19th Century Opera

Website content ©Basil Walsh
Contact: basilwalsh[at]msn[dot]com

Balfe is the composer of “The Bohemian Girl” and 27 other operas

                  This site covers the life, times and works of the important nineteenth-century Irish born composer, 
Michael W. Balfe.  He
wrote 28 operas, for London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Milan, Trieste and Palermo - many of his operas have been performed around the world during the past 170 or more years.

   The Playbill for Balfe's most famous opera, The Bohemian Girl which premiered at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, in November 1843.


"Balfe was the most interesting British musical figure of the nineteenth-century... he was a very good, highly intelligent and cultivated musician" -Sir Thomas Beecham  - Festival of Britain, August 1951 

".... Balfe indeed was our Rossini and also, in a measure, our Auber" -Remembrance notice J. W. Davison -London Times,12 June 1874


Biography (Published 2008)

Michael W. Balfe, A Unique Victorian Composer

by Basil Walsh
(Foreword by conductor, Richard Bonynge)


This biography of Dublin born composer, Michael W. Balfe in its third printing is now available in PAPERBACK.   The successful 296 page biography was published in Europe and the USA by Irish Academic Press  in association with the Arts Council of Ireland,  for the composer's bicentenary celebrations in 2008.

                  Details are provided at:          
                www.iap.ie  ---  Michael W. Balfe: A Unique Victorian Composer  
                                         or www.Amazon.com  or www.amazon.co.uk    

                     INDEX to time-line sections for general Balfe website below
(Scroll-down to your section of interest below)

  I. ) The Singer and Composer's Active Years

                        Page No. 1-Section A - Years - 1808-1824 - Early life as a child prodigy in Dublin and London.

                           Page No. 2-Section B  - Years 1825-1834 - Paris, Milan, Venice. Rossini, Bellini, Grisi,  Malibran.

                           Page no. 3-Section C - Years - 1835-1840 - With Maria Malibran in Venice. London's new composer.

                           Page No. 4-Section D - Years - 1841-1850 - Paris, London - The Bohemian Girl. Vienna, Dublin. 

                           Page No. 5-Section E - Years - 1851-1870 - St. Petersburg, Vienna, Jenny Lind, Giuseppe Verdi. 

  II.) The Composer's Personal Life, His Operatic Works, Recordings & Literary References

                           Page No. 6-Section F - Balfe's personal side - his wife and family. Balfe' death.

                           Page No. 7-Section G - Balfe's memory is honored in London and Dublin. His final opera performed.  
Page No. 8-Section H - Listing of Balfe's 28 operatic works 
  Balfe's 250+ songs 

                            Page No. 9-Section I - Listing of recordings of Balfe's music and operas. Italian opera Falstaff CD set.

                            Page No. 10-Section J - Books and Literary references, including James Joyce. New Balfe Book.

                            Page No. 11-Section K - Great singers who performed Balfe's operas and musical works.

                           Page No. 12-Section L - Balfe's 200th anniversary, Falstaff recording and  availability of Scores    

Read the outstanding review of Balfe's Falstaff CD set  in Opera News (June 2009)

Visit Amazon review of the Falstaff CD set:  http://www.amazon.com/review/RMY4DJDJPPPH3

III.) The Web Site Author & Writer on 19th Century Opera & Related Links

Page No. 13-Final Section M

Basil Walsh - Author and writer on 19th Century opera.
Related Web site links of interest.
Balfe biography published for his bicentenary in 2008
Irish Classical Music Pioneers - Seven Irish born who made a difference


Balfe's Twenty-one 'Continental' Operas

Balfe not only composed more than 20 operas for London during the 19th century but he also created 21 operatic works with French, Italian and/or German librettos with leading librettists such as, Scribe, Piave and Kupelwieser. Some of these works were augmented versions of his English operas reworked with recitatives, additional arias and scenes and ballets. Others were original works. Autograph scores and other music is available for most of these works, some of which have long been "deemed lost."

Balfe's relatively unknown international musical fame and foreign language operas which had their premieres or early performances in cities such as, Paris, Vienna, Milan, Palermo, Trieste, Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Munich, Madrid, Lisbon, Brussels, London, Dublin, New York, Boston and San Francisco are detailed here for the first time in the following, along with score locations. Click on:

Visit http://balfecontinentaloperas.wordpress.com/


Page No. 1 - SECTION A

TIME-LINE: 1808-1824

1.1) Balfe early days in Dublin

Michael W. Balfe 'was born on 15 May 1808, at 10 Pitt Street (changed to Balfe Street, in 1917),  Dublin, Ireland. 

Young Balfe demonstrated significant musical abilities from an early age. In Dublin he took violin and music lessons with the well established musician James Barton and composer William (Rourke) Rooke (1794-1847), and with Meadows in Wexford.

1.2) The Child Prodigy performs at the Rotunda Concert Rooms, Dublin

Rotunda Concert Rooms, Dublin in the 19th Century.

“Balfe, a child prodigy first performed publicly on the violin at a concert in the Rotunda Concert Rooms (shown here) Dublin on 30 May 1817, at the age of nine. As far as it is known, this was his ‘debut’ concert.”

Other concerts quickly followed, at the Crow Street Theatre and again at the Rotunda all with great success over the next few years. The young performer's first musical composition "The Lover's Mistake," was published in December 1822 by Isaac Willis, Music Publisher of, 7 Westmoreland Street, Dublin and London.

On the death of his father early in January 1823, Balfe left Dublin for London where he took music lessons with Charles Horn (1786-1849) and Horn's father "Carl Frederick Horn (1762-1830). During this time he also participated in selected concerts as a soloist on the violin.  His first concert was in 1823, at Drury Lane when he performed a concerto for violin.

In March 1823 the 15 year old Balfe participated in his first major concert in London

Shortly thereafter,  Balfe, joined the orchestra at the Drury Lane Theatre, which was then under the direction of fellow Irishman Tom Cooke (1782- 1848). 


Page No. 2 - SECTION B

TIME-LINE: 1825-1834

2.1) In Search of a Career

In 1825, Balfe,  interested in broadening his studies first went to Paris where he was introduced to the great composer, 'Luigi Cherubini, (1760-1842). He took lessons in composition with Cherubini during this period. Balfe also spent the next few years in Italy studying to be an operatic singer and a composer.

While in Milan in the summer of 1825 Balfe was given an assignment to compose the music for a "Ballo Pantomino Serio" by the Director of the Teatro Canobbiana, an Englishman by the name of Joseph Glossup (1793-1850).  The Ballo Pantomino was called, Il Naufragio di La Peyrouse by William (Blewit) Barrymore (1759-1830) of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London.

La Peyrouse, Teatro Canobbiana, Milan autumn 1825 - music composed by M. W. Balfe

Dissatisfied with his progress in Italy Balfe returned to Paris in 1827 where he went to see Cherubini who introduced him to Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868).  Rossini then at his very zenith as a composer in Europe took a personal interest in the young Irishman and his musical and vocal talents.  At Rossini's invitation and after a period of vocal study with Giulio Bordogni (1789-1856) Balfe made his debut early in 1828 at the Theatre des Italiens as "Figaro" in "Il barbiere di Siviglia," singing opposite 'Henriette Sontag (1806-1854),  and other leading singers. 


 Theatre Italiens, Paris where Balfe made his professional operatic debut in 1828

2.2) The Emerging Singer and Composer - Italy

Balfe a baritone, decided to return to Italy late in 1828.
Towards the end of December 1828, he was in Milan where he sang in a concert. 'He then went on to Bologna where he became the guest of Rossini's friend, 'Marchese Francesco Sampieri, an important patron of the arts and a composer, whom he had met in Paris. 

Here he met the young soprano 'Giulia Grisi (1811-1869) at the start of what would become a brilliant career for the soprano in Europe, Russia and briefly America. "These two young vocalists, Balfe aged 21 and Grisi 18 were immediately attracted to each other. They enjoyed each others company and musical talents. Balfe composed a musical cantata for Grisi to perform and another vocalist to perform. This early relationship in  'Italy developed into a life-long friendship. She was the premier soprano in London and Paris for decades and helped Balfe with his career there as a composer.

