When Spontini resigned his place as chapel-master at the Court of Berlin, in 1832, Meyerbeer succeeded him. He wrote much music of an accidental character in his new position, but a slumber seems to have fallen on his greater creative faculties. The German atmosphere was not favorable to the fruitfulness of Meyerbeer’s genius. He seems to have needed the volatile and sparkling life of Paris to excite him into full activity. Or perhaps he was not willing to produce one of his operas, with their large dependence on elaborat e splendor of production, away from the Paris Grand Opera. During Meyerbeer’s stay in Berlin he introduced Jenny Lind to the Berlin public, as he afterward did indeed to Paris, her debut there being made in the opening performance of “Das Feldlager in Schlesien,” afterward remodeled into “L’Etoile du Nord.”
Meyerbeer returned to Paris in 1849, to present the third of his great operas, “Le Prophete.” It was given with Roger, Viardot-Garcia, and Castellan in the principal characters. Mme. Viardot-Garcia achieved one of her greatest dramatic triumphs in the difficult part of Fides. In London the opera also met with splendid success, having, as Chorley tells us, a great advantage over the Paris presentation in “the remarkable personal beauty of Signor Mario, whose appearance in his coronation robes reminded one of some bishop-saint in a picture by Van Eyck or Durer, and who could bring to bear a play of feature without grimace into the scene of false fascination, entirely beyond the reach of the clever French artist Roger, who originated the character.”
“L’Etoile du Nord” was given to the public February 16, 1854. Up to this time the opera of “Robert” had been sung three hundred and thirty-three times, “Les Huguenots” two hundred and twenty-two, and “Le Prophete” a hundred and twelve. The “Pardon de Ploermel,” also known as “Dinorah,” was offered to the world of Paris April 4, 1859. Both these operas, though beautiful, are inferior to his other works.
Meyerbeer, a man of handsome private fortune, like Mendelssohn, made large sums by his operas, and was probably the wealthiest of the great composers. He lived a life of luxurious ease, and yet labored with intense zeal a certain number of hours each day. A friend one day begged him to take more rest, and he answered smilingly, “If I should leave work, I should rob myself of my greatest pleasure; for I am so accustomed to work that it has become a necessity.” Probably few composers have been more splendidly rewarded by contemporary fame and wealth, or been more idolized by their admirers. No less may it be said that few have been the object of more severe criticism. His youth was spent amid the severest classic influences of German music, and the spirit of romanticism and nationality, which blossomed into such beautiful and characteristic works as those composed by his friend