Meyerbeer, Giacomo. (1791–1864)

Collection of Autograph Letters to Heinrich Heine and Luigi Cherubini

Group of five autograph letters from the German composer who was one of the most successful writers for the nineteenth-century opera stage. The group includes one letter in French to operatic composer Luigi Cherubini and four letters in German to poet Heinrich Heine. The letter to Cherubini (August 8, 1840; 3 pp.) introduces and recommends the Russian Colonel Levoff, "one of the most brilliant and expressive violinists of our time, and also a melodious and sound composer." Praising Cherubini as "the King of living composers," Meyerbeer writes that Levoff would like to meet Cherubini and "become acquainted with the inner workings of the celebrated institution of which you are the Director" (i.e. the Paris Conservatoire), since he has been charged by the Emperor with creating a conservatory in St. Petersburg. The group of letters to Heinrich Heine (each 1 p., n.d., one with Berlin postmarks) concern a meeting in Paris, where Meyerbeer writes he has just found a residence at the Hôtel de Paris; an offer of four tickets to a Wednesday evening concert, arranged via Meyerbeer's agent Gouin; and Meyerbeer's assurance that he will fulfill an unspecified request from Heine, and will write to another person "to arrange the most necessary things" (possibly also a reference to obtaining tickets, as mentioned in the other letters.) Translations below. The letters to Heine each bear the note "M. Beer" at the head, with a later note in pencil stating that this is in Heine's hand.

Letters in varied condition from good to very fine, one with a split into two and some edge losses, partially affecting the text. Together with three engraved portraits of Meyerbeer and a pocket edition of the libretto to his opera Il Crociato in Egitto. Housed in a custom portfolio (9 x 12 inches) with red cloth boards, stamped in gold on the front board: "Meyerbeer Letters." Spine of the portfolio split, overall very good. 

Also included is a handwritten letter (1 p., May 8, 1979) from a translator, referring to the letters to both Cherubini and Heine.

From the collection of Irving Berlin.

In the heyday of his success in the 1830's to 1840's, Meyerbeer divided his time between Paris and Berlin. It was in Paris that his comic and serious operas, including Robert le diable (1831), Les Huguenots (1836), and Le prophète (1849), found the greatest success. At the same time, with his wife and family remaining in Berlin and still maintaining strong ties to Prussia, he also served as the Kappellmeister to the Prussian court.

Meyerbeer and Heinrich Heine maintained a friendship over several years, first meeting in 1829, but it was not without conflict. Meyerbeer admired Heine's verse and set a number of his poems to music; Heine attended the premieres of several of Meyerbeer's operas. Their relationship turned sour around 1841. Heine borrowed money from Meyerbeer, and also asked him to intervene with Heine's own family for financial support. He was not above threatening Meyerbeer with blackmail by writing satirical pieces about him. And yet, at Heine's death in 1856, Meyerbeer wrote in his diary: 'Peace be to his ashes. I forgive him from my heart for his ingratitude and many wickednesses against me.'

Translated from the French:
"Great and illustrious maître! This letter will be presented to you by Monsieur le Colonel Levoff, aide de camp to the Emperor of Russia, sur-intendant of the Imperial Chapel, & &. Despite his many important functions, Monsieur le Colonel Levoff has cultivated music, not as an amateur but as a consummate artist. He is one of the most brilliant and expressive violinists of our time, and also a melodious and sound composer. Monsieur Levoff has come to Paris to hear the celebrated artists here and to examine and become acquainted with the great musical institutions which this center of fine arts possesses, as well as to become acquainted with the musical committees which are based here. Among the renowned men whom he aspires to meet personally, the first of all is you, great Maître. Monsieur de Levoff, like all of us, admires you and venerates you as the King of all living composers. He knows your masterpieces which are applauded in Russia with as much enthusiasm as in all the rest of musical Europe; now his greatest wish is to meet the great man whose masterpieces have made such immortal impressions on him. Please receive Colonel Levoff with the same kindness you have shown me, Monsieur. Monsieur le Colonel is worthy of it in all ways. As the Emperor has charged Monsieur le Colonel Levoff with organizing a conservatory in St. Petersburg, it will be extremely interesting and useful to him to become acquainted with the inner workings of the celebrated institution of which you are the Director [...] and to be permitted to assist in some small way in the classes, to follow the mode of teaching etc. Your protection will allow him to obtain information that will be extremely valuable to him. [...] Your devoted admirer, Meyerbeer. Bade[n?], August 8, [18]40."

Translated from the German:

"Dear friend! I have found an apartment in the Hôtel de Paris, Rue de Richelieu no. III. Today at 9. however, it is impossible to have the pleasure of seeing you here, because I have a very necessary errand to run. I can come to you tomorrow at 10 or better at 12, so that I can also greet your dear wife. Many warm greetings, and until tomorrow at 12, yours, Meyerbeer."

"Dear friend! I have just returned from a trip to Dresden and discovered your letter. I do not have time today to answer it thoroughly; I want in these lines only to at least notify you, that I will fulfill your wish, and therefore will write tomorrow to [Meyerbeer's agent] Gouin to arrange the most necessary things. [When] I have rested a little, a more complete [answer] will follow. Yours, Meyerbeer."

"Dear friend! I have, according to your wish, Gouin's box in the Vaudeville (4 seats) for the first day that will belong to him. That is tomorrow, Wednesday. Would you like to have them? Please send me an answer [...] Yours, Meyerbeer."

"Dear friend! Enclosed is the requested box for the Vaudeville for today. If you see the [...], don't forget to say that you saw me last on Saturday. Yours, Meyerbeer." (17207)

Autograph Letter
Classical Music