OLIVIER METRA (1830 - 1889)
Olivier Metra was once described as maintaining a 'dreamily tranquil appearance ...utterly detached from the rollicking joy that he let loose with the tip of his violin bow'. Born on 2nd June 1830 (in Reims according to some sources, in Le Mans according to others.), Jules-Louis-Olivier Metra initially followed in the footsteps of his father as an actor. In 1842 he appeared in Paris in the children' s company at the Theatre Comte, which later became the Theatre des Bouffes Parisiens.
He subsequently played violin, cello and double-bass in various theatre orchestras, and in 1849 was admitted to the Conservatoire, where he gained the first violin prize in 1854. By the time he became conductor at the Theatre Beaumarchais he had also begun a career as dance composer-conductor which saw him successively chef d'orchestre at various Parisian dance halls -the Bal Robert, Mabille, Chateau-des-Pleurs, Athenee Musical, Elysee-Montmartre, Casino-Cadet and Bal Frascati. These engagements and his numerous compositions gave hirn widespread popularity, and by 1870 he was at the top of his profession. He went on to conduct at the Folies-Bergere, for which he also composed numerous baIlets and operettas. In 1879 his grand ballet Yedda was produced at the Opera, where he conducted the masked balls for many years until his death on 22nd October 1889.
Metra's most successful waltzes - Les Roses, La Vague, Les Faunes, La Serenade and Esperance! - date from the 1860s or early 1870s and thus predate the major Waldteufel successes. So representative are they of their time that Metra and Les Roses are featured in Reynaldo Hahn's 1923 operetta Ciboulette, set in the Paris of 1867. Most of Metra's waltzes are in the standard waltz format of four two-part sections preceded by an introduction and rounded off with a coda recapitulating the main themes. Such is the case with Esperance! (Hope!, 1872), dedicated to his friend and fellow composer Emile Tedesco, several of whose dances Metra orchestrated.