Adolphe Adam

From New World Encyclopedia

Adolphe Adam.

Adolphe Charles Adam (July 24, 1803 – May 3, 1856) was a French composer and music critic. A prolific composer of operas and ballets, he is best known today for his ballets Giselle (1844) and Le Corsaire (1856, his last work), his opera Les Toréadors (AKA Le toréador ou L'accord parfait) (1849), and his Christmas carol O Holy Night (1847). Adolphe Adam saw himself in a leadership role to generate public interaction and communication of traditional values through his dramatic operas and ballets. This was a unique form of public education of values clarification.


Adam was born in Paris to Louis (1758-1848), born Johann Ludwig Adam in Muttersholtz, Alsace), also a composer and a professor at the Paris Conservatoire. His mother was the daughter of a physician. As a child, Adolphe Adam preferred to improvise music on his own rather than study music seriously. He entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1821, where he studied organ and harmonium under the celebrated opera composer François-Adrien Boïeldieu. Adam also played the triangle in the orchestra of the Conservatoire. However, he did not win the Grand Prix de Rome and his father did not encourage him to pursue music as a career.

By the age of 20, he was writing songs for Paris vaudeville houses and playing in the orchestra at the Gymnasie Dramatique, where he later became chorus master. Like many other French composers, he made a living largely by playing the organ. In 1825, he helped Boïeldieu prepare parts for La dame blanche and made a piano reduction of the score. He was able to travel through Europe with the money he made, and he met Eugène Scribe, with whom he later collaborates, in Geneva. By 1830, he had completed 28 works for the theater.

Adam is probably best remembered for the ballet Giselle (1841). He wrote several other ballets and 39 operas, including Le postillon de Lonjumeau (1836) and Si j'étais roi (1852).

After quarreling with the director of the Opéra, Adam invested his money and borrowed heavily to open a third opera house in Paris: the Théâtre National. It opened in 1847, but closed because of the Revolution of 1848, leaving Adam with massive debts. His efforts to extricate himself from these debts include a brief turn to journalism. From 1849 to his death in Paris, he taught composition at the Paris Conservatoire.

Did you know?
French composer Adolphe Adam composed the music for the Christmas carol "O Holy Night"

His Christmas carol Cantique de Noël, often known by its English title O Holy Night, has become an international favorite. On December 24, 1906, Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian inventor, broadcast the first AM radio program, which included him playing O Holy Night on the violin. The carol therefore appears to have been the first piece of music to be broadcast on radio.


There have been claims that Adolphe Adam was Jewish [1] but these seem without foundation. It is a confirmed fact that he received a Roman Catholic burial. His obituary, May 4, 1856, in La France Musicale reads:

Les obsèques de M. Adolphe Adam auront lieu lundi 5 mai, à 11 heures, en l'église de Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, sa paroisse.
("The funeral of Mr. Adolphe Adam will take place Monday, May 5, in the church of Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, his parish.")

The report of his funeral in the May 11 issue of "La France Musicale" reads: "Après la cérémonie religieuse,…." ("After the religious ceremony,….") [2]

Adolphe Adam is buried there in the Cimetière de Montmartre (Montmartre Cemetery).

Main works

  • Ballets :
La chatte blanche (1830)
Faust (1833)
La fille du Danube (1836)
Les Mohicans (1837)
L'écumeur des mers (1840)
Les Hamadryades (1840)
Giselle ou Les willis (1841)
La jolie fille de Gand (1842)
Le Diable à Quatre (ballet)|Le Diable à Quatre (1843)
La fille de marbre (1845)
Griseldis ou Les cinq sens (1848)
Le filleule des fées (1849)
Orfa (1852)
Le Corsaire (1856)
  • Operas :
Le mal du pays ou La bâtelière de Brientz (1827)
Le jeune propriétaire et le vieux fermier (1829)
Pierre et Catherine (1829)
Danilowa (1830)
Les trois Catherine (1830)
Trois jours en une heure (1830)
Joséphine ou Le retour de Wagram (1830)
Le morceau d'ensemble (1831)
Le grand prix ou Le voyage à frais communs (1831)
Casimir ou Le premier tête-à-tête (1831)
His First Campaign (1832)
The Dark Diamond (1832)
Le proscrit ou Le tribunal (1833)
Une bonne fortune (1834)
Le chalet (1834)
La marquise (1835)
Micheline ou L'Heure de l'esprit (1835)
Le postillon de Lonjumeau (1836)
Le fidèle berger (1838)
Le brasseur de Preston (1838)
Régine ou Les deux nuits (1839)
La reine d'un jour (1839)
La rose de Péronne (1840)
La main de fer ou Un mariage secret (1841)
Le roi d'Yvetôt (1842)
Lambert Simnel (1843)
Cagliostro (1844)
Richard en Palestine (1844)
La bouquetière (1847)
Les premiers pas ou Les deux génies ou Les mémoires de la blanchisseuse (1847)
Le toréador ou L'accord parfait (1849)
Le fanal (1849)
Giralda ou La nouvelle psyché (1850)
Le farfadet (1852)
La poupée de Nuremberg (1852)
Si j'étais roi (1852)
Le sourd ou L'auberge pleine (1853)
Le roi des halles (1853)
Le bijou perdu (1853)
Le muletier de Tolède (1854)
À Clichy, épisode de la vie d'un artiste (1854)
Mam'zelle Geneviève (1856)
Falstaff (1856)
Les pantins de Violette (1856)


  1. Vivi Abrams, Jews take credit for writing, singing Christmas songs Atlanta Jewish Times. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  2. See the reproduction at Minuit Chretiens, Une Partition D’Adolphe Adam Retrieved September 6, 2018.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Kobbe, Gustav and George Henry Hubert Harewood, Earl of Lascelles, The definitive Kobbe's opera book, NY: Putnam, 1987. ISBN 0399131809
  • Smith, Marian Elizabeth, Ballet and opera in the age of Giselle, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000. ISBN 0691049947
  • Studwell, William E., Adolphe Adam and Leo Delibes: a guide to research, NY: Garland Publishers, 1987. ISBN 082409011X

External links

All links retrieved June 15, 2023.


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