Halevy, trained under the influences of Cherubini, was largely inspired by that great master’s musical purism and reverence for the higher laws of his art. Halevy’s powerful sense of the dramatic always influenced his methods and sympathies. Not being a composer of creative imagination, however, the melodramatic element is more prominent than the purely tragic or comic. His music shows remarkable resources in the production of brilliant and captivating though always tasteful effects, which rather please the senses and the fancy than stir the heart and imagination. Here and there scattered through his works, notably so in “La Juive,” are touches of emotion and grandeur; but Halevy must be characterized as a composer who is rather distinguished for the brilliancy, vigor, and completeness of his art than for the higher creative power, which belongs in such preeminent degree to men like Rossini and Weber, or even to Auber, Meyerbeer, and Gounod. It is nevertheless true that Halevy composed works which will retain a high rank in French art. “La Juive,” “Guido,” “La Reine de Chypre,” and “Charles VI.” are noble lyric dramas, full of beauties, though it is said they can never be seen to the best advantage off the French stage. Halevy’s genius and taste in music bear much the same relation to the French stage as do those of Verdi to the Italian stage; though the former composer is conceded by critics to be a greater purist in musical form, if he rarely equals the Italian composer in the splendid bursts of musical passion with which the latter redeems so much that is meretricious and false, and the charming melody which Verdi shares with his countrymen.
The French school of light opera, founded by Givtry, reached its greatest perfection in the authors of “La Dame Blanche” and “Fra Diavolo,” though to the former of these composers must be accorded the peculiar distinction of having given the most perfect example of this style of composition. Francois Adrien Boieldieu, the scion of a Norman family, was born at Rouen, December 16, 1775. He received his early musical training at the hands of Broche, a great musician and the cathedral organist, but a drunkard and brutal taskmaster. At the age of sixteen he had become a good pianist and knew something of composition. At all events his passionate love of the theatre prompted him to try his hand at an opera, which was actually performed at Rouen. The revolution which made such havoc with the clergy and their dependents ruined the Boieldieu family (the elder Boieldieu had been secretary of the archiepiscopal diocese), and young Francois, at the age of nineteen, was set adrift on the world, his heart full of hope and his ambition bent on Paris, whither he set his feet. Paris, however, proved a stern stepmother at the outset, as she always has been to the struggling and unsuccessful. He was obliged to tune pianos for his living, and was glad to sell his brilliant chansons, which afterward made a fortune for his publisher, for a few francs apiece.