2.3) Italy - 1829  

During this period in Italy, Balfe composed his first and only known “Sinfonia” and a Cantata for two voices which Giulia Grisi and the tenor Francesco Pedrazzi sang. Balfe was also recognized by the prestigious Bologna 'Academy of Music, for his talents. He was made a honorary lifetime member of the Academy in the composer category.

Balfe's only known "Sinfonia - Composed in 1829 in Bologna - Instruments page No. 2 of 88 pages.

After Bologna, Balfe moved south, to Palermo, in Sicily where he had an operatic engagement and also composed his first opera, I rivale di se stessi at the request of  the manager of the Teatro Carolina in Palermo.  He subsequently sang in several operas including the part of Valdeburgo in  Bellini's opera "La straniera" at the Teatro Carolino in Palermo.

The next several years were spent as a singer and a composer of operas. By 1833, he had composed three (3) operas which had been produced at Palermo(1829), I rivali di se stessi; Pavia(1831), Un avvertimento ai gelosi and at the important Teatro Carcano, Milan (1833), Enrico IV al passo della Marna in which both Balfe and his wife Lina sang principal roles.

The Teatro Carcano, Milan where Balfe's third opera, Enrico IV al passo della Marna had its premiere.

A soprano aria from Balfe's opera Enrico IV al passo della Marna (Teatro Carcano, Milan 1833) ©Basil Walsh

It was also during this time (1831) while in Milan that he first met and later married (in Lugano, Switzerland), Lina Roser (1810-1888), who was then singing  in Bellini, Donizetti and Rossini operas and the works of other composers at, the Teatro Carcano in Milan and the Teatro Riccardi in Bergamo.

Balfe and his new wife, Lina Roser-Balfe were both in the Milan area during such historic moments, as the premiers of Bellini's Norma (December 1831) and La Sonnambula (March 1831), and possibly, Donizetti's Anna Bolena (December 1830).

During the early 1830s Balfe and his wife, also kept up a busy schedule performing in operas by  Bellini, Pacini, Ricci, Donizetti, Rossini and others in places such as, Venice,  Milan, Trieste, Bergamo, Mantua, Parma, Piacenza, Turin, Varese, Pavia, Novara, and no doubt, other places in northern Italy. 

2.4) Maria Malibran & Balfe at La Scala, Milan

In May 1834 Balfe made his debut at La Scala, Milan, singing opposite his friend, (from Paris) the renowned mezzo-soprano,  'Maria Malibran (1808-1836), in Rossini's "Otello." "The performances were so successful that they gave repeat performances in October of the same year at  La Scala with the same cast.

La Scala, Milan around the time Balfe and Malibran sang there together in 1834. ©Basil Walsh


Page No. 3 - SECTION C

TIME-LINE: 1835-1840

3. Balfe and Maria Malibran in Venice

Balfe sang with Maria Malibran again, this time in Venice at the Teatro La Fenice. This was early in 1835. Malibran also sang Norma there in April 1835 with Lina Roser Balfe singing Adalgisa.

Arrival at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice 19th century

It was during this time she also agreed to sing a "benefit" performance of Bellini's La Sonnambula (with Balfe at Count Rodolfo and the tenor Lorenzo Bonfigli as Elvino) at the Teatro Emeronittio for the manager, Gallo. To show his appreciation, Gallo renamed his Theatre "Teatro M. F. G. Malibran" (Maria Felicia Garcia-Malibran) in recognition of her generosity. This turned out to be a sensational performance, with Malibran receiving over 30 curtain calls.

The theatre still retains the Malibran name today, in remembrance  of that long ago eventful night in April 1835 when Malibran and Balfe sang together in Bellini's beautiful opera in Venice.;

Teatro Malibran, Venice (2006)

Maria Malibran & Balfe in La Sonnambula in Venice

La Sonnambula at The Teatro Malibran - April, 1835 


The notice of the special performance of La Sonnambula in April 1835, in Venice with Maria Malibran in the title role and "Guglielmo Balfe" as Count Rodolfo.

During this period Malibran recognized Balfe's emerging musical talents as a composer. She called him the "English Rossini." given his musical skills. He in turn committed to write an opera for her they talked about  Hamlet as the subject and later, Esmeralda (Hunchback of Notre Dame story) however, they decided to postpone the project until a time in the future. London would be the location where Balfe would compose his new opera for Malibran in 1836.

3.0) Return To London

Balfe returned to London in May 1835, with his wife Lina and their firstborn child, Louisa "Gigia" as they called her, where he performed at a concert with Lablache, Tamburini, Rubini and Grisi and others, at Vauxhall Gardens.  

3.1)  It was shortly after this period that Balfe completed his first opera for London. His London debut as an operatic composer took place, in October 1835 with the premiere of what was to be his highly successful, "The Siege of Rochelle" at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.  

3.2) This was the start of Balfe's brilliant career as a composer of operatic works for London. He was 27 years old!

3.3) Maria Malibran  premieres Balfe's  "The Maid of Artois" London 1836

His initial success was quickly followed by another opera " 'The Maid of Artois " which he composed to fulfill his promise to his good friend, "Maria Malibran" who performed in the premiere on May 27, 1836 at Drury Lane theatre in London. The presence of Malibran created a great financial success'. 'Tragically, the renowned Malibran died the following September age 28, in Manchester as a result of an earlier horse-riding accident.   Balfe was devastated when he heard the new.It also appears that the last complete opera the great prima donna sang was one composed by Balfe, The Maid of Artois.

Maria Malibran who created the Maid of Artois, in London (1836). ©Basil Walsh

Along with his success as a composer of operas, Balfe continued to sing in opera and concerts in the 1830s.

Balfe sang in two Mozart operas in London in the late 1830's.

3.4) "Falstaff "

'In 1838 Balfe composed his first Italian opera for London', "Falstaff" based on the Shakespeare play, "The Merry Wives of Windsor." The Italian libretto was written by an experienced London based translator of operas for leading composers, S. Manfredo Maggioni (1810-1870?)  

Playbill for the premiere of Falstaff, London, July 1838. ©Basil Walsh

The great Luigi Lablache was in the title role with Grisi,  Rubini and Tamburini creating the other principal parts The opera was very successful. This same group of singers had created Bellini's beautiful opera,  I Puritani, in Paris three years earlier, in 1835, also with great success. The Librettist was S. Manfredo Maggioni.

Balfe Falstaff librettist,S. Manfredo Maggioni, who also worked with Verdi on songs and translated many opera scores from French to Italian for the London stage. Maggioni was a close friend of Verdi's wife, Giuseppina (Strepponi) Verdi. He is mentioned in her correspondance.

Balfe's Italian Opera - Falstaff, world premiere recording!


A CD recording by OPERA IRELAND-RTE/Lyricfm, of the September 2008 performance in Dublin is now available

         This is a unique work in the great Italian tradition of Donizetti and Rossini ... except that it was written 
by a celebrated Irishman who was their contemporary!  
Balfe's Falstaff had its premiere at London's prestigious Italian Opera in July 1838. 


Read the outstanding review of the Balfe Falstaff CD set in Opera News (June 2009)


To order go to:  http://amazon.com or in Europe http://amazon.co.uk   


3.5) First Return Visit to Ireland -1838

Balfe first returned to Ireland in 1838, where he sang in operas and in concerts.  In addition to Dublin he also traveled to other places in Ireland, Cork being one of the cities.

Page No. 4 - SECTION D 

TIME-LINE: 1841-1850

4.1) The London Theatre Manager

Balfe turned theatre manager in London in 1841, for the purpose of creating a National English Opera organization in Britain. Queen Victoria supported the venture to create a permanent national operatic group at the Lyceum Theatre on the Strand.

This venture was quite unsuccessful for a variety of reasons not the least of which was the lack of support Balfe received from his fellow composers who were supposed to write new operas for the occasion, and didn't. However, additionally Balfe's managerial and financial skills did not measure-up either. He went bankrupt  after six months. 

