Composer Profile: Daniel Auber, Master of French Comic Opera

By David Salazar

Daniel Auber, born on Jan. 29, 1782, is a composer of dozens of French comic operas.

He was never expected to be a musician, but he did learn a number of instruments in his youth. In 1811, he created his first opera “Julie” but the failure of his second opera two years later put a temporary end to his career as a composer.

His career as a businessman also came to a close shortly thereafter and he returned to composition, though he struggled with his subsequent creation, “Le Testament Et Les Billets-Doux.” But a year later, in 1820, he had a breaktrhough for “La Bergère Châtelaine.” From there he would associate closely with Eugène Scribe and their work together would generate a wide range of major successes. In 1829 he was elected to be a member of the Institut de France and was also a member of Legion of Honour a few years earlier.

He would slowdown his composition in his latter years, but remained a popular composer until his death in 1871.  His last opera “Rêve d’Amour” premiered on Dec. 20, 1869.

Major Works

Despite a rather prolific career, Auber is another of those composers whose relevance relies heavily on the performances of one specific work. In this case, it is “Fra Diavolo” and it is unfortunately not a repertory staple. Despite it never quite turning into one of the most-often performed French works, it has seen a resurgence in the early 21st century.

Watch and Listen

Here is a performance of “Fra Diavolo” from Rome.


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