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Hervé

Biography

Born: June 30, 1825; Houdain, France   Died: November 3, 1892; Paris, France  
Hervé was the nom de plume of French composer Florimond Ronger. Born in Houdain, he moved with his mother to Paris at age 10 when his father died. After picking up the rudiments of music as a choirboy at the church of St. Roch, Hervé entered the Paris Conservatoire where he studied with Auber, among others. After serving organ posts at St. Eustache and the Bicêtre Asylum, Hervé decided to pursue a career in the theater as a singer, actor, Read more conductor, composer, and producer, at which time he adopted his one-word-long name. As a composer, Hervé gained attention with Don Quinchotte et Sancho Panza (1848) after Cervantes, his second-known theatrical work of eventually more than 60. Regarded in some circles as the first French comic operetta, in yet others Don Quinchotte et Sancho Panza is thought to be the earliest operetta of them all. After the success of Les folies dramatiques (1853), which was a parody of then-prevailing styles of grand opera, Hervé was able to open his own theater in Paris, the Théâtre des Folies-Concertantes, later renamed the Théâtre des Folies-Nouvelles. Hervé not only presented his own works there, but those of his contemporaries and close friends, Jacques Offenbach in particular, and Léo Delibes.

After a tour that led from the outer provinces to Cairo in 1853, Hervé decided to open a tiny cabaret in Paris, which he christened Eldorado -- it operated from that time to 1870, with Hervé as conductor and primary music director. Much of the bawdy, insouciant material that Hervé wrote for Eldorado ended up being recycled into his operettas in a cleaned up form. After experiencing a slump beginning in the 1850s, Hervé's career as a composer of operetta began to pick up in the late 1860s with Chilpéric, in which he also starred, and Le petit faust (1869), a send-up of Gounod's masterwork. Part of this renewed success was due to his association with popular actress Anna Judic, a performer also favored by Offenbach, whom he had worked with at Eldorado. Although Hervé's work was not designed for sophisticated tastes, some of it proved enduring; Mam'zelle Nitouche (1883), based in part on his own life, is still performed with some regularity at the Opèra Comique in Paris, and La femme à papa (1879) is also revived, though with less frequency. In 1870, Hervé traveled to England and wrote, in English, Aladdin the Second (1871) and conducted at Covent Garden in the mid-1870s. In 1886, Hervé accepted the directorship of the Empire Theater in London, a position held until he unexpectedly returned to France in 1892 to die at age 67 very shortly after a hastily prepared gala was held in his honor. Hervé's worklist is overwhelmingly vocal; outside of a small number of sacred pieces written early in his career, nearly all of his music was written with the theater in mind. Read less
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