A couple of months back I was in Riga, Latvia, and having a spare evening I checked out the programme at Riga’s charming Opera House. They were doing Le Corsaire. I didn’t know the work, but a quick check on Google came up with the opera by Giuseppe Verdi (or as an old acquaintance of mine used to call him, Joe Green).
I didn’t know the piece, and according to Google it was one of Verdi’s least successful operas. But then Verdi never wrote a bad opera, and the tickets in Riga are cheap, so along I went.
But I found that I had been labouring under a misconception. While Verdi did indeed write an opera called Le Corsaire, there was also a quite different ballet by the same title. Both works were inspired by Lord Byron’s 1814 poem “The Corsair”, but they are quite different and separate. Fortunately, I like ballet too, so I was happy with my error, but naturally interested to know who wrote the ballet music. It turned out to be one Adolphe Adam, of whom I am ashamed to confess I had never heard. It seems that he was a French composer of ballets and operas, best known for Giselle. The music for Le Corsaire proved to be delightful ballet music – in general style not dissimilar from Délibes (Coppelia and Sylvia).
I thought no more of Adolphe Adam until a December evening in the parliament in Brussels, when I was invited to a concert performed by the daughter of my old friend and colleague, the Finnish MEP Eija-Riitta Korhola (picture above). She (the daughter) sang a mixed programme including some seasonal songs, declaring that her favourite carol was “O Holy Night”. It was splendid. While I had heard the carol before, I wasn’t very familiar with it, so I checked it out. And it turns out that it, too, was composed by Adolphe Adam.
They say good things come in threes. Today, Christmas Eve, I opened a present from my sister (she had suggested I open it on Christmas Eve), and it proved to be a Classic FM CD of Christmas music, and the fifth track was – you guessed it – O Holy Night. Just the thing for the festive season, and a credit to its French composer