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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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149 news items

Bellevue Reporter
Mon, 21 Jul 2014 04:15:00 -0700

“Giselle,” composed by Adolphe Adam, is the oldest continuously-performed ballet in the art form's history. It tells the story of a peasant woman who dies of a broken heart upon learning her beau is a nobleman promised to a noblewoman. She is ...
Journal Times
Wed, 09 Jul 2014 06:06:25 -0700

Featured works include the “Queen for a Day” Overture by Adolphe Adam, two “Spanish Dances” by Enrique Granados and “Tournament Galop” by Louis Marie Gottschalk. Light concert selections include highlights from “Oliver” and Leroy Anderson's “Blue ...

Kenosha News

Kenosha News
Thu, 10 Jul 2014 21:52:30 -0700

The program will also feature the “Queen for a Day” overture by Adolphe Adam, two “Spanish Dances” by Enrique Granados and “Tournament Galop” by Louis Marie Gottschalk. “Light” concert selections include highlights from the Broadway musical “Oliver” ...
Mon, 07 Jul 2014 00:18:45 -0700

In the competition our dancers presented excerpts from two ballets "Don Quixote" by Ludwig Minkus and "Le Corsaire" by Adolphe Adam. The International Ballet Competition was held in Istanbul for the fourth time and gathered about fifty participants ...


Thu, 03 Jul 2014 06:41:15 -0700

The festival program includes the ballet Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky, Giselle by Adolphe Adam, Don Quixote by Ludwig Minkus and Zorba the Greek by Mikis Theodorakis, Bulgaria's National Radio informs. The children's program includes favorite children's ...
La Actualidad de Águilas
Wed, 16 Jul 2014 00:41:15 -0700

... proyección gratuita del Ballet “Giselle”. Es un espectáculo separado en dos actos, con música de Adolphe Adam y coreografía de Jules Perrot y Jean Coralli. El evento estará presentado por el director del Teatro Romea de Murcia, Lorenzo Píriz-Carbonell.


Sun, 20 Jul 2014 01:26:15 -0700

Magistrale l'esibizione della coppia Giezendanner-Raveau che ha danzato un pas de deux tratto dal famoso “Le Corsaire”, messo in musica da Adolphe Adam e coreografato da Marius Petipa. Pierre Arthur Raveau ha inoltre espresso tutto il suo vigore e la ...


Fri, 18 Jul 2014 04:48:45 -0700

Sulle musiche di Adolphe Adam, il coreografo Eugenio Scigliano affronta Giselle, caposaldo e sintesi del Romanticismo coreografico, tornando direttamente alle fonti poetiche e letterarie del balletto. Proprio partendo dalla suggestiva leggenda delle ...

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