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Singelée, Jean-Baptiste

Brussel, 25/09/1812 > Oostende, 29/09/1875


Singelée, Jean-Baptiste

by Annelies Focquaert

His brother Charles, a violinist, was responsible for his first music lessons. In 1828 he was accepted at the Royal Music School of Brussels (the future Conservatory), where he became a pupil of Nicolas-Lambert Wéry. Barely one year later, he earned his first prize. Subsequently he travelled to Paris, after a career in minor orchestras to be appointed as first violinist in the orchestra of the newly founded ‘Théâtre Nautique’, conducted then by Charles-Louis Hanssens.

When this theatre went bankrupt, Singelée was engaged by the orchestra of the ‘Opéra-Comique’. Upon his return to Brussels, some years later, he became violinist of the orchestra of the Monnaie, where in 1839 he succeeded Meerts as first violinist. He held this position for 16 years (i.e. until 1855), seizing the opportunity to compose several small works for ballet that were incorporated in the operas performed there. He also composed two full-fledged ballets himself. From 1849 on he was leader of the ‘Orchestre de Vaudeville’ as well.

His adopted daughter Louisa (1844-1886) was tutored by him as a violinist and a singer and with her he undertook a concert tour through France, where for some time he was also conductor of the theatre of Marseilles. In 1858 [Fétis writes 1852] he returned to Belgium, there to become conductor of the casino and the theatre of Ghent. In 1868 he left for Antwerp, where he got in charge of the theatre orchestra. Next he became second conductor of The Monnaie in Brussels, succeeding the first conductor Ch.-L. Hanssens after the latter's death in 1869 and staying there until 1872. Moreover, he conducted the concerts of the ‘Association des artistes musiciens de Bruxelles’ for quite a few years and at the Kursaal Orchestra in Ostend he was first conductor from 1867 to 1875.

Singelée's compositions include two concertos for violin, several fantasies with piano accompaniment (mostly on motifs from well-known operas), ballet music, a Fantaisie Pastorale op. 56 and music for saxophone (solos, fantasies, quartets). In collaboration with Sor he wrote the music for a ballet, Arsène ou la Baguette magique, which was performed in Brussels in 1845. About 140 of his works have been published.

© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Annelies Focquaert (translation: Jo Sneppe)