A Little Known Irish Musician
One of the best musicians Ireland has produced is. curiously enough, little known, though he wrote fifty overtures and much music for stage purposes.
Richard Michael Levey, whose real name was the eminently Irish one of O’Shaughnassy. was born in Dublin, 1811. and died in that city in 1897. He was a close friend of Balfe and Wallace, and was also the teacher of Sir Robert Stewart and Sir Charles Stanford.
His educational work did not stop at this, as he was also one of the founders of the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Most of his life, however, he was engaged in conducting opera and other theatrical ventures. He toured with Balfe in 1839 and seems to have liked his work, for he was frequently heard to remark that “he only lived to beat time.”
He was like most Irishmen, a man of ready wit. and was always ready to tell a good story. He was fond of telling about an old tobacco storekeeper who twitted him about his “Italian” opera – “Italian” opera was the only thing in those days. “That’s a queer Italian opera you’ve got now, Mr. Levey,” said the man. “Titiens is a German, Foli is an Irishman, So-and-So is a Frenchman, and somebody else an American! I tell you what it is, Mr. Levey, there’s only one Italian in the whole lot, and he’s a Spaniard!”
Sometimes Levey’s wit was a little caustic. On one occasion, during a rehearsal of Meyerbeer’s Huguenots, the chorus ladies sang flat. “Ladies! ladies!” shouted Levey, “this won’t do at all, at all. I heard you sing this much better fifty years ago.