Alfred Bruneau

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“Liberty of the phrase, liberty of inspiration, liberty of art, liberty of form, liberty complete, liberty complete, magnificent and definitive!” Alfred Bruneau
Louis Charles Bonaventure Alfred Bruneau was born on 3 March 1857 in Paris. His father was a violinist, his mother a painter. Louis Bruneau studied the violoncello with Auguste Franchomme and composition with Jules Massenet at the Paris Conservatory. In 1881 a cantata of his brought him the second place of the Prix de Rome.

In 1888 after his first orchestral compositions and the composition of his first opera Kérim, Bruneau met the poet Émile Zola. The two of them became very close friends and started a collaboration that lasted until Zola died in 1902. Zola provided among others the subject matters for Bruneau’s operas Le rêve (1891) and  L’attaque du moulin (1893). For the operas Messidor (1897) and L’Ouragan (1901) Zola himself wrote the libretti. Bruneau’s book „À l’ombre d’un grand cœur“ (In the shadow of a big heart) written in 1931 reveals his great friendship with Zola.

Other operas by Bruneau contained themes by Hans Christian Andersen (Le jardin du Paris in 1923) and Victor Hugo (Angelo, tyran de Padoue in 1928).

Bruneau conducted his own works in Russia, England, Spain and Holland. He introduced the realism to the french opera stage, adapting the naturalism of Émile Zola in music.

Bruneau was working as a music critic from the late 1880s till he died. He wrote for the biggest french newspapers, among them the Figaro and Le Matin.

From 1903 till 1904 he was musical director at the Opéra-Comique. In 1925 he succeeded Gabriel Fauré  as member for the Académie des Beaux-Arts. June 15th 1934 Bruneau died in Paris.

Alfred Bruneau wrote some beautiful collections of art songs, among them the lovely „Passepied“ on a poem written by Catulle Mendès. Mendès was first married to Judith Gautier, the daughter of his mentor Théophile Gautier. His second wife was the composer Augusta Holmès.

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