Lili Boulanger Never Attempted an Opera

Lili Boulanger was a 20th-century French composer and the first woman to be awarded the Prix de Rome in composition. She is noted for her choral and solo works.

Early Life

Lili Boulanger was born in Paris on August 21, 1893, into a highly creative and musical family. Her father, Ernest Boulanger, was a singing teacher, her mother a piano teacher, and her older sister, Nadia Boulanger, a composer and conductor who would become one of the most influential music educators of the 20th century. Lili showed musical talent at an early age and began composing when she was just five years old.

Lili Boulanger was born in Paris

Lili Boulanger was born in Paris on August 21, 1893, the first child of Ernest Boulanger, a respected and well-known vocal coach, and his wife, Raissa Myshetskaya, a former student and protégée of Modest Mussorgsky. Lili’s younger sister Nadia would also go on to become a renowned composer and teacher. The two sisters were very close throughout their lives; Nadia later recalled that “there was never any rivalry between us.”

Lili Boulanger’s sister, Nadia Boulanger

Nadia Boulanger (9 October 1887 – 22 October 1979) was a French composer, conductor, and teacher. She is notable for having encouraged many of the leading composers and musicians of the 20th century and for being the first woman to conduct several major orchestras in the US and Europe. She is considered one of the most influential figures in classical music history.

Born in Paris, Boulanger was raised in a musical household; her father, Ernest Boulanger, taught voice at the Conservatoire de Paris while her mother oversaw the musical education of her children. As a child she took piano lessons from Albéric Magnard and composition lessons with Gustave Samuel-Rousseau; she later studiedvoice with Pauline Viardot-Garcia. Among her early compositions was a symphony composed at age 14, which she later destroyed.

During World War I, she served as a nurse in a military hospital before being appointed by Darius Milhaud as professor of harmony at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau (1921–23). In 1924, she returned to Paris to teach at the École Normale de Musique de Paris where Nadia taught until her retirement in 1963. Lili Boulanger joined Nadia’s teaching studio as an assistant when Nadia married fellow composer Roland-Manuel in 1926 and did not “officially” join until after Nadia’s death although Lili always maintained that she considered herself part of Nadia’s studio from 1924 onwards as an unofficial assistant.

Lili Boulanger’s Works

Lili Boulanger was a 20th-century French composer and the first woman to win the Prix de Rome in composition. The Prix de Rome was a prestigious award given to French composers. She is known for her works for voice, piano, and orchestra. Lili Boulanger never attempted to compose an opera.

“D’un matin de printemps”

“D’un matin de printemps” is a work for solo voice and piano by French composer Lili Boulanger. The piece was composed in 1913 and is less than two minutes in duration. The text is by Paul Verlaine and is about the arrival of springtime.

This piece is representative of Boulanger’s style, which often features simple, elegant melodies set against complex harmonies. “D’un matin de printemps” is a beautiful example of her gift for writing beautiful, lyrical music.

“Faust et Hélène”

“Faust et Hélène” is a three-act opera by Lili Boulanger with a French libretto by the composer, based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust. It was first performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on February 16, 1913.

The work is in the style of late Romanticism, with a strong influence from Richard Wagner. It employs a large orchestra and makes use of leitmotifs. The vocal writing is chromatic and often atonal, making use of whole-tone scales.

The opera was not well received by the public or the critics. Boulanger did not attempt another opera and she died less than a year after “Faust et Hélène” premiered.

Lili Boulanger’s Death

Lili Boulanger was a French composer known for her choral and organ works. She died at the young age of 24 from Crohn’s disease, but not before she composed some beautiful music.

Lili Boulanger died at the age of 24

Pianist, conductor, and composer Lili Boulanger was born in Paris on August 21, 1893. The youngest of three sisters, she was very close to her older sister Nadia, also a composer. When she was two years old, her parents recognized her musical talent and began giving her piano lessons. She made rapid progress and by the age of nine was admitted to the Paris Conservatory, where she studied with Gabriel Fauré.

Lili Boulanger suffered from poor health throughout her life. In 1913, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a condition that would eventually lead to her early death. In 1918, she contracted tuberculosis, from which she never fully recovered.

Despite her ill health, Lili Boulanger was an extremely accomplished musician. She won the Prix de Rome in 1918, becoming the first woman ever to do so. She composed numerous works for piano, voice, and orchestra, but is best known for her choral music.

Lili Boulanger died at the age of 24 on March 15, 1918. Her sudden death came as a great shock to the music world and cut short what promised to be a very promising career.

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