Giacomo Meyerbeer

Born to a very wealthy Berlin family, Giacomo Meyerbeer began his musical career as a pianist but soon decided to devote himself to opera, spending several years in Italy studying and composing. His 1824 opera Il crociato in Egitto was the first to bring him Europe-wide reputation, but it was Robert le diable (1831) which raised his status to great celebrity. His public career, lasting from then until his death, during which he remained a dominating figure in the world of opera, was summarized by his contemporary Hector Berlioz, who claimed that he 'has not only the luck to be talented, but the talent to be lucky.' He was at his peak with his operas Les Huguenots (1836) and Le prophète (1849); his last opera (L'Africaine) was performed posthumously. His operas made him the most frequently performed composer at the world's leading opera houses in the nineteenth century.

All of Meyerbeer's significant music is for the voice (opera and songs) and this reflects his detailed grounding in Italian opera. Throughout his career he wrote his operas with specific singers in mind and took great care to temper his writing to their strengths; but at the same time he seemed little interested in expressing the emotions of his characters, preferring to use his music to underline the larger-scale machinations of the plot. Apart from around 50 songs, Meyerbeer wrote little except for the stage.