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Adolphe Adam, Lithograph, 1850
"Maestro Adolphe Adam".
Photograph. Paris, circa 1855
Detail of Adolphe Adam engraving from the library of the Royal College of Music, London

Adolphe Charles Adam (French: [adolf adɑ̃]; 24 July 1803 – 3 May 1856)[1] was a French composer and music critic. A prolific composer of operas and ballets, he is best known today for his ballets Giselle (1841) and Le corsaire (1856, his last work), his operas Le postillon de Lonjumeau (1836), Le toréador (1849) and Si j'étais roi (1852) [n 1] and his Christmas carol Minuit, chrétiens! (1844), later set to different English lyrics and widely sung as "O Holy Night" (1847). Adam was a noted teacher, who taught Delibes[n 2] and other influential composers.

Life and career[edit]

Adolphe Adam was born in Paris to Jean-Louis Adam (1758–1848), who was a prominent Alsatian composer, as well a professor at the Paris Conservatoire. His mother was the daughter of a physician. As a child, Adolphe Adam preferred to improvise music on his own rather than study music seriously and occasionally truanted with writer Eugène Sue who was also something of a dunce in early years. Jean-Louis Adam was a pianist and teacher but was firmly set against the idea of his son following in his footsteps. Adam was determined, however, and studied and composed secretly under the tutelage of his older friend Ferdinand Hérold, a popular composer of the day. When Adam was 17, his father relented, and he was permitted to study at the Paris Conservatoire—but only after he promised that he would learn music only as an amusement, not as a career.[2] He entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1821, where he studied organ and harmonium under the celebrated opera composer François-Adrien Boieldieu. Adam also played the tympani in the orchestra of the Conservatoire; however, he did not win the Prix de Rome and his father did not encourage him to pursue a music career, as he won second prize.[3]

By age 20, he was writing songs for Paris vaudeville houses and playing in the orchestra at the Gymnasie Dramatique, where he later became chorus master. Like many other French composers, he made a living largely by playing the organ. In 1825, he helped Boieldieu prepare parts for his opera La dame blanche and made a piano reduction of the score. Adam was able to travel through Europe with the money he made, and he met Eugène Scribe, with whom he later collaborated, in Geneva. By 1830, he had completed twenty-eight works for the theatre.

Adam is probably best remembered for the ballet Giselle (1841). He wrote several other ballets and 39 operas, including Le postillon de Lonjumeau (1836) and Si j'étais roi (1852).

After quarreling with the director of the Opéra, Adam invested his money and borrowed heavily to open a fourth opera house in Paris: the Théâtre National (Opéra-National). It opened in 1847, but closed because of the Revolution of 1848, leaving Adam with massive debts (Théâtre National later was resurrected under the name of Théâtre Lyrique at the Boulevard du Temple). His efforts to extricate himself from these debts include a brief turn to journalism.[1] From 1849 to his death in Paris, he taught composition at the Paris Conservatoire.

His Christmas carol "Cantique de Noël", translated to English as "O Holy Night", is an international favorite, and is said to have been the first music broadcast on radio.[citation needed][4]

Adam is buried in Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.



Performed by Andrew Mogrelia &
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Courtesy of NAXOS

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  1. ^ Si j'étais roi, particularly in France is often regarded as his finest work.
  2. ^ Delibes is widely known in the English speaking world for writing The Flower Duet, Lakmé, Coppélia and Sylvia.


  1. ^ a b Randel, Don Michael, ed. (1996). "Adam, Adolphe (Charles)". The Harvard biographical dictionary of music. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press. ISBN 0-674-37299-9. 
  2. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/artist/adolphe-adam-mn0000394866
  3. ^ Musical Theatre magazine Opérette - Biographies (In French)
  4. ^ Cyber Hymnal

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolphe_Adam — Please support Wikipedia.
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50 news items


Thu, 28 Aug 2014 23:12:41 -0700

Louisville Ballet opens their fall season with Giselle choreographed by Jules Perrot and Jean Coralli and music by Adolphe Adam on Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 13 at 2 and 8 p.m.. Teddy Abrams, the Louisville Orchestra's new music director and ...

Business Review

Business Review
Mon, 25 Aug 2014 04:03:45 -0700

Moreover, this year the dance lovers will also see some ballet shows, such as “La fille mal gardée”(Ferdinand Hérold and John Lanchbery, choreography signed by Sir Frederick Ashton) and Adolphe Adam's “Giselle”, choreography signed by Ethan Stiefel ...


Mon, 01 Sep 2014 00:40:20 -0700

... viziunea regizorala a celebrului Graham Vick, "Manon Lescaut" de Giacomo Puccini, in regia lui Jonathan Kent, "La fille mal gardee" de Ferdinand Herold si John Lanchbery, in coregrafia lui Sir Frederick Ashton si "Giselle" de Adolphe Adam, in ...
Sat, 30 Aug 2014 22:31:37 -0700

Als seine Paraderolle galt der Chapelou im "Postillon von Lonjumeau" von Adolphe Adam. Aber Pollini lockte mit hohen Gagen auch die Stars an sein Haus und das Publikum mit ihren großen Namen: Der Bassist Max Lohfing, die Sopranistin Katharina ...
Rádios EBC
Wed, 27 Aug 2014 15:30:00 -0700

Em 9 de setembro, serão executados os solos "A Morte do Cisne" (Camille Saint-Saëns /Michel Fokine) e "Gopak" (do ballet "Taras Bulba", de Vassily Soloviev / Feodor Lopokov), vários pas-de-deux como o do segundo ato de "Giselle" (Adolphe Adam ...
Mon, 25 Aug 2014 16:26:15 -0700

... se vor bucura de momente coregrafice ale noilor producţii de balet precum „La fille mal gardée” de Ferdinand Hérold si John Lanchbery, in coregrafia lui Sir Frederick Ashton si „Giselle” de Adolphe Adam, in coregrafia lui Ethan Stiefel si Johan ...


Wed, 27 Aug 2014 12:52:30 -0700

... seara zilei de 30 august iubitorii dansului se vor bucura de momente coregrafice ale noilor producţii de balet precum La fille mal gardée de Ferdinand Hérold şi John Lanchbery, în coregrafia lui Sir Frederick Ashton şi Giselle de Adolphe Adam, în ...


Mon, 18 Aug 2014 03:05:42 -0700

Tout juste sait-on qu'elle a été popularisée par Adolphe Adam dans son opérette Le Sourd ou l'Auberge pleine, en 1853. Autre seule certitude : on ne dansait pas sur le pont, bien trop étroit, mais dessous, dans l'une de ces nombreuses guinguettes qui ...

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