Disgusted with the entire endeavor he announced from the stage of the Lyceum that he would never venture into Theatre Management again.  Shortly afterwards he left for Paris, where he gave concerts with the help of Érard the piano manufacturer. He later received a commission to write a new opera, for the Opera Comique. It would be his first opera for Paris.

4.2) The New Operatic Composer in Paris 1843.



             Balfe's first French opera, Le Puits D'Amour premiered early in 1843 in Paris. ©Basil Walsh

Balfe went on to compose several other operas for Paris.  His success in Paris gave him great international recognition at a level never previously experienced by any British composer.  

4.3) A New Opera for London The Bohemian Girl - His Most Successful Work

After about a year and a half in Paris Balfe returned to London where he introduced an English version of his successful French opera, under the title of "Geraldine - The Lover's Well" in August 1843.

A few months later, his most famous and most lasting opera,  "'The Bohemian Girl,"  was first produced at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane on November 27, 1843.  Balfe composed most of this work at his home in central London; although it's quite possible that some of work on the score was initially done in Paris earlier in the year.

"After the highly successful run of over 100 nights at Drury Lane, performances of 'The Bohemian Girl" were soon mounted in:  New York 1844; Dublin 1844, Philadelphia 1844, Vienna (with a German libretto) 1846, Sydney 1846, Prague 1847, Stockholm 1849, Berlin 1850, Trieste, Brescia, Verona & Bologna (with an Italian libretto) in 1854, in Zurich 1854, Amsterdam 1855, Rouen 1862 (French libretto), Gothenburg 1865, Paris 1868/9, Toronto 1874, New Orleans 1876, Mexico 1884 and in Cape Town in 1887, etc., etc.

4.4) The Bohemian Girl - Performed the World Over.

For more than 150 years, Balfe's most popular opera, "'The Bohemian Girl,"   has been performed with remarkable success in the English speaking world of, America, Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and elsewhere.   A CD recording of the opera is available. See recordings section below.  It received a concert performances in Carnegie Hall in New York as recently as 2003 and in Dublin and in the UK in 2008.

4.5) Vienna, Pest (Budapest), Danzig, Munich, Linz and Stuttgart - 1844-1850s

Balfe's opera Die Vier Haimonskinder (translated from his 1844 French work, Les quatre fils Aymon) was performed with great acclaim during this period in these cities. It later was staged in Leipzig and other cities and towns and again in Vienna over a period of many years.


Balfe's opera, Die Vier Haimonskinder (Les quatre fils Aymon) was performed in Vienna, Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt, Prague and other German speaking cities throughout the 19th century. ©Basil Walsh

4.6) Paris 1845 - Balfe's opera L'etoil de Seville 

Towards the end of 1845 Balfe returned to Paris to prepare for the premiere of his new opera which was written specially for the Paris Opera.

This was a historical moment as it was the first time a "British" musician had been invited to compose a new opera for this important venue.
and the great pianist, Frederic Chopin and most of the leading composers of the period. Chopin recorded the event somewhat negatively in his writings to family members in Poland, complaining about the Balfe work being given priority over a Meyerbeer opera!

L'Etoile De Seville, Paris Opera,  December 1845 - 15 performances with a stellar cast

Balfe's cast included such distinguished singers as, tenor Italo Gardoni, mezzo-soprano, Rosine Stoltz, soprano Maria Nau, and the baritone Paul Barroilhet. The opera was given 15 performances with considerable success. It was later performed in Brussels and then translated into German for  Vienna, however it does not appear to have ever been performed there.

4.7) London - 1846-1852 - Balfe Director at the Italian Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre, London;

Balfe was appointed the director of Her Majesty's Theatre in London in 1846. It was a position he held for the next seven years until 1852. During that time he introduced several of Verdi's opera to London along with other local operatic premieres. 

He also premiered his own work, I Quattro Fratelli an augmented version of his very successful, French opera Les quatre fils Aymon (Paris 1844)


In August 1851, Balfe premiered his three act opera buffa,  I Quattro Fratelli at London's Italian Opera with significant new dynamic vocal music written for his star dramatic coloratura soprano, Sophie Cruvelli.  The opera was a remarkable success. The libretto was by his friend, S. Manfredo Maggioni (1808-1870?)

The Italian Opera - London circa 1850. ©Basil Walsh

4.8  Balfe with Giuseppe Verdi and Jenny Lind in London 1846-47

Balfe was also the principal conductor for the Italian Opera at Her Majesty's theatre, London. He conducted Jenny Lind's (1820-1887) London debut in opera and most of her subsequent performances in that city and in Dublin. Balfe also conducted the local London premiere of  the young Italian composer, Giuseppe Verdi's (1813-1901), first successful opera, Nabucco.  


The famous soprano, Jenny Lind (c.1849). ©Basil Walsh 

Giuseppe Verdi circa 1847

When Giuseppe Verdi first arrived in London to conduct his new opera, I Masnadieri, with Jenny Lynn and Luigi Lablache, Balfe worked with him at rehearsals. Later when the Italian composer left London after conducting two performances, Balfe took up the baton to finish the run of the Italian composer's new opera.

4.9 "Irish Famine" Relief Concert

Early in the year 1847, Benjamin Lumley the London impresario and Balfe mounted a special concert at Her Majesty's Theatre for the benefit of Famine related distressed Irish people. The concert raised  £2,000. Various members of the aristocracy were also directly involved as part of the fund raising committee and funds distribution. The money was distributed in Ireland.

5.0) Balfe at the premiere of  his Die Zigeunerin in Vienna

In 1846 Balfe went to Vienna to direct and conduct his opera Die Zigeunerin (The Bohemian Girl). The opera once again had incredible success. It  went on to be performed there and also in other German speaking cities until the end of the century.

An elegant looking Michael Balfe, age 38, in Vienna (1846) at the time of the premiere of Die Zigeunerin
the German version of his famous opera, The Bohemian Girl. ©Basil Walsh

Page No. 5 - SECTION E

TIME-LINE: 1851-1870

5.2) Cantata - Inno Delle Nazioni  - (London 1851)

In London in 1851 in honor of the upcoming Great International Exhibition in London, Balfe composed an extraordinary cantata titled, Inno Delle Nazioni - Onore alla Gran Bretagna in which the nine (9) vocal parts were sung by nine leading females singers each representing a country. The accompaniment was piano, harp and horn.

Balfe's cantata for nine female voices, performed in London in May 1851. ©Basil Walsh

The Bohemian Girl - Performed in English, German, Italian and French. And other languages.

An Italian adaptation and translation of " 'The Bohemian Girl" titled, "La Zingara" was mounted in Trieste in 1854. It was a great success. Performances quickly followed in other Italian cities, Bologna, Bergamo, Brescia, and Verona. 

Later La Zingara  was performed in:  London (1856), Dublin (1858), New York (1858) and in Boston and San Francisco.  A German language version,  "Die Zigeunerin" premiered in Vienna, in 1846. It was later heard in Berlin, Frankfurt (Balfe's friend, Jenny Lind attended the Frankfurt performance), Hamburg, Darmstadt, Munich, Stuttgart, Budapest, Leipzig  and other cities. 

In 1862 a four-act French version "La Bohemienne" premiered in Rouen, in France with the very young (20 years old) future great French composer, Jules Massenet conducting. The star of the evening however, was Celestine Galli-Marie (role of the Gypsy Queen) who a number of years later went on to create Thomas' Mignon (1866), and Bizet's Carmen (1875). A revised augmented version of Balfe's opera reached Paris

 An greatly augmented French version of The Bohemian Girl, premiered in Paris in 1869. ©Basil Walsh

The success of The Bohemian Girl was unprecedented for opera in the 19th century. The only other work that was close to it  in terms of popularity around the world was Verdi's Ernani (1844).

5.3) The Composer in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Vienna and Trieste

'The years 1852-53 saw Balfe travel to Danzig to visit his eldest daughter Louisa "Gigia" (Balfe) Behrens and her family after which he traveled by coach to St. Petersburg in Russia for concerts.  He later went on to Moscow for more concerts, after which he returned to Danzig for a rest before going on to Vienna to direct a German version of his opera Keolanthe. In 1854 he went to Trieste to premiere La Zingara. He also returned to Russia in the 1860's.  

