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Henri Meilhac

Librettist

Biography

French playwright and librettist Henri Meilhac (1831–97) was a prolific librettist in opéra-comique. He is best known today for his collaborations with Ludovic Halévy for Offenbach (including on La Belle Hélène) and on Bizet’s Carmen, and with Philippe Gille on Massenet’s Manon.

Meilhac was born in Paris and studied at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. He first worked as a bookseller and provided writings and drawings for Le journal du rire 1852–5 before going on to work in the theatre. His numerous plays and librettos were nearly all collaborative projects. His most important collaboration in opera was with Halévy, with whom he wrote several opéra-comique librettos for Offenbach and the libretto for Bizet’s Carmen. He was elected to the Académie Française in 1888.

Both Meilhac and Halévy described their partnership as a friendly one, to which Meilhac brought wit and imagination and Halévy a sense of dramatic framework.