Charles Louis Ambroise Thomas
Ambroise Thomas was born at Metz, Lorraine, August 5, 1811, and died in Paris February 12, 1896.
He was the son of a musician and played the violin and piano while still a child.
At the Conservatoire he won the first prize for piano, 1829, for harmony, 1830, and the Grand Prix in 1832.
He also studied piano with Kalkbrenner, harmony with Barberaue and composition with the venerable Lesueur – who used to call him his “leading-note,” because he was so sensitive and because he was Lesueur’s seventh pupil to win the Grand Prix.
He returned from Italy with a cantata, a mass, a fantasia for piano and orchestra, and other smaller works.
Very soon, however, he commenced producing works for the Opera Comique, and it was here that his genius found full scope.
He produced many tuneful operas, most of which are now forgotten.
The overture to Raymond is still performed, but Mignon (1866) is frequently given entire in France and elsewhere.
The delicate entr’acte from Mignon is very popular, and coloratura sopranos regard the polonaise from this work with the same veneration they have for the Jewel song from Faust.
His greatest operatic work, however, is Hamlet (1868).
Thomas succeeded Auber as director of the Conservatoire in 1871, and instituted many reforms, and did a vast amount of most valuable work.