5.4) New York - The Academy of Music -1854

Strangely, 'Balfe never visited America, although there were strong rumors circulating in New York in 1854-5 that the composer was to become the Director of the Academy of Music on 14th Street. However, nothing came of it. 

5.5) The Successful Composer of 250 Songs, Several Cantatas and at least One Symphony     

Balfe was remarkably productive during these years, between composing operas he wrote songs with text by some of the most famous poets of the time.  These included, Tennyson, Longfellow, Falconer, Morris, Rankin, Kingsley, Desmond Ryan, Guernsey, Carpenter, and Thomas Moore were some of the poets and writers who penned the words for Balfe songs.

5.6) Popular Songs/Moore's Irish Melodies

Over a 35 year period many of Balfe's songs achieved great popularity for example songs such as,   "Killarney" - "Come into the Garden Maud" - " 'The Sands of Dee" - "Trust her not" "The Arrow and the Song" "Excelsior" - "Margarita" - "There is a name I never breathe" - "The First Kiss" - "The Song of Love & Death" "Good night! Good night, beloved" etc. etc.  See the full lists of know Balfe songs below.

Moore's Irish Melodies - In 1859 Balfe was also contracted by the London music publisher, Novello & Co to update and complete a new arrangement of Moore's Irish Melodies. It was an endeavor he very much enjoyed.  

5.7) Cantatas

In 1829 in Bologna, Balfe composed his first Cantata. He specifically wrote it for his friend the future great soprano, Giulia Grisi, then aged 18. She performed it with the tenor Francesco Pedrazzi with much success. 

'He also composed at least eight other Cantatas, one for the great singer Maria Malibran, and one for such other  illustrious singers as the mezzo-soprano, Pauline Viardot-Garcia (Malibran's sister) and the great tenor, Gilbert Duprez in Paris in 1842.

The performers of this 1842 Paris cantata (with harp, violin and piano) were detailed in Balfe's own handwriting on the opening page of the autograph score. ©Basil Walsh

Balfe composed his better known Cantata Mazeppa later on in 1862 to words by J. Rankin.

5.8) The Composer's only known Symphony

Balfe composed his one and only known Sinfonia  in 1829. The music for this (88 pages) and other early works has recently been discovered in Europe and copies obtained. Hopefully these important pieces will get an airing some day soon.

5.9)  The Astounding Michael William Balfe - Summary, The Years, 1835-60

Balfe's output and energy during the years 1835-1860 was astounding. Some years he was actually composing operas for London, Paris and/or Vienna at the same time, or had two of his opera running in London while he was conducting other composer's works there.  He was simply amazing.


Page No. 6 - SECTION F



6.1)  Marriage

'Balfe was married for almost 40 years to Lina Roser-Balfe. She survived him by 18 years, dying in London in 1888. 
They had two sons and two daughters. The younger son, Edward died in infancy. The other son named Michael William after his father,  survived his parents by many years spending most of his life between London and New York.  He died in London in 1915.

6.2) Balfe's Wife - Lina (Magdalena) Roser Balfe (1810-1888) - also an important singer

Balfe's wife Lina was born in Budapest (Pest), Hungary of an Austrian father in 1810, and perhaps an Austrian mother. It appears that her mother possibly died during childbirth, as she was raised by Austrian foster parents, the Vogels.  Her father, Franz de Paula Roser (1779-1830) who was working as a musician, theatre manager and composer in Pest when she was born. The father had been a pupil of W. A. Mozart during the year 1789, when he was a child. He was also a composer of significance in Vienna where more than 60 of his operettas were performed during his lifetime.

Lina a soprano, was an excellent singer, performing in Milan from around 1829 and afterwards in Venice, Bergamo, Parma, Mantua, Turin, Varese and elsewhere in Italy in the 1830s.  She studied with one of Mozart's sons, Karl T. Mozart in Milan during 1828/29.

Shortly after the death of her husband, Michael W. Balfe in 1870, Lina Balfe donated her large collection of his original scores and music to the British Museum/Library. The Balfe collection which is very extensive is held by the British Library today. The listing of the collection can be viewed online. Copies of  musical scores can also be ordered online.

6.3) Daughter - Louisa Balfe-Behrend (1832-1869)

Balfe's first daughter Louisa "Gigia," was born in Italy (probably in Milan) in 1832. In 1850 she married a well established Danzig merchant 28 year old Maximiliam Behrend in London and lived in Danzig and Berlin, before the family eventually moved to England.  'Louisa Behrend (Balfe) died in London in 1869. 'There were eight children from the Louisa/Max Behrend marriage.   Descendants of this branch of the Balfe/Behrend family exists today, in Britain and elsewhere.

6.4) Son - Michael W. Balfe Jr. (1836(?) -1915)

Balfe's son who was born in London circa late 1836 (?), was not successful in his efforts to follow in his father's footsteps as a composer. He was married in London in 1863.  He later spent several years in New York where he went with his wife, Norah and their young daughter, Maud. His wife later died and he remarried. Their family grew, they had another daughter, Victoria and two sons, Michael William and William each born in New York (Brooklyn). While in New York he worked not too successfully as a, "Fitter" and later an Insurance sales person.  He died in London at an Infirmary in 1915 aged 79.

6.5) Daughter - Victoire Balfe-de Frias (Paris 1837?-1871)

©Basil Walsh

Balfe's youngest daughter, Victoire (shown here circa 1861) is reported to have been born in Paris in September, 1837. She studied singing with her father and with the noted teacher Manuel Garcia in London.  She had a short but successful career as a soprano in London, Dublin, Paris, Turin and Milan.  

While on a visit to Russia with her father she met the eccentric British Ambassador,  55 year old, Sir John F. Crampton whom she married in  St. Petersburg in 1860. He was 32 years her senior. The marriage was nor a success. However, a court order and a Papal decree eventually annulled the marriage.

Subsequently, she remarried the 29 year old Duke deFrias, of Burgos, a Spanish nobleman then residing in Madrid. Victoire died in Madrid in 1871. There were three children from this marriage.

Balfe Dies at his Home, Rowney Abbey, Ware, Herts. (outside London)
20th October 1870

Michael W. Balfe 1808-1870. ©Basil Walsh

Page No. 7 - SECTION G


7.1) The Composer Remembered in London & Dublin

Today, a large marble statue of Balfe stands on a pedestal in the center of the entrance foyer to the 'Theatre Royal Drury Lane, London, (see below), the very same theatre where Balfe experienced so much success with his operas, during the nineteenth-century.  The statue was placed there in 1874 by a group of Balfe friends and followers.


 Balfe Statue at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London. Erected in 1874. ©Basil Walsh.        

The Balfe statue which is still in place at the Drury Lane theatre is flanked by three other similar statutes of "immortals" of the British theatre, Shakespeare, Garrick and Keane.

In 1879 a stained glass window, honoring Michael W. Balfe was installed in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. The window is still there today. A plaque was installed in Westminster Abbey, London honoring the composer in 1882. See Image below.

The Balfe window at St. Patrick Cathedral, Dublin, (1879)
The Balfe memorial at Westminster Abbey, London (1882. ©Basil Walsh


Balfe's gravesite (1870) at Kensal Green Cemetery, London. ©Basil Walsh

7.2 Balfe's Final Work

Balfe had nearly completed his final opera, The Knight of the Leopard - based on Sir Walter Scott's work, "The Talisman," in 1870 when he died. 

'His friend Michael Costa finalized the work. It was given an Italian libretto (G. Zaffira) and title and first performed as Il Talismano  in London in 1874.  It had a stellar cast in soprano Christine Nilsson, and tenor Italo Campanini. Michael Costa conducted it. 

The opera achieved great success and was praised highly by the critics as Balfe's best work on a grand Italian scale. The opera was later performed in Dublin, New York and in Monte Carlo in 1918 and elsewhere.


