L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, May 27, 2018

If the pants fit... - portrait of the singer Jean Elleviou, by Louis-Léopold Boilly

Elleviou in his role in Le Prisonnier or La Ressemblance, circa 1798.

Jean Elleviou (Pierre-Jean-Baptiste-François Elleviou; 14 June 1769, Rennes – 5 May 1842, Paris), French operatic tenor, one of the most celebrated French singers of his time. The son of a surgeon, he rebelled at having to follow in his father's footsteps and fled to Paris, where he fell in with actors and musicians. But just as he was about to make his stage debut, he was apprehended by the police and returned home to Rennes. There he was forced to resume his medical courses but, after only a few months, he convinced his father that he should be allowed to finish his studies back in Paris. Where, once again, he abandoned them. Though he made his debut in 1790 at the Comédie Italienne as a baritone in Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny’s Le Déserteur, a year later he performed in a tenor role in Nicolas Dalayrac’s Philippe et Georgette.

He went on to create forty some roles during the next twenty years, in operas by Grétry, Dalayrac, Monsigny, Boieldieu, Méhul, Isouard, and others. According to contemporaries, he possessed a very sweet and flexible voice, excellent diction, and had a handsome figure and charming stage presence which made him a great favorite with Parisian audiences. He toured in Italy in 1795 and throughout France in 1795-97, returning to Paris to perform at the Opéra-Comique (the newly renamed Comédie Italienne). Of a capricious and irritable nature, he also became more and more financially demanding. Fortunately, he married a very wealthy woman from Lyon. And after he retired in 1813 - at the height of his fame and only forty-four years old - he devoted his time to his properties in Lyon. He was eventually elected mayor of his commune, then general councilor of the Rhône. He died of apoplexy at the age of seventy-three.

Boilly’s portrait of Elleviou depicts the young singer in his role in Le Prisonnier or La Ressemblance, a comic opera in one act with music by Domenico Della-Maria and libretto by Alexandre Duval, which premiered at the Théâtre Feydeau on 29 January 1798.  The painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon in July of 1798 as, “Portrait du C[itoy]en. Elleviou, Artiste du théâtre de L’Opéra-Comique national, représenté dans le costume de son rôle dans la jolie pièce du Prisonnier.” Two years later, at the Salon of 1800, Boilly exhibited a trompe l’oeil painting depicting various drawings and prints including at center an “engraving” that reproduces his earlier portrait of Elleviou.  (The artist also included his own self-portrait in the composition at lower left.)

Trompe l’oeil by Boilly, circa 1800.


Engraving by Pierre Audouin after the portrait by Henri François Riesener, circa 1800.
The original portrait by Henri François Riesener.


As the title role in Jean de Paris, opéra-comique, music by Boieldieu and libretto by Saint-Just, circa 1812. (2 images.)
As Diego in Picaros et Diego ou la Folle Soirée, opéra-comique, music by Dalayrac and libretto by Dupaty, circa 1803.
As the title role in the opera Joseph, music by Méhul and libretto by Duval, circa 1807.
As Richard in Le Roi et le Fermier, opéra-comique, music by Monsigny and libretto by Sedaine, circa 1806.


Two portraits presumed to be of Elleviou. (Which, to me - though both are charming - seems unlikely.)

Portrait by Désiré-Adelaïde-Charles Maignen de Sainte-Marie, 1809.
Miniature de Charles Berny, 1813.

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