Amélie-Julie Candeille at 250

Child prodigy, singer, actress, composer, librettist, harpist, pianist, playwright, comedian, or maybe simply polymath...few of the people in the RISM database can lay claim to so many roles. Amélie-Julie Candeille (1767-1834), who was born 250 years ago today, found success on a number of fronts in Parisian musical life and was one of the most successful women composers at the time of the French Revolution.

Amélie-Julie Candeille received most of her musical instruction from her father, himself a composer. By the time she was 13, Candeille had been touted as a child prodigy, appeared in public as a singer, pianist, and harpist, and performed in front of the king. Within just a few years, she was performing lead roles at the Opéra and she debuted her own fortepiano concerto in concert. Her star kept rising as she joined the Comédie Française in 1785 as both an actress and a playwright, culminating with her success at the Théâtre de la République.

It was at the République that Candeille found acclaim with the comedy Catherine ou La belle fermière (1792). This comédie en prose, mêlée de chant was something of a one-woman show for the composer, who wrote the words and songs and performed the role of Catherine while accompanying herself on piano and harp—did I mention the lead character in the opera is a writer and composer who sings and plays harp in order to get through difficult times? According to Larousse's Grand dictionnaire universel du XIXe siècle (1867), the composer performed "sous le veile de l'anonyme" but the biographical parallels were not lost on contemporary audiences.

Catherine was extremely popular in Paris and abroad (it was performed in Amsterdam as Catherine, of De schoone pachtster) and was revived throughout most of the rest of Candeille's life (see the image, above, from 1818, in which Rose Dupuis takes on the title role). The opera found widespread circulation in print, which can be seen by the sources in the RISM catalog: nearly half of the 23 items for imprints by Candeille are excerpts from this opera.

As might be expected with a composer whose career was made in Paris, a third of RISM's sources for Candeille are found at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (F-Pn). Gallica has seven scores available digitally, which actually gives a good overview of Candeille's oeuvre: three excerpts from Catherine, music from La jeune hôtesse, piano sonatas (including one dedicated to Hélène de Montgeroult), and a piano concerto. Links to the items in Gallica have been added to the RISM records, which will be visible with the next catalog update.



Sources:

Barbara Garvey Jackson, "Say can you deny me". A guide to surviving music by women from the 16th through the 18th centuries (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 1994).

Anja Herold, "Candeille, Amélie-Julie," Sophie Drinker Institut.

Julian Rushton, et al. "Candeille, Julie." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.

Image: Rose Dupuis performing the role of Catherine in Catherine ou La belle fermière by Julie Candeille. Illustration by Atelier Maleuvre, Paris, 1818. From Gallica (Bibliothèque nationale de France).

 

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