Page No. 8 - SECTION H

Balfe's Operatic Works

8. 1) His Operatic Compositions (For recordings of operas * or excerpts ** see below)

I rivale di se stessi (1829 - Palermo)

Die Zigeunerin - (The Bohemian Girl - 1846 Vienna)

L' etoile de Seville (1845 Paris)

Un Avvertimento di Gelosi (1831Pavia)

Keolanthe/The Unearthly Bride(1841)

The Bondman (1846)

Enrico IV al passo della Marna (1833 - Milan)

Le Puits d'Amour (1843 Paris)

The Maid of Honour (1847)

Siege of Rochelle (1835) *

Geraldine/The Lover's Well (1843)

The Sicilian Bride (1852)

The Maid of Artois (1836) **

The Bohemian Girl (1843) *

The Devil's in it (1852)

Catherine Grey (1837)

'La Zingara (Bohemian Girl) (1854 Trieste)

Letty, the Basket Market (1852)

Die Vier Haimonskinder (1844 Vienna)

Les quatre fils Aymon (1844 Paris/Vienna 1844)

Der Mulatte (The Bondman -1850 Berlin)

Joan of Arc (1837)

The Castle of Aymon (1844)/I quattro fratelli (1851)

Pittore e Duca (1854 Triests)

Diadeste/The Veiled Lady (1838)

The Daughter of St. Mark (1844) *

Moro, Painter of Antwerp (1882)

Falstaff (1838)

The Enchantress (1845)

The Rose of Castile (1857) *

Satanella/The Power of Love (1858)*

Bianca, the Bravo's Bride (1860)

The Puritan's Daughter (1861) *

La Bohemienne (Bohemian Girl) (1862 Rouen/1869 Paris)

The Armourer of Nantes (1863)

Blanche de Nevers (1863)

The Sleeping Queen (Cantata) (1864)

Il Talismano (1874)** + +

In addition, at least eight cantatas, one symphony and over 240 songs

+Completed by Michael Costa and performed after Balfe's death.  (*See details of recordings below) ++Play with music.

                                                        Balfe's Songs & Concert Arias

In addition to 28 operas, Balfe also composed about 250 or more songs (including several concert arias with Italian text) during his career which spanned almost 50 years as a composer. The majority of these were published in London, where Balfe resided for most of his life. 

The following is a list of known songs that were published during his lifetime. There obviously will be more songs added as they are identified. There were many songs that appear to have been published after his death in October 1870, in which Balfe's music was used with a different or new text. These songs have not been included in the following compilation, as their authenticity is perhaps somewhat questionable, since the composer was dead when they were first published.

Generally, Balfe operatic arias/ballads have been excluded from this listing. Although some operatic numbers did in fact take on "a life of their own"  as "songs" on the concert circuit. A list of the principal arias in each Balfe opera is provided in the author's recently published Michael W. Balfe biography.  
(NOTE: The publication dates shown below are estimates/best known, as dates of publication are frequently difficult to specifically verify in many instances).

