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Adolphe-Charles Adam

Adolphe-Charles Adam in 1853

(1803 - 1856)

Born to the concert pianist Jean Louis Adam, Adolphe-Charles was trained from early childhood to take the piano as his vocation. At the Paris Conservatory he studied organ, counterpoint, and composition. He discovered a talent for composition, and especially for opera. At the age of 28 he won acclaim for a comic opera and thereafter produced an average of two operas a year until his death at the age of 52. Of his 53 operas, a handful have achieved a permanent place in the repertory. Notable among them are Le Postillon de Longjumais, Regine, and his enduringly popular masterpiece, Si j'etai roi. His most frequently performed work is the music for the ballet Giselle, so full of splendor and memorable melody that it transcends the stage. Giselle typifies quintessentially Adam's gifts of melody, harmony, and dramatic effects.

Near the end of his life, having lost his money in the failure of a business venture, the hapless Opera-National, Adam was rescued by appointment in 1847 as professor of music at the Paris Conservatory, where he had studied as a student. Adam was an outgoing, articulate man who travelled frequently in Europe and enjoyed friendships with many of the composers and musicians of his age. Nevertheless, his compositional style was distinctly French, Parisian even, and indeed he stands as one of the seminal influences in the development of the French opera, noted for its lushness (at times, nearly excess) of rich and dramatic melody, music as apt for the dance and spectacle as for the voice. ~ Doug Purl

Recommended Recordings

Giselle (ballet)

London Double Decca 452185-2
Giselle (complete ballet)/Double Decca 452185-2
Richard Bonygne/Royal Opera House Orchestra
Giselle (excerpts)/Decca Originals 4757507
Herbert von Karajan/Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Giselle (complete)/TDK DVD DVWW-BLGISS
Svetlana Zakharova, Roberto Bolle, Marta Romagna, Vittorio D'Amato, David Coleman/Corpo di Ballo ed Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala