Herold, Louis Joseph Ferdinand

1791-1833

Son of François Joseph Herold. Born in 1791 in Paris, After the death of his father, in 1806, Herold decided to make music his profession. He was a pupil at the Institute at Hix, where he distinguished himself and attracted the attention of the celebrated Fetis, by his quickness and musical perception. His first teacher of piano was Louis Adams, his godfather. He studied harmony with Catel, and composition with Mehul. In 1812 he received the Prize of Rome for his cantata, Mile, de la Valliere, an unpublished score of which is in the library of the Paris Conservatory, together with the other compositions written at Naples, where he became pianist to Queen Caroline. In 1815 an opera buffa written by him, and given at the Fondo, in Naples, met with great success. During the same year Boieldieu asked him to complete his score of Charles de France; this work won for him much favorable notice. In 1817 his own opera, Les Rosieres, was given at the Feydeau, and shortly after appeared his La Clochette. From 1818 to 1825 he wrote numberless operas, but because of poor texts their production did not meet with success. Herold was accompanying pianist at the Theatre Italien from 1820 to 1823, and during these three years wrote nothing for the stage. His next works were five operas. The state of discouragement of the composer was evidenced in them, and he next began to copy Rossini, but his style was not fitted to Herold's peculiar genius. In 1827 he was made director of the opera and for three years wrote but four ballets. In 1830 he produced fimmeline, which was a failure, but in 1831 his opera, Zampa, made his success assured. It was the first exclusively romantic opera of the period. By German critics, Zampa is given first place among his works. His last great composition was Le pre aux Clercs, the production of which he personally superintended. The French consider Le pre aux Clercs rather than Zampa his masterpiece, as there is greater unity, due to sympathy between dramatist   and composer. Herold left an unfinished opera, Ludovic, which Halevy completed and produced in 1834. One of his comic operas, La Medecine sans Medecin, became, by 1871, so popular that it had been presented one thousand times, and is considered by many to have been his best dramatic effort. While Herold is known as one of the greatest French writers of opera comique, his few orchestral compositions are of such quality as to show that he might have held high rank with modern symphonists.

In his opera, Marie, he proves his thorough knowledge of the stage; his keen judgment and graceful and select orchestration. The scene of Marie's despair evinces the art of a true poet and musician. His ballets are also of rare quality and his influence upon French ballet composition was marked. Though Herold's work became at times almost like drudgery, and failure to find material for his operas was discouraging, he never lost sight of his one high ambition, that of becoming a truly great composer. That he possessed the modesty of all real masters was shown by his complaint to a friend shortly before he died, that he was going too soon, as he had only just begun to understand the stage. He died in Les Ternes at the age of forty-two. Other of Herold's compositions not mentioned above are Le premier venu; Les Troqueurs; and L'Amour platonique; L'Anteur mort et vivant; Le Muletier; and Le Lapin blanc, all operas, only one of which met with much success, Le Muletier; and a series of ballets, Astolphe et Joconde, La Sonnambule, La Belle au bois, and La Fille mal gardee.