Bruneau, (Louis Charles Bonaventure) Alfred (opera)
- Richard Langham Smith
(b Paris, March 3, 1857; d Paris, June 15, 1934). French composer . He began his musical studies as a cellist, winning a premier prix on the instrument and in his twenties playing in the Pasdeloup orchestra. From 1879 to 1881 he studied composition with Massenet, who left an indelible impression on his musical style. A cantata, Geneviève, won him a second prize in the Prix de Rome and in 1887 his first opera, Kérim, was successful enough to convince him that he should devote himself largely to opera.
Kérim, like a number of Bruneau’s operas, directly incorporates folk melodies (in this case of oriental origin), and these are clearly indicated in the score. Although they are blended with more conventional elements of contemporary French operatic style, following Massenet and Gounod, Bruneau attempts to present the oriental elements in an unconventional way, using harmonies derived from the melodies themselves as well as highly coloured orchestration. The story is taken from the ‘legend of tears’ and concerns an Emir who falls in love with a girl, Zaïdé, who demands a necklace of tears as a condition of returning his love. Already Bruneau underlines a moral theme: ‘you may have my body’, she protests when he tries to seduce her, ‘but you will not have my soul’. At the end of the opera heartfelt tears overcome him and turn to pearls. Love has triumphed: Bruneau rounds off the opera with an aria for the two protagonists using the stock-in-trade technique of unison singing, finally accompanied by the stage chorus....