French composer, born at Metz, 5 August, 1811; died at Paris, 12 February, 1896. He gained the Grand Prix at the Paris Conservatoire in 1832, having previously won first prize for piano and for harmony. Continuing his studies with Kalkbrenner, Barbereau, and Lesueur, he composed much during the years 1836-50, including three motets and a requiem mass. Turning his attention to comic opera he produced a number of ballets, of which "Le Caid" showed great promise. In 1851 he became a member of the Institute, and in the following year was appointed professor of composition at the Conservatoire. At length he captured the opera-going public with "Mignon", produced on 17 November, 1866. This success he followed up with "Hamlet", a five-act opera first given on 9 March, 1868. In 1871, on the death of Auber, he was appointed Director of the Conservatoire, a position he held till his death. Among his sacred compositions, his "Messe Solennelle" was given on 22 November, 1857, the feast of St. Cecilia, at the Church of St. Eustache, for the benefit of the Society of Artist Musicians. On the same feast, in 1865, his "Marche Religieuse" was performed. His merit was recognized by several decorations including the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour in 1894. From a musical standpoint, Thomas holds a high place by reason of his dramatic instinct, admirably shown in "Mignon" and "Hamlet". He just falls short of being in the first rank, but his "Mignon" retains its popularity, after close on half a century.
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