39. Andre Gretry [365 Composers for 2013]


8th February – Andre Gretry


Gretry (8th February 1741 – 24th September 1813) is our composer for 8th February, to mark the day of his birth.
Nationality: Belgian
Lifespan: 72 years
Genre: Classical
Education: College de Liege in Rome
Fame Ranking: 5

Gretry was born in the Prince-Bishopric of Liege, which is today in Begium but at the time was part of the Holy Roman Empire. Gretry fulfilled his wish of studying music in Rome after writing a mass dedicated to Liege Cathedral. The Canon of the cathedral then funded his trip to Rome, where he studied for five years.

Inspired by the operas of his day, Gretry excelled in that art-form and was famed for his comic operas and operettas. He was particularly keen on the French style, and moved to Paris in 1767 but did not find success instantly. He lived in poverty for around two years before getting his lucky break with the performance of his opera “Le Huron”, allegedly written in just six weeks. It is a love story involving the Huron Indian tribe in America. Gretry eventually took on French citizenship.

Gretry wrote around fifty operas in total. He can also claim fame as the first composer ever to write for an instrument called the “tuba curva”, used in music he wrote on the death of the writer Voltaire. The tuba curva, also known as the “cornu”, dates back to Roman times and is around 3 metres in length, curving around the player’s body.

Here is Gretry’s “Aria for Leonore”, from the opera “L’Amant Jaloux” (The Jealous Lover).



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