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THOMAS, Ambroise (1811-1896)

Born in Metz to a family of musicians, Ambroise Thomas began his musical career under his parents’ guidance. The sudden death of his father in 1823, however, cast a shadow over this promising debut. He enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire in 1828 and studied under Zimmerman (piano), Dourlen (harmony) and Lesueur (composition), before winning first prize in the Prix de Rome in 1832. Although he composed several works of chamber music during his stay at the Villa Medici, he set his sights on the stage from 1837. After a well-received first attempt (La Double Échelle), his rise to fame was rapid and he won renown for Le CaïdLe Songe d’une nuit d’étéRaymond and Le Roman d’Elvire. However, it was with Mignon (1866) and Hamlet (1868) that his reputation really soared, although this successful period marked a decline in his creative activity owing to his administrative duties, particularly at the Conservatoire, where he became professor of composition (1856) then director (1871). Despite their undeniable qualities, his last works, such as Françoise de Rimini (1882) and the ballet La Tempête (1889), did not repeat his past triumphs. An academic composer par excellence, elected to the Institut de France in 1851, Thomas combined his successful institutional career with his activities as a hugely talented melodist and orchestrator. Anxious to please, while protecting the French heritage from Germanic influence, he was emulated by many of his pupils, including Massenet and Dubois.

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  • Ambroise Thomas
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    Works - 16
  • Angélique et Médor (Sauvage / Thomas)
  • Caïd, Le (Sauvage / Thomas)
  • Carnaval de Venise, Le (Sauvage / Thomas)
  • Comte de Carmagnola, Le (Scribe / Thomas)
  • Françoise de Rimini (Barbier & Carré / Thomas)
  • Guerillero, Le (Anne / Thomas)
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    Themes - 4
  • Institution – Académie des beaux-arts (Institut)
  • Opera – Opera in France in the nineteenth century
  • Opéra – L’opéra-comique
  • Prix de Rome – Concours de composition musicale
  • Symposia - 1
  • Official Art in Musical France in the 19th Century (2010)
  • Studies - 3
  • Cao, Hélène – Dante and nineteenth-century music
  • Devriès-Lesure, Anik – Autour de Mignon : un éditeur de musique, Jacques-Léopold Heugel
  • Hausfater, Dominique – Du Concordat de 1801 à la séparation de l’Église et de l’État : un siècle de mutation de la musique sacrée officielle
  • Librettos - 4
  • Françoise de Rimini [mise en scène]
  • Hamlet [mise en scène de Georges Colleuille]
  • Mignon [mise en scène d'Ernest Mocker collection Palianti]
  • Psyché (Barbier & Carré)
  • Press articles -  25
  • Revue musicale, 20 août 1831, XI, p. 224 [prix de Rome]
  • Courrier des théâtres, 21 octobre 1832 [séance publique de l’Institut]
  • Revue musicale, 20 octobre 1832, XII, p. 299-300 [séance publique de l’Institut]
  • Journal des débats, 3 février 1857 [Psyché de Thomas]
  • La Presse, 1er février 1857 [Psyché de Thomas]
  • Le Causeur universel, 16 février 1857 [Psyché de Thomas]
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    Documents - 2
  • Dubois, Théodore – Souvenirs de ma vie (passages)
  • Rapports de l’Académie des beaux-arts sur les envois de Rome de musique (1812-1910)