribe’s friend Michael Balfe was the conductor and arrived early and attended a month of rehearsals.  Whilst in London, the pair also met with King Louis Philipe I in exile and near to his death.  Later that week, they dined with the Queen Maria Amalia and then met with the King after dinner, tired and ill, he survived another three months. 

The opening was a society event and following the first performances, there were endless curtains and cheering by adoring public.  While there was a concern in London society about a French, Jewish composer writing an opera by the great British Bard, “The Daily News” and “The Times” while pointing out a few small issues, raved.  Henry Chorley in his book, Musical Recollections, was not as accommodating, but his words were published in 1862, written over a decade later as a Monday morning quarterback after the work failed in Paris at the Theater Italien.  After the Paris critical and public failure, the work was not revived.

Halevy’s Conservatoire and private composition students were a whose who of French composers and musicians of the time, including his son in law, Georges Bizet, Ernest Boulanger, Charles Gounod, Charles Lecocq, Antoine Marmontel, Victor Massé, Georges Mathias and Camille Saint-Saëns.  He was also the Chef du Chant at the Theatre Italien and later at the Paris Opera.  Halevy’s influence on the musical world in Paris during the early through the later mid 19th Century cannot be overlooked.  A protégé of Enrico Cherubini who hired him at the Conservatoire, he was heavily involved in the selection of the works heard at the two major opera houses in Paris of his day.  His works, though at times thought to be repetitive and later with outdated subject matter, by and large were quite successful in their day. His influence on the next generation of composers cannot be overlooked and can be heard in their works, such as “Faust” and “Carmen”.  His funeral was attended by some 15,000 mourners in attendance and along the route to the synagogue and cemetery, shows the esteem with which he was held in his day.


Phone: 212-860-5541