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Emmanuel Chabrier

Composer

Biography

French composer Emmanuel Chabrier (1841–94) is best known today for his comic operas L’Étoile and Le Roi malgré lui, the orchestral work España and his collection of piano works. Though his output was small, Chabrier’s work had a significant influence on French composers of the following generation.

Chabrier was born in Ambert and moved to Paris with his family in 1856. He began studying piano aged six and soon after started composing, publishing his first work Aïka aged 14. In Paris he studied harmony, composition and piano privately, while also studying law. He became a civil servant with the Ministry of the Interior and continued in this position for nearly twenty years; occasional compositions from this time included a collaboration with Paul Verlaine on two operettas, piano pieces, songs and the opera L’Étoile. At this time he also became friends with Eduard Manet, for whom Chabrier posed three times; Chabrier went on to collect a number of works by Manet and other Impressionists. Chabrier became a member of the Société Nationale de Musique in 1876 and resigned from the ministry in 1880. That year he began work on the Dix Pièces pittoresques for piano, while also working as choir master and répétiteur for a new concert series founded by Charles Lamoureux. Lamoureux’s influence led to the premieres of Chabrier’s orchestral piece España, his lyric scene La Sulamite and fragments of his serious opera Gwendoline. Gwendoline had its premiere in 1886, followed by the comic opera Le Roi malgré lui in 1887. His incomplete final opera Briséïs was first performed posthumously in 1897.

Chabrier’s music today is admired for its wit and imagination; but no less remarkable were his innovations to orchestration in French music, which influenced composers well into the 20th century.

Videos

News and features

Watch: Julia Hansen on designing The Royal Opera’s <em>L’Étoile</em> — ‘The whole thing is a collage’

Watch: Julia Hansen on designing The Royal Opera’s L’Étoile — ‘The whole thing is a collage’

12 February 2016

The German stage designer discusses the challenges of designing sets and costumes for Chabrier’s bonkers comic opera.

Lights! Coloratura! Action!: The giddy world of opera’s ‘action’ songs

Lights! Coloratura! Action!: The giddy world of opera’s ‘action’ songs

3 February 2016

Drinking songs such as La traviata’s famous Brindisi are just the start of opera's songs describing action.

Watch: Mark Elder explores the music of <em>L’Étoile</em> — 'It's quite extraordinary'

Watch: Mark Elder explores the music of L’Étoile — 'It's quite extraordinary'

1 February 2016

The conductor explored the music of relatively unknown composer Emmanuel Chabrier with the help of two principal cast members.

Photos

Production photo of L’Étoile

Production photo of L’Étoile

Francois Piolino as Prince Herisson de Porc, Julie Boulianne as Aloes, Helene Guilmette as Princesse Laoula, Aimery Lefevre as Tapioca in L’Étoile

Helene Guilmette as Princesse Laoula and Julie Boulianne as Aloes

Kate Lindsey as Lazuli in L’Étoile

Helene Guilmette as Princesse Laoula, Kate Lindsey as Lazuli and Julie Boulianne as Aloes

Helene Guilmette as Princesse Laoula in L’Étoile

Kate Lindsey as Lazuli in L’Étoile

Kate Lindsey as Lazuli in L’Étoile

Helene Guilmette as Princesse Laoula in L’Étoile

Kate Lindsey as Lazuli in L’Étoile

Kate Lindsey as Lazuli and Chris Addison as Smith in L’Étoile

Emmanuel Chabrier by Edouard Detaille (1848-1912) (Artist) and Frédéric Florian (1858-1926) (Engraver)

Samuel Sakker as Patacha, Samuel Dale Johnson as Zalzal in L’Étoile

Chris Addison as Smith in L’Étoile

Chorus of the Royal Opera House in L’Étoile

Production photo of L’Étoile

Chris Addison as Smith and Jean-Luc Vincent as Dupont in L’Étoile

Chris Addison as Smith in L’Étoile

Kate Lindsey as Lazuli and Chris Addison as Smith in L’Étoile

Kate Lindsey as Lazuli in L’Étoile

Francois Piolino as Prince Herisson de Porc, Julie Boulianne as Aloes, Helene Guilmette as Princesse Laoula, Aimery Lefevre as Tapioca in L’Étoile

L'Étoile, musique d'Emmanuel Chabrier. Image by Barbizet

Portrait of Emmanuel Chabrier by Edouard Manet, 1880

Production photo of L’Étoile

Production photo of L’Étoile

Kate Lindsey as Lazuli and the Chorus of the Royal Opera house in L’Étoile

Chris Addison as Smith, Jean Luc Vincent as Dupont, Simon Bailey as Siroco in L’Étoile

Kate Lindsey as Lazuli in L’Étoile

Helene Guilmette as Princesse Laoula and the Chorus of the Royal Opera House

Helene Guilmette as Princesse Laoula, Kate Lindsey as Lazuli and Julie Boulianne as Aloes

Helene Guilmette as Princesse Laoula, Kate Lindsey as Lazuli and Julie Boulianne as Aloes

Kate Lindsey as Lazuli and the Chorus of the Royal Opera House in L’Étoile