Berton, Henri Montan


French opera composer who was very popular in his day. He was the son of a distinguished father, Pierre Montan Berton, musical composer and conductor; and father of Francois Berton, a composer and teacher of some note. Henri was born in Paris and at a very early age evinced decided musical talent; when only six years old he could read music readily, and at fifteen was violinist in an opera orchestra. He studied under Rey and Sacchini, but his works suggest want of a systematic education. A great deal of Berton's knowledge of music was obtained from the operas he attended, wherefore in his compositions there is much that is reminiscent. Among the first to give Berton recognition as a writer, was the dramatic composer Sacchini, at the time residing in Paris, who saw no little promise in a work of Berton's brought to his notice, it is said, by the celebrated singer, Mile. Mailard, mother of Berton s illegitimate son, the Frangois referred to above.   After winning some success as a writer of oratorios, Berton turned his attention to the field of light opera. In 1787 a favorable reception was given two operas of his, Les promesses de mariage and La Dame invisible; the latter opera written during the early days of his passion for Mile. Mailard, who, it would seem, both inspired the work and was successful in bringing it into notice.

Berton has rank among the masters of French comic opera, but not a pre-eminent place. While bits of his operas keep their popularity, the works themselves have fallen into obscurity. He was the author of more than forty operas, also of oratorios and cantatas. Special mention may be made of the operas Le Delire, Aline, pu la Reine de Golconde, and Franchise de Foix. Montano et Stepanie is his most ambitious work. Henri Berton held various posts of honor in Paris, was professor of harmony at the Conservatory, later of composition; in 1807 was conductor of Italian Opera; in 1815 was made member of the Institute of France. He was esteemed both at home and abroad, but his last days were shadowed by waning popularity and financial loss.