Delibes, Clement Philibert Leo

1836-1891

Was born at St. Germain du Val, Sarthe, and came to Paris in 1848, being admitted into the solfege class at the Conservatory, where Le Couppey, Bazin, Adam and Benoist were his chief teachers. He is said by Grove to have been one of the most meritorious composers of the modern French School. In 1853 he became the accompanist at the Theatre Lyrique and organist at the Church of St. Jean et St. François. His first stage work was a one-act operetta, produced in 1855, and followed by twelve more of the same class, up to 1865, when he was appointed second chorusmaster at the Grand Opera. He next tried ballet-writing with great success. La Source, a ballet, was produced at the Opera in 1866 and another at the Grand Opera in 1870, which was a veritable triumph, and soon placed its composer in the front rank as a writer of light, sparkling music of the modern French School. He resigned his post as accompanist at the Lyrique to accept that of second chorusmaster at the Opera, where he gained great popularity as a composer of ballets. After assuming this position a new career for the composer began. He had showed such gifts as a ballet-composer in La Source that he was at once invited to write a divertissement for the ballet, Le Corsaire, by his old master, Adolphe Adam, for its revival in 1867. Coppelia, written in 1870, is considered by many to be his best work. In 1880 he became professor of advanced composition at the Conservatory and in 1884 was made a member of the Institut, succeeding Masse. In spite of his success with balletmusic, he tried his hand at other kinds and wrote a series of dramatic works, produced at the Opera Comique, among them Jean de Nirvelle, produced in 1880; Lakme (1883); a fiveact opera, Kassya, completed after Delibes' death by E. Guiraud; and other dramatic works which remain in manuscript form. In addition he wrote incidental music for Le Roi s'amuse on its revival at the Comedie Franchise, in 1882, and several songs, among them Ruy Bias and Barberine. He also wrote a collection of fifteen melodies with piano accompaniment, which were in the style of the German lieder; a ballet, Sylvia; also a cantata, Alger, performed in 186o. Delibes was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and received other testimonials of esteem. A memoir of Delibes was published by E. Guiraud in 1892.