DELIBES (LÉO)

Léo Delibes, French composer (1836 - 1891)

Clément Philibert Léo Delibes was born on February 21, 1836 in Saint-Germain du Val (Sarthe). His father, a postman, died when he was only eleven years old. His mother, Élisabeth Batiste, belongs to a family of musicians. When her husband died, she moved to Paris. His mother and her half-brother Antoi...

Léo Delibes, French composer (1836 - 1891)

Clément Philibert Léo Delibes was born on February 21, 1836 in Saint-Germain du Val (Sarthe). His father, a postman, died when he was only eleven years old. His mother, Élisabeth Batiste, belongs to a family of musicians. When her husband died, she moved to Paris. His mother and her half-brother Antoine-Édouard Batiste (1820-1876), organist at the Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs church in Paris, who taught him music.  

Being an excellent singer, the young Leo entered the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of twelve, where he obtained a first music theory prize in two years. He also studied piano, organ and composition there, under the direction of François Benoît (1794-1878), Adolphe Adam (1803-1856) and François Bazin (1816-1878).  

From 1853, he was organist at Saint-Pierre de Chaillot and coach-accompanist at the Théâtre-Lyrique (destroyed in 1860 by Hausmann to establish Place de la République). He, then, met Jules Verne, himself the author of opera-comic librettos, who was its secretary until 1855.  

Léo Delibes begins to write for the stage. His first opera-buffa "Deux sous de charbon" was created in 1856 and was regularly performed until 1870. During this period, he composed around fifteen works, including the Omelette à la Follembûche (1859) in a libretto Eugène Labiche and Marc Michel, the Musicians of the Orchestra (1861), The court of king Pétaud (1869). In 1865, he became second choir director of the Paris Opera and was asked to write ballet music. La source (1866), Coppélia (1870), Sylvia (1876) gave him fame. His music was then applauded as much in concert halls as in theaters.  

Léo Delibes left his duties as organist and choirmaster in 1871 to devote himself entirely to composition.   Professor of composition at the Conservatoire de Paris from 1881, after Napoleon-Henri Reber (1807-1880), it is with Lakmé, opera in three acts according to a short story by Pierre Loti, premiered on April 14, 1883, that it reaches an international audience never denied today. The air des clochettes remains an essential partition of the program of the colorature sopranos and the duo des fleurs (for soprano and mezzo) is regularly performed in concert.  

The music of Léo Delibes with great melodic and harmonic fluidity is often considered easy to approach. Having never sought to be a "revolutionary", the composer reflects the Parisian musical life of his time, light and elegant.  

Léo Delibes died on January 16, 1891 in Paris, leaving the Kassya opera unfinished, completed and orchestrated by Jules Massenet (1842-1912) and premiered two years later at the Opéra-Comique de Paris. He is buried in the Montmartre cemetery, in the same section as Jacques Offenbach, Louis Niedermeyer and Théodore Dubois.

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