Isouard, Niccolo


Composer and pianist. Born in Malta, but considered by some authorities a French musician, since he spent much of his life in France and wrote there the majority of his works. Others, however, class him as an Italian. His father, who was a merchant, wished to bring his son into a trade, but his natural bent was toward music. Although he occupied commercial positions at Malta and Naples, he found time to study under Sala and Guglielmi. At Florence, in 1795, much to the disapproval of his parents, he brought out his first work, the opera, L'avviso ai maritati, signing himself Niccolo, a name by which he is frequently mentioned. Going to Leghorn the next year he produced his second work, Artaserse. These two operas gained for him sufficient reputation to make him sought for by his native city as organist of the Church of St. John of Jerusalem, and later chapelmaster of the Knights of St. John. At this period he practised all kinds of composition, writing nine cantatas, Hebe, the best; masses; psalms; motets; and vocal pieces for concerts; beside several operas. About the time that Malta fell into the hands of the French, Isouard went to Paris, writing, with Rodolphe Kreutzer, Le petit page, his first French opera. The rest   of his life was spent there, in writing operas, often in collaboration with Kreutzer, Mehul and Boieldieu.

Later great rivalry sprang up between Isouard and Boieldieu, and when the latter was appointed to succeed Mehul at the head of the Paris Institute, despair led Isouard into dissipation, from the effects of which he died within a year.

In Italy he wrote Rinaldo d' Asti; Le tonnelier: Improvisata in Campagna; and a few others. In Paris he produced his best works, Cendrillon; Joconde; Jeannot et Colin; Michel Ange; La statue; Les Confidences; Le Baiser et la Quittance; L'intrigue aux fenetres, and many others. Aladdin, his last work, he left unfinished. His works were pleasing to the public of the day and have in themselves considerable value. Though a writer of light opera, he never descended to vulgarity.