Musical life seems intense in the XIX-th and XX-th centuries in Nice. Opera, symphonic works, chamber music, variety shows, public representations, private concerts, all kinds and all forms of interpretation coexist

Classical music occupies an important place. Famous artists stayed in Nice and composed there, as Berlioz *, Liszt, Offenbach, Tchaïkovski, Gounod, Massenet *, Fauré, Meyerbeer, Puccini, Lecocq, Messenger, Ambroise Thomas, Alexandre Kosma. Paganini* and Halévy who died in Nice. Some were born there or others became important composers in Nice as Charles Pons *, Albert Ribollet *, Eleuthère Lovreglio *, Maurice Jaubert *, or opera interpreters among whom Thérèse Clément *, Victoria Fer *, Edouard Rouart *, Jean-Baptiste Aquistapace *, Léon Ponzio*

The places of representation multiplied. In 1777, the Maccarani family replaced the small existing scenes by a more important establishment situated in the place of the current Opera. In 1789, a group of forty gentlemen of Nice, jealous of the Maccarani’s monopoly, resumed the theater. After the confusions of the Revolution, a larger Opera was inaugurated in 1828. Its builders, Brunati from Nice and Perruti from Turin conceived a hall in Italian style with four floors of boxes. On the curtain of the stage, painter Jean-Baptiste Biscarra represented Catherine Ségurane*'s exploit during the seat of 1543. The bottom of the stage offered a large opening looking on the sea. This establishment, called the Great Theater or the Royal Theater, later the Imperial Theater after the attachment of 1860 and the Municipal Theater after the advent of the Republic in 1870, was the place of many festivities. In 1860, Napoleon III, empress Eugénie and mayor Malausséna* celebrated there the attachment with an imposing ball, the orchestra was conducted by Johann Strauss. In 1864, Napoleon III invited czar Alexandre II to a representation of the Verdi’s Traviata. In 1868, king Louis II of Bavaria applauded Rossini’s Cinderella. Presidents of the Republic in official journeys showed themselves in the main box. The history of this hall ended tragically, on March 21, 1881, with a fire which caused 59 deaths.

The opera house was rebuilt by François Aune, architect of Nice and inaugurated on February 7, 1885. It is the same establishment which, with some alterations in the common parts and in the technical installations, is still in service today. In 1888, the municipality put an end to a debate which, since 1840 , divided the spectators, some wanting the Italian repertoire, the others praising the French lyric works. The latter became the rule. As for the German repertoire, it strived to impose itself : it was only in 1890 that director Raoul Gunsbourg created for the first time an opera of Mozart, Don Juan; the master of Salzburg should wait till 1929 for another opera, the enchanted Flute, to be given in Nice. As for Wagner, he repeled for a long time the audience.

The importance of the scene of Nice was underlined by the worldwide or French creations which took place there: Berlioz's Capture of Troy in 1890, Verdi’s Otello in 1891, Tchaïkovski’s Eugène Onéguine in 1895, Léoncavallo's bohemia in 1899, Wagner's Gold of the Rhine in 1902. Famous composers came to Nice to attend the creation of their works: Léoncavallo for Paillasse in 1905 , Massenet* for Marie - Madeleine in 1905, Puccini for Manon Lescaut in 1906, Chostakovitch for Katerina Ismaïlova in 1963, Darius Milhaud for David in 1967. The most important interpreters sang in Nice: Adelina Patti, Nelly Melba, Emma Calvé, Felia Litvine, Mary Garden, Ninon Vallin, Mado Robin, Géori Boué, Montserrat Caballe, Régine Crespin, Francesco Tamagno, José Luccioni, Georges Thill, Gabriel Bacquier..

Operas and ballets were also given in the municipal Casino where Manuel de Falla's brief Life was created in 1913. Music was also present in the Pier Promenade, more concerned with operetta and light opera, in the Opera Comique in street Deloye, in the French Theater situated in the current place of Galeries Lafayette, in the Palais de la Méditerranée on the Promenade des Anglais *, in the clubs* and in other different small scenes.

Musical life continued in the aristocratic houses. The rich baron von Derwies, Russian of Baltic origin, built a large hall of 400 seats next to his Valrose*'s castle and maintained there an orchestra which created notably La Vie for the czar of Glinka in 1879. Opera singer Sophie Cruvelli *, who became viscountess Vigier by her marriage, organized concerts in the lounges of her Venetian palace of the Lazaret and, in 1881 , took a considerable initiative: the French creation of Wagner’s opera , Lohengrin, in which she interpreted Elsa's role in the middle of a brilliant distribution. The other concerts were given at Mrs Rimsky-Korsakoff's, Mrs Prodgers’, Mrs Pollonais’, wife of the mayor of Villefranche, Mr. and Mrs Bishop’s, owners of the castle Barla, Mr. Gambart’s, owner of the Marble palace or villa Les Palmiers *, count Apraxine’s, in his villa of Saint Philippe, Antoine and Raymond Gautier’s, virtuosos of Nice and collectors of ancient instruments.

The general public appreciates variety shows and music hall. Stars perform regularly in Nice. The city inspires Parisian composers, such as Borel-Clerc, author of Le Petit Vin Blanc who created A La Côte d'Azur; Alibert sang C’est ma Niçoise; Benech and Dumont wrote De Nice À Monte Carlo after their famous Nuit de Chine. Authors of Nice became famous : Gabriel Bonincontro with tes Yeux, Pierre Arezzo, Henri Betti, musicians of Maurice Chevalier. Cinto Tarelli* specialized in the writing of songs for Carnival.

In the XX-th century, music places are less numerous. The old opera and its philharmonic orchestra keep all their prestige. The Conference hall Acropolis offers a large hall the acoustics of which was particularly studied. The baroque ensemble of Nice, conducted by Gilbert Bezzina, rehabilitates a very interesting repertoire. Annual festivals, as that of convent of Cimiez or the concerts of sacred music, gather a vast public. The Roman amphitheatre serve as setting, every summer, to a jazz festival. The MANCA (Musique Actuelle Nice - Côte d'Azur), created by Jean - Etienne Marie* present outstanding contemporary works. The national Conservatoire of region forms remarkable artists as the pianists Samson François, Gabriel Tacchino, Philippe Bianconi, Olivier Gardon, the violinists Christian Ferras and Jean-Jacques Kantorov, the organist Jacques Taddei, the author - interpreter Gilbert Bécaud. The composers of Nice, among which several were formed in the conservatoire by Mario Vittoria ( 1911-1984 ), are numerous and obtain rewards and official commands, (Alain Fourchotte, Elizabeth Pastorelli, Hanni Fouad, Gilbert Lévy, Marc Tirel, Léon Garnier). The others, as Pierrette Mari and Christian Manen, continue their works in Paris.

Ralph SCHOR

 

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