Song/Concert Aria Lyricists/Poet Published 
Ahi forse in tal momento (It.) F. Jannetti 1847
Ah! Would that I could love thee less M. J. Andrews c.1850
Angels call me, The G. Linley c.1852
Angel of Prayer, The W. H. Bellamy 1858
Annie of Tharaw H. W. Longfellow 1858
Arrow and the song, The H. W. Longfellow 1857
Ballroom Belle, The G. P. Morris 1857
Banner of St. George, The J. Brougham 1860
Bard that on his harp expired, The H. Costley 1865
Beautiful Nun, The G. Linley c.1840
Beautious maid who bids the world adieu, The S. Rogers c.1845
Bells, The E. A. Poe 1865
Beloved ? 1860
Bel Mestier del gondoliere (It.) S. M. Maggioni c.1838
Bird of the twilight J. E. Carpenter 1861
Blighted Flower, The J. Hazlett 1838
Bridal wreath is on thy brow, The S. Rogers c.1845
Bride's Father, The C. Swain c.1842
By the rivulet side W. Crossman 1856
Canteenveer, The W. H. Bellamy 1853
Christmas comes but once a year J. Oxenford 1857
Come away to the sands W. H. Bellamy 1835
Come, come from thy sparry cave W. H. Bellamy c.1840
Come into the garden Maud A. Tennyson 1857
Coronation stanza J. A. Hoy 1838
Cymbalier, The W. H Bellamy 1857
Could'st thou but know (Si tu savais)  ? c.1859
Day is done, The H. W. Longfellow c.1858
Daybreak H.W. Longfellow 1859
Dawn is breaking o'er us, The T. Moore c.1840
Deserted Bride, The G. P. Morris 1857
Despair, the night is dark W. H. Bellamy c.1840
Don't let the roses listen J. Rankin c.1858
H.W. Longfellow  1858?
Eileen Bawn H. J. St. Ledger c.1866
Echoes of the heart, The R. Taylor c.1842
Fail me not V. P. Willis 1859
Falling river; Fortune and her Wheel A. Tennyson 1860
Farewell dear home W. H. Bellamy 1860
Fairy, The W. H. Belamy c.1840
First Kiss, The D. Ryan c.1859
Five months ago, the stream did flow E. B. Browning 1856
Flowers! Sweet Flowers J. Rankin 1861
Fresh as a Rose J. Rankin 1860
Gently oe'r the rippling water ? c.1850
Go lovely rose ? c.1858
God save the Queen (Prayer of the Nation) J. A. Hoy c.1846
Gondolieri (It.) S. M. Maggioni 1838
Good night! Good night! Beloved H. W. Longfellow 1858
Good night, The ? 1860
Green Trees, The H. W. Longfellow 1858
Gushing from this living fountain ? c.1850
Happiest Land, The H. W. Longfellow 1859
Hark to the wind upon the hill W. M. Thackerary c.1858
Heroes of the Ranks, The A. Matheson 1857
Heart broken, The E. Cook c.1840
He'll be here tomorrow E. Fitzball c.1846
Her last words at parting T. Moore c.1840
Hidden Voices C. Kingsley c.1865
Ho giarto tutto il mondo (It.) A. Berettoni c.1835
Home in the heart, A E. Cook c.1840
Home that waits for me, The M. Sidwell 1864
Hopeful heart should banish care A. Waymark 1854
How oft at night's calm silen moon H. J. St. Leger 1855
I am the spirit of light ? 1860
I'm a merry Zingara E. Fitzball c.1845
I'm not in love, remember J. Rankin 1859
I'm leavin' hame, my Willie J. Rankin 1860
I'm with you once again my friends ? c.1850
I dream'ed I had a bow? J. Rankin 1862
If I could change, as others change J. Rankin 1860
If I sing my love at morning F. W. N. Bayley 1847
I feel that thou art changed E. Cook c.1840
I hear a voice you cannot hear T. Tickell c.1868
Il bacio (It.) L. Capranica c.1851
Il Postiglione (It.) C. Pepoli c.1840
I love thee O. Meridith 1870
I love you G. P. Morris 1860
In the sweet May time G. Linley c.1842
In this old chair my father sat ? c.1847
Io sentiti tremar (It.) F. Romani c.1833
I once was happy F. Judd 1853
I wandered by the brook side R. Monckton Milnes c.1852
I'll do thy bidding mother dear E. Boucicault c.1842
I'll go and gather flowers F. Enoch 1869
I'll wander when the twilight breaks T. Newman 1856
'Tis I that love her best C. Hall 1850
I saw my love S. Clark ?
Joy of Tears, The E. Fitzball 1851
Kathleen dear, forget me not E. Fitzball 1840
Kathleen Machree E. Falconer 1862
Keep thy heart for me ? c.1856
Killarney E. Falconer 1861
Ladies, fly from love's smooth tale - Duet S. Rogers c.1845
Lady Blanche, The A. Smith 1857
Lady Hildred; Maid of Athens G. Byron 1865
La Farfalla S. M. Maggioni 1838
La Monaca (It.) S. M. Maggioni c.1838
La speranza… dolce soave sperme (It.) N. di Santo Mango c.1840
Le crespuscule… voici la nuit (Fr.) M. de Lamartine c.1841
Let me whisper in thine ear J. Rankin 1858
Light from loving eyes, The G. Hodder 1859
List thy troubadour G. Linley c.1842
Long ago… the tear that falls J. P. Douglas 1873?
Long Live the Queen C. Sherad c.1868
Lonely Rose, The E. Fitzball 1850
Lord be my guide ? c.1848
Lost and found P. Simpson 1856
Lover's Mistake, The  (Balfe's first published song) T. H. Bayly 1822
Margarita G. P. Morris 1859
Maid of Athens, Lady Hildred G. Byron 1869
Maid and her Moorish Knight, The R. McMurray 1862
Margaretta G. P. Morris 1860
Mariner's Bride, The  J. F. Waller c.1870
Mary G. P. Morris 1861
Mary don't forget me J. Rankin 1861
Mary, Mavourneen A. Greville c.1862
Matilda E. Fitzball c.1840
Maureen B. Cornwall 1847
Merry little Gipsy, The E. Fitzball 1857
Merry little Savoyard J. Rankin 1857
Merry May C. H. Corley 1856
M'offrian cittadi e popli (It.) F. Jannetti 1847
Moon is up, The J. Peabody c.1850
Moore's Irish Melodies (arrangements) T. Moore 1859
Music and Song, Sleep my pretty one A. Tennyson c.1861
My dwelling is no lordly hall E. Pickering c.1840
My fairest child I have no song J. Kingsley 1860
My gentle child F. Hemans C.1852
My heart returns to thee G. Lindley C.1850
My native valley W. Guernsey c.1866
My old Song J. Oxenford 1859
Myrtle Bower, The - Duet T. Clarke c.1849
Nelly Gray J. Oxenford 1859
Ne'er was mortal eye delighted ? 1871
Night march of the volunteers, The M. Lemon 1860
Noble Foe, The G. Hodder 1857
Non scordar le notte (It.) C. Pepoli c.1835
Norah darling! Don't believe them J. Rankin 1859
Now hush thee, I'll listen no more E. Pickering c. 1842
O Daisy pet L. H. F. duTerraux 1869
O sing again W. Guernsey c.1868
Ognor costante ta'mero (It.) G. Mario? 1846
Oh! do not look so bright and blessed T. Moore c.1836
Oh, boatman haste G.P. Morris 1858
Oh! chide me not ? 1847
Oh! I love the early morn F. Judd 1852
Oh send me back to dreamland J. Rankin 1861
Oh! shall we go a sailing? W. H. Bellamy 1836
Oh! she was fair J. Rankin 1862
Oh! she was as good as she was fair - Duet S. Rogers 1845
Oh! smile again F. Judd 1852
Oh! Suoni un di soave. Recitativo, e Ahi che Alfredo (It.) Count  C. Pepoli c.1832
Oh! take me to thy heart again J. Rankin 1858
Oh! think what joy is roaming T. Moore 1840
Oh! thou dear one J. Rankin 1862
Oh! weep not lady ? c.1852
Oh! would I were a honey bee J. E. Carpenter c.1857
Old friends M. A. Andrews 1851
Old house by the lindens, The H. W. Longfellow 1862
One smile from thee Mrs. H. J. St. Ledger 1859
Once more G. Hodder 1857
On the banks of my own sunny river E. Fitzball 1856
Our Village Days W. M. Tolkin c.1868
Over mount, over lea G. Linley c.1863
Pale, pale cheek, A  C. Swain 1861
Pauvre Licas (Latin) C. Pellecat c.1838
Phoebe the Fair J. Rankin 1862
Poor Nelly "HISS." 1853
Prayer for the Nation - God save the Queen J. A. Hoy c.1846
Quadroon girl, The H. W. Longfellow 1860
Qual fior novello (It) F. Jannetti 1847
Queen, of Spring, The J. E. Carpenter 1862
Quick to work - Duet ? 1871
Rainey Day, The H. W. Longfellow 1857
Raise a song to the Lord G. Linley 1854
Raise the bright flag of Columbia W. T. May 1849
Reaper and the Flowers, The H. W. Longfellow c.1858
Rest wand'rer, rest, all nature sleeps W. Sotheby 1865
Riflemen, form ? 1859
Rock me to sleep, mother ? c.1857
Rose on the Heath, The A. Baskerville/Goethe 1860
Rose that opens at morn, The E. Pickering 1857
Rowen Tree, The J. F. Waller c.1868
Ruth and I J. F. Waller? c.1858
Sailor sighs as sinks his native shore S. Rogers c.1845
Sands of Dee, The C. Kingsley 1859
Scenes of Home, The G. P. Morris 1859
Sea hath its pearls, The H. W. Longfellow/Heine 1862
She came to the village church - Trio A. Tennyson c.1863
She stood in the sunshine J. Rankin c.1863
She walks in queenslike grace J. Rankin 1862
Shell duet, The A. Tennyson 1860
Simple Rose, A T. H. Bayly c.1840
Sing, maiden sing! B. Cornwall 1846
Sing no more ladies S. Rogers c.1849
Si tu savais (Could'st thou but know)  ? c.1859
Sleep on, sleep on -Trio ? c.1871
Smile, O' heaven upon the day! E. Falconer 1859
So long as my darling loves me H. Fry 1859
Song of Love and Death, The A. Tennyson 1859
Spanish Serenade  S. Lover c.1870
Spirit of Light, The J. Ellison c.1857
Stars of the Summer Night H. W. Longfellow 1857
Still to be with thee I love G. Linley 1837
Sun upon the silent hills, The ? c.1852
Sunset J. Ellison 1860
Sventurata Ildegonda ? c.1836
Sweet Guitar, The C. W. Chapman 1859
Sweetheart A. Greville 1860
Sweetheart come back to me J. Rankin 1861
Sweet Nightingale L. H. F. du Terraux 1869
Sweet words of love E. Fitzball 1856
Take not of pleasure J. R. Planche 1855
Tear not the veil away ? c.1870
Tender Time of May, The L. H. F. duTerraux c.1867
This is the place, stand still my steed H. W. Longfellow c.1858
That last light of sundown L. H. F. du Terraux 1869
Then Lady Wake ? c.1850
Theresa we no more shall part J. Rankin 1862
There is a name I never breath J. E. Carpenter c.1856
There's one heart unchanging T. Moore c.1840
They bind with costly pearls my brow E. Fitzball c.1837
They tell me thou'art the favoured guest T. Moore c.1840
Threads of Gold S. E. Young 1859
Tomb of the Islander's daughter, The T. Newman 1856
To me the world's an open book ? c.1850
To the land of my birth G. Linley c.1842
Thou art with me everywhere J. Rankin 1858
Thou wilt still be dear to me E. Fitzball c.1840
Though age be like December C. Clarke c.1860
Threads of Gold ? c.1859
Through the Golden Valley S. E. Young c.1859
Through the Grassy Fields - Trio ? c.1870
Trust me , not at all or all in all A. Tennyson 1859
Trust her not - Duet H. W. Longfellow c.1858
Twilight's soft dew steals o'er the village - Duet S. Rogers c.1845
Two Locks of Hair H. W. Longfellow 1859
Two gifts ? c1870
Two little years ago J. E. Carpenter 1860
Una Donna piu felice (It.) ? c.1833
Underworld, The L. H. F. duTerraux 1869
Un pensiero d'amore (It.) G. Torre c.1850
Victoria, and England for ever L. L. Ternan c.1860
Village Blacksmith, The H. W. Longfellow 1857
Volunteer, The  W. H. Bellamy 1860
Watching and Waiting C. Swain c.1864
We never see him now E. Fitzball c.1838
We walked by the sea J. Waller c.1870
We'll meet again J. Rankin 1858
When along the light ripple R. Monckton-Miles 1847
When woman plights her troth F. Mc Murray 1869
When I am dead G. Linley c.1843
Why should thy voice still follow me? C. Swain c.1862
Will spring return W. Scott c.1862
Women's Heart, A ? c.1845
Women's Love T. Newman 1857
Young May Moon, The T. Moore c.1840
Young Soldier, The E. Fitzball c.1847
Zillah G. Linley c.1846

Note: Sources for data on Balfe's songs include personal research in various libraries in Europe and the USA, material in the author's collection, the British Library, the National Library of Ireland, the New York Public Library, and the Dictionary of Music and Musicians.


