This French composer is remembered mostly for his stage works. Something of a child prodigy, he won first prizes in piano and harmony, continued his studies with Massenet at the Paris Conservatory, and then garnered the coveted Prix de Rome at age twenty-three. While holding several teaching positions, Bloch continued to compose opera but also produced symphonic poems and ballet music.
Maïda, his first opera (1909), is set in Ceylon andRead more paints the picture of a beautiful maiden's life before her marriage. The work features quasi-Oriental modes and extended choral scenes and dances. His opera Broceliande (1925), named after a fairy-tale forest, is based on the story of Sleeping Beauty. With shimmering orchestration and charmingly evoked fairy-tale characters, the magical quality of Broceliande is reminiscent of Ravel's L'enfant et les sortilèges. (Indeed, Ravel's opera premiered in Monte Carlo only months before Broceliande opened in Paris.) Bloch's final opera, Guignol, is based on the adventures of Punch and Judy and premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris in 1949.
One final interesting note about Bloch is that he is rumored to be the composer of the septet and some of the ballet music in Offenbach's opera Les contes d'Hoffmann, left unfinished at his death and fleshed out by other composers in the following decades. At least he has been positively identified by Raoul Gunsbourg as the orchestrator of part of Offenbach's opera for a production in Monte Carlo in 1904. Read less
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