Born Jakob Liebmann Meyer Beer in Tasdorf, Germany, Giacomo Meyerbeer completed his musical training in Germany, studying composition. His early operas, written in German, were unsuccessful, so Meyerbeer decided to travel to gain more experience of the current fashions in opera.
After spending time in both Paris and London, he moved to Italy in 1816, at the height of the bel canto movement. Influenced by Italian bel canto composer, Gioacchino Rossini, Meyerbeer wrote several operas which were notably more successful than his German ones. It took until Meyerbeer was nearing 40 for him to have any real success with his operatic compositions, and to really establish his own style.
The 1831 premiere of his new opera Robert le Diable began a collaboration with librettist Eugene Scribe which would change Meyerbeer's popularity in the operatic world. First produced in Paris, this opera combined the bel canto vocal style with a vast plot, demanding a large chorus, and expensive sets. It was an instant favorite of the French audiences, and became the template for French Grand Opera.
Today, Meyerbeer may not be the first name anyone thinks of when talking about opera, but without his contributions to the genre the Grand Operas of the late 19th century might never have existed. He paved the way for composers like Berlioz, Verdi, and Puccini, to create their large scale operas which are now the mainstays of opera houses throughout the world.
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