Michael William Balfe: His Life and His English Operas

Without doubt, Michael William Balfe (1808-1870) was the most successful composer of English opera in the mid nineteenth century. During his lifetime he enjoyed an international reputation and worked with some of the leading singers of the time, including Jenny Lind, Malibran and Grisi. Drawing on previously unused source materials such as letters, legal documents and playbills, this biography of Balfe and in-depth study of his English operas overturns many of the previously accepted 'facts' of the composer's lifestyle. Using London as his base, Dublin-born Balfe spent long periods in Paris and travelled widely in Europe. William Tyldesley discusses the continental influences evident in Balfe's operas and offers new suggestions as to the draw that Paris held for the composer. Far from leading a fairly prosperous and unexceptional life, Balfe is shown to have found himself in financial straits on more than one occasion, and to have employed possibly unethical means of extracting himself from them. Those wishing to perform Balfe's works or to do further research into them, will find Tyldesley's re-examination of the composer a necessary first port of call.