Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791–1864) was one of the most successful opera composers of the nineteenth century, with his four best-known operas (Robert le Diable, Les Huguenots, Le Prophète, and L’Africaine) making him a household name in his day. Meyerbeer’s posthumous reception, however, has been anything but a story of success: by the early twentieth century, his works all but disappeared from the repertory. Slandered and defamed by the anti-Semitic writings of Richard Wagner, Meyerbeer’s artistic reputation and the performances of his works went into a steep decline for many decades. In recent years, Meyerbeer’s legacy seems bound for yet another reversal: leading international opera singers such as Diana Damrau have championed his music, major companies (London, Berlin, Paris) have launched new productions, and music critics have suggested an imminent Meyerbeer “renaissance.”
The objective of “Reassessing the Musical Legacies of Giacomo Meyerbeer” is to explore previously unstudied Meyerbeer works as well as re-evaluate his better-known works through new critical lenses, to apply more rigorous analysis to Meyerbeer’s contemporary and posthumous reception, and to situate his work in a network of professional collaborations among influential artists and intellectuals of the time.