Ernest Boulanger (composer)

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Ernest Boulanger (c. 1872)

Ernest Henri Alexandre Boulanger (16 September 1815 – 14 April 1900 in Paris) was a French composer of comic operas and a conductor. He was more known, however, for being a choral music composer, choral group director, voice teacher, and vocal contest jury member.[1]


Boulanger was born into a Parisian musical family. His father, Frédéric Boulanger, who left the family when Ernest was only a small child,[2] was a cellist and professor of singing at the Paris Conservatory, winner of the First Prize in cello at the Conservatory in 1797 and a Professor of cello, attached to the King's Chapel. His mother, Marie-Julie Halligner, was a mezzo-soprano at the Théâtre de l'Opéra-Comique in Paris.[3] He was a pupil at the Paris Conservatory where he studied under Jean-François Le Sueur, and Fromental Halévy. He studied piano with the virtuoso pianist Charles-Valentin Alkan; and operatic composition with Daniel Auber and Ferdinand Hérold.[4][5]

At the age of 19, Boulanger was awarded the Grand Prix de Rome in 1835 with his cantata "Achille".[6] In 1842, he began making a name as a composer of comic operas and as a conductor. Boulanger made a dozen comic operas between 1842 and 1877. Boulanger's chief work was the three-act opera of Don Quixote, which premiered at the Théâtre Lyrique in 1869; the most performed of his works was the one-act Les sabots de la marquise, which premiered in 1854 at the Opéra-Comique.[4] In 1871, he became professor of singing at the conservatory. In 1870, he was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor. In 1881, he was appointed to the Académie des Beaux-Arts. Within the cultural circles of Paris, Boulanger was an associate of Charles Gounod, Jules Massenet, Camille Saint-Saëns and William Bouwens.[7]

Boulanger and Raissa Mychetsky (née Mychetskaya; 1858–1935), 43 years his junior, met in Saint Petersburg; she was a Russian princess who descended from St. Mikhail Chernigovsky,[8] and Boulanger was her voice teacher.[9] They married in 1877 and moved to Paris where they had two children, the teacher and composer Nadia Boulanger;[10] and composer Lili Boulanger.[1] Like their father, Nadia and Lili both competed in the Prix de Rome, Nadia taking second place in 1908, and Lili earning the first place in 1913.[6]

Principal works[edit]

  • Le Moulin (1840, libretto by Eugène de Planard)
  • Le Diable à l'École (libretto by Eugène Scribe) (1842)
  • Les Deux Bergères (1843)
  • Une voix (1845, libretto by Alfred Bayard and Charles Potron)
  • La Cachette (1847)
  • Le 15 août aux champs (1852, libretto by Michel Carré)
  • Les Sabots de la Marquise (1854, libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier)
  • L'Éventail (1860, libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier)
  • Don Quichotte (1869, libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier)
  • Don Mucarade (1875, libretto by Michel Carré and Jules Barbier)


  1. ^ a b Rosenstiel, Léonie (1978). The life and works of Lili Boulanger. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. pp. 12, 25. ISBN 978-0-8386-1796-0. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  2. ^ Potter, Caroline (2006). Nadia And Lili Boulanger. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-7546-0472-3. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  3. ^ Meyerbeer, Giacomo; Letellier, Robert Ignatius (1999). The Diaries of Giacomo Meyerbeer: 1791–1839. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-8386-3789-0. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  4. ^ a b Baker, Theodore (1905). A biographical dictionary of musicians (Public domain ed.). G. Schirmer. pp. 655–. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  5. ^ Pauer, Ernst (1895). A dictionary of pianists and composers for the pianoforte: with an appendix of manufacturers of the instrument (Public domain ed.). Novello. pp. 14–. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  6. ^ a b Dunbar, Julie C. (17 December 2010). Women, Music, Culture: An Introduction. Taylor & Francis. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-415-87562-2. Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  7. ^ "Lilli Boulanger" (PDF). Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  8. ^ Campbell, Don G. (August 1984). Master teacher, Nadia Boulanger. Pastoral Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-912405-03-2. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  9. ^ Kuhlman, Erika A. (2002). A to Z of Women in World History. Infobase Publishing. pp. 151–. ISBN 978-0-8160-4334-7. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  10. ^ Spycket, Jérôme (1992). Nadia Boulanger. Pendragon Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-945193-38-8. Retrieved 24 April 2012.