Recordings of Balfe's Music

9.1) Selected Recordings of Balfe's Music      

NEW:  Balfe's two-act comic Italian opera "Falstaff"  has been professionally recorded by Opera Ireland - RTE/Lyric with the RTE Orchestra and an international cast of singers. The two CD set is now available.    


TO ORDER click on:  http://www.amazon.com (Enter: Falstaff+Balfe)

or in Europe http://amazon.co.uk    or

IRELAND: RTE LyricFM Store:  https://www.rte.ie/shop/


REVIEWS of the Falstaff CD Set       

      Read the outstanding review of the Balfe Falstaff CD set in Opera News (June 2009)

Visit Amazon review of the CD set:  http://www.amazon.com/review/RMY4DJDJPPPH3

The Bohemian Girl - 2 CDs,   Argo 433 324-2 with an international cast and orchestra conducted by 'Richard Bonynge.

Reissued July 8, 2002,  as Decca (London) CD 473077-2 To purchase contact:

The Maid of Artois - 2 CD 2042/3,  Victorian Opera Northwest Group 

The Rose of Castile - 2 LPs,    Rare Recorded Editions  191-2  (Wexford Opera Festival's first performance in 1951.

The Siege of Rochelle - Tape Excerpts; Radio Eireann broadcast, Dublin circa 19

The Siege of Rochelle - Recording by a semi-professional cast
performed in England in 1987.

NEW - Cello Sonata

Romantics in England
Balfe's Cello Sonata & the Cello work of other British composers
CD LX 7225 - Dutton Epoch - 2009.

Satanella or The Power of Love  2 LPs, Opera Integra SSRE - 173/4

The Daughter of St. Mark  2 LPs, Rare Recorded Editions - 141-2

Opera Rara "Ora divina" - CD ORR 239 -"The blighted flower"
Bruce Ford, tenor.

Balfe's Falstaff, Italian Opera in 2 Acts.
RTE Lyric-fm -CD 119

Balfe The Bohemian Girl - Highlights
Wallace: Maritana - Highlights
Benedict: The Lily of Killarney - Highlights - Click-on:

"In Marble Halls" BBC 2 Series. Produced by In-Flight  Prodns. 1998

London/Decca CD "Carnivale" with ' Sumi Jo, soprano and Richard Bonynge conducting - a Balfe aria from Le Puits d'Amour is included along with several other unusual French operatic arias.

"The Power of Love" - CD 301082 (Melba Label- Australia) - recital by soprano Deborah Riedel - Richard Bonynge conducting the Australian Opera & Ballet Orchestra.                

Balfe arias from: Il "Talismano, The Siege of Rochelle, The Rose of Castile, Satanella, The Maid of Artois and The Puritan's Daughter.

This important  CD includes nine(9) arias from Balfe operas, (some never before recorded) seven(7) from operas by Vincent Wallace and two(2) from Arthur Sullivan operas.

"Sixty Glorious Years" BMS  CD422 - includes aria, "When I beheld the anchor weigh'd" from the Siege of Rochelle and the song, "The Sands of Dee"

The Age of Bel Canto, Jerry Hadley, tenor with Richard Bonynge conducting. includes two Balfe arias from The Rose of Castile. CD RCA 09026-68030-1

The song "Trust her not" on EMI Classics label CD 574206 - Sweet Power of Song with Felicity Lott and Ann Murray. There are several other Irish songs on this CD           

Ildegonda nel Carcere, scene and concert aria written by Balfe for the singer, Adele Crescini probably in London in 1836. The CD titled, Arias from Forgotten Operas, with Mezzo-soprano Hugette Tourangeau and Richard Bonynge conducting, contains this fascinating Balfe music. CD Decca 475 6812 DM

Vienna 2003-4 - Riccardo Muti & the Vienna Philharmonic New Year's concert (2003-4) included Johann Strauss' adaptations of  music from Balfe's Die Zigeunerin, (The Bohemian Girl) (Quadrille). This performance is available on CD and DVD. 

Recording of selected Balfe songs: Soprano Sally Silver & Richard Bonynge, piano.  
Click here for details and to
order:  www.guildmusic.com

A trio, "Vorrei parlar ma  L'ira" from  Balfe's Falstaff now available.

OperaRara CD ORR 21 "Tyrants and Lovers"  

Cantata:  Sempre pensoso e torbido - "Malibran Cantata"   Opera Rara       CD ORR227

Order from:


Page No. 10 - section J

Books and Literary References

10.1) Books, Articles, & Literary References to His Music     

Biography:     Michael W. Balfe: A Unique Victorian Composer

A recent biography "Michael W. Balfe: A Unique Victorian Composer" by Basil Walsh has been published in Europe and the USA for the composer's bicentenary year (2008), by Irish Academic Press,Dublin, in association with the Arts Council of Ireland.

For details please visit:  www.iap.ie     or      Michael W. Balfe: A Unique Victorian Composer   


               Michael W. Balfe: 
      A Unique Victorian Composer 
         by Basil Walsh (Oct 2007)
      Foreword by Richard Bonynge


        "Balfe, His Life & Work"               
         by W. A.
Barrett (London -  1882)

  "A Memoir of Michael W. Balfe" -
  by C. L. Kenny (London -1875)

English Opera 1834-64 and the works of Michael   W. Balfe  by  George Biddlecombe (New York - 1994)

Michael W. Balfe: His Life and His English Operas by William Tyldesley   

 Articles about Balfe  basilwalsh[at]msn[dot]com  

"Balfe's Italian Operas" by Basil Walsh  -   Donizetti Society of London Newsletter; issue No. 85  - February   2002

"Balfe in Italy" 'by Basil Walsh -  The Opera Quarterly; issue Vol. 18 No. 4, Winter 2002/03

 "Balfe: The Irish Italian" - Ireland's Uniquely Gifted Composer - by Basil Walsh - History Ireland, issue Vol. 11 No. 1,  Spring 2003  

"A Visit to Donizetti: Balfe & his wife" by Basil Walsh  - Donizetti Society of London Newsletter; (Balfe & his wife visit the ailing Donizetti in Paris in 1845)  issue No. 92 June 2004    

"Balfe and Malibran" by Basil Walsh - Donizetti Society of London Newsletter; issue No. 98  - June   2006

"An Anglo-Irish Rossini?  Basil Walsh on M. W. Balfe's remarkable career " - OPERA magazine (UK) February 2008
Falstaff program notes from the Opera Ireland performance September 25th 2008 in Dublin. Notes for 
RTE Lyric Fm,  Falstaff 2-CD set issued November 2008.

"Persiani and Rubini - Dublin 1838" by Basil Walsh - Article in Donizetti Society of London Newsletter No 113 (June 2011) featuring the visit and concert given by  Persiani & Rubini to Dublin in 1838 and the role Michael Balfe played in making that happen.

10.2 Trieste - James Joyce and Balfe

"Trieste, Italy with its strong middle-eastern influence has long been a very cosmopolitan, multi-racial city ever since the Habsburgs declared it a "free city" in 1719. Over the centuries, the arts, including music have flourished there, particularly in the nineteenth-century." Under Habsburg rule, trade also boomed, and the city's port became Vienna's gateway to the Mediterranean and the middle-east for almost two-hundred years.

The Irish writer James Joyce's" made reference to Michael Balfe and his music in a number of his books and stories, including Ulysses, Dubliners and Finnegan's Wake. He seemed to have a special feeling and interest for the composer and his works. 

Perhaps a little known linkage between Balfe and Joyce that centers on Trieste might have given Joyce a certain partially towards his fellow Dubliner. The following provides the details.

Balfe and Joyce were both born in Dublin, Balfe in 1808 and Joyce in 1882, 74 years apart. Both had fathers that were interested in music. Both men grew to have a deep interest in Italian opera. Both had excellent singing voices, Joyce a tenor, Balfe a baritone. 

