MICHAEL WILLIAM BALFE (1808 - 1870)
The Irish singer and composer Michael Balfe was taught the violin by his father and after the latter’s death moved to England, supporting himself as an orchestral player. A patron allowed him to study counterpoint and singing for a brief period in Italy, and when a proposed engagement at La Scala in Milan came to nothing he moved to Paris. There, Rossini found a place for him at the Théâtre des Italiens, where he took a number of principal baritone roles. A period in Italy followed, as a singer and composer, with an opera staged at La Scala. In 1833 he returned to London, where he soon established himself as a composer of opera. After disagreements with a company that he had tried to establish in London he returned to Paris, but he won his greatest London and international success in 1843 with The Bohemian Girl. His career continued with enough success to allow him a prosperous retirement. His setting of Tennyson’s Come into the Garden, Maud is remembered with a certain wry affection. He also set Charles Kingsley’s poem The Sands of Dee and arranged a large number of Moore’s Irish Melodies.