They also experienced a number of other things in common, not the least of which was a strong association with the city of Trieste.

Joyce arrived in Trieste on October 20, 1904, exactly 34 years to the very day after Balfe died (October 20, 1870), outside London.  Joyce lived in Trieste for about 12-14 years. He was twenty-two when he arrived there.  During this time he wrote, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, most of Dubliners and some of Ulysses and a play called Exiles. 

In total, Balfe spent about eight years in Italy. First in 1825 for a short period, before going to Paris.  At the end of 1828 when he was twenty years old he returned to Italy (he spent time in Trieste during this period), to become a singer and a composer, before returning to London in 1835.  

Early in 1854, Balfe once again returned to Italy, this time to Trieste. He was now a famous composer of successful operas for London, Paris and Vienna. On this visit he spent a little over a year in Trieste directing and composing two operas.  

Trieste was ruled from Vienna by the Habsburgs when Balfe was there. It was stilled ruled from Vienna by the Habsburgs when Joyce went to live there in 1904. 

 Shortly after Balfe's arrival in Trieste, he premiered (February 1854), the Italian version of his most successful work, The Bohemian Girl  as La Zingara. La Zingara became very popular in Italy, Britain, Ireland and America during the 19th century.

Joyce of course refers to The Bohemian Girl a number of times in his works and also other Balfe works.

As can be seen the two artists had a number of things in common. Joyce was probably aware of some of these facts about Balfe so perhaps he felt somewhat partial towards his fellow Dubliner and his music, and gave him preference in his writings. We'll never really know for sure.

©Basil Walsh

Page No. 11 - section k


Great Singers Performed Balfe's music

Internationally Renowned Artists sang Balfe

Many distinguished artists who were creators for Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi and others, sang Balfe's operas in Italian, German, French and other languages, around the capitals of Europe and other places during the 19th century. These included such legendary singers as, Luigi Lablache, Giulia Grisi, Giovanni Battista Rubini, Marietta Alboni, Celestine Galli-Marie, Raffaele Mirati, Italo Gardoni, Rosine Stoltz, Joseph Staudigl. Maria Nau, Paul Barroilhet, Marie Roze, Jean De Reszke (as a baritone), Pauline Viardot Garcia, Giorgio Ronconi and of course, Michael and Lina Balfe and their daughter Victoire Balfe.

Balfe's operas have been performed in  America, Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand and elsewhere in the English speaking world.

Some of the best American, Australian, New Zealand, British and Irish singers performed Balfe's music in these countries. 
These included, Charles Santley, Sims Reeves, William Harrison, Charlotte Birch, Anna Bishop, Catherine Hayes, Barton McGuckin, Anna Thillon, Elizabeth Rainforth, Lucy Escott and others and more recently Roberta Peters and Jess Walters and Lauren Flanigan. 

NOTE: More details of singers who performed in Balfe operas over the years are provided in the new Balfe biography referred to elsewhere in this website.

Page No. 12 - section l

The Year 2008  was Michael W. Balfe's 200th Anniversary Year

The two-hundred anniversary of Balfe's birth occurred in 2008. Balfe was an important composer during the 19th century and beyond.  His legacy is really his music, not necessarily the staged operas themselves. 

A number of important events took place in Ireland, the UK and elsewhere in celebration of the bicentenary event. These included the publication of a new biography of the composer (see details above), various articles, operatic and concert performances, radio and TV broadcasts and recording of Balfe works.

There is considerable interest in Balfe's music in Britain, Ireland, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other places as the number of annual visitors to this site will attest to.

Availability of Operatic Performing Scores 

Opera Directors requiring information on availability of full orchestral performing scores for Balfe or other composer's operas:
Contact: Dr. Valerie Langfield via email: quilter[at]valerielangfield.co.uk 


Feel free to link to this site, with acknowledgements.




Catherine Hayes: The Hibernian (Irish) Prima Donna

Biography of Ireland's First Great International Prima Donna

by Basil Walsh

First and only biography of the life and times of Ireland's first great international operatic prima donna, Catherine Hayes (1818-61) who was an operatic sensation at Milan (La Scala), Vienna, Venice, London (Covent Garden), Dublin, New York,  New Orleans, Boston, San Francisco, Sydney, Lima, Santiago, Sydney, Melbourne & Hobart  in the mid-nineteenth century.    

Catherine Hayes - Australia 1854

The 372 page biography was published in the USA,Britain and Ireland concurrently, by Irish Academic Press, September 2000.

TV & Film rights are available for the Catherine Hayes story.


The Author & Writer

Basil Walsh

Basil Walsh, Palm Beach County, Florida   

Basil Walsh of Palm Beach, Florida, is a published author, writer and broadcaster on 19th century opera biographies and operatic performance history in continental Europe Britain, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. 

He is a board member and advisor to Classical Arts Ireland a non-profit Dublin based organization that distributes the Metropolitan Opera and the Bolshoi Ballet HD broadcast performance  at selected Cinemas/Movie Houses in Ireland. CAI is also in the process of creating a national  Irish Classical Composer online digital archives in addition to producing and recording a series of multi-lingual operas written by internationally famous Irish born composers. 

He is a contributor to the Royal Irish Academy's, multi-volume Dictionary of Irish Biography which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2009.

He  has also contributed to various publications,  magazines, digital journals, encyclopedias and printed journals, in the USA and Europe, including Opera Quarterly (Oxford University Press), OPERA magazine (UK), The Princess Grace Irish Library of Monaco digital database, Grove Music publications, (Oxford University Press), The Daily Express, London, The Donizetti Society of London Newsletter, the Victorian WebDie Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG), Germany, Visitor magazine (Dublin), History Ireland magazine, the Encyclopedia,  Ireland and the Americas: Culture, Politics and History, (ABC-CLIO Californiaand the forthcoming,  Encyclopedia of Music in Ireland, (UCD, Dublin). 

He has given talks on nineteenth-century opera, singers and composers to various groups in the US and Europe. He is a member of the Donizetti Society of London, The Society for the Study of 19th Century Ireland, The Society for Musicology in Ireland, The American Irish Historical Society, The British Library, London, The National Library of Ireland Society and the Richter Library at the University of Miami, Florida, 

His latest work is a biography of the important London based 19th century Victorian operatic composer, Michael W. Balfe, is now available, from most book stores and online retailers.

It was recently  published in Europe and the USA, simultaneously;  for the composer's bicentenary in 2008, by Irish Academic Press (Dublin/London) in association with the Arts Council of Ireland - see www.balfebiography.com  for details.

He was an initiator and contributor to the Opera Ireland bicentennial performance of Michael Balfe's Italian opera, Falstaff in Dublin in September 2008 and to the published program and CD recording of the opera.


To purchase the new biography or for more information, contact the publishers:

NORTH AMERICA (Portland, Oregon) & Elsewhere: < EUROPE (Dublin): Irish Academic Press - info@iap.ie

Web Sites of Related Interest

Link to any of the following specially selected sites by clicking on the URL indicated:
M. W. Balfe's, 21 "Continental" Operas - http://balfecontinentaloperas.wordpress.com/
                    Irish Classical Music Pioneers (Blog)
- http://basilwalsh.wordpress.com/
(This document features the first seven (7) Irish born individuals who gained international fame as musicians throughout 
                                   Europe, Russia, America & Australia during the 18th/19th centuries).

   Classical Arts Ireland:  http://classicalartsireland.com/

                     Balfe's opera Falstaff (Italian) CD set at:
(Enter: Falstaff+Balfe); or click on:  https://www.rte.ie/shop/

      Balfe's opera The Maid of Artois CD set at:   www.victorianoperanorthwest.org

   The Donizetti Society (London  http://www.donizettisociety.com/

                 Opera Rara  (London) CD Recordings - www.opera-rara.com

  Naxos Classical Records   - www.naxos.com 

OPERA magazine (UK)
- www.opera.co.uk

Send e- mail to: basilwalsh[at]msn[dot]com with questions or comments about this Balfe website and history.

www.britishandirishworld.com and all content copyright ©Basil Walsh