Benedict, Julius (DNB00)

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BENEDICT, Sir JULIUS (1804–1885), musician, was born at Stuttgart (according to Grove's Dictionary) on 27 Nov. 1804, though the date of his birth is generally believed to have been on 24 Dec. of that year. His father was a local banker, but as Benedict's musical talent soon showed signs of development, the boy was placed under a musician of some repute, J. C. L. Abeille, who was at that time residing at Stuttgart. At the age of fifteen he became the pupil of Hummel at Weimar, by whom he was introduced to Beethoven, and in 1821 he went to study composition under Weber at Dresden. By Weber Benedict was introduced to Barbaja, the director of the Italian opera at Vienna, who gave him the post of conductor at the Kärnthnerthor theatre, where he remained from 1823 to 1825. In the latter year he went with Barbaja to Italy, and at Naples obtained the appointments of conductor at the San Carlo and Fondo theatres, at the former of which he produced in 1829 his first opera, 'Giacinta ed Ernesto,' a work written in the stvle of Weber, which achieved no success. In the following year a second opera, 'I Portoghesi in Goa,' failed at Stuttgart, but was successful in Naples, probably because the music was modelled upon that of Rossini. In 1835 Benedict went to Paris, where he met Malibran, by whose advice he came to London, which was destined to be his home for the rest of his long and active life. In 1836 he conducted a series of Italian comic operas at the Lyceum under the management of Mitchell, and here was produced his one-act operetta, 'Un Anno ed un Gionio,' a version of which had previously been given at Naples. In 1838 he became conductor of the English opera at Drury Lane, then under Bunn's management, where he produced his three first English operas, 'The Gypy's Warning,' (1838), 'The Bide of Venice' (1843), 'The Crusaders' (1846). In 1848 he conducted a performance of 'Elijah' at Exeter Uall, in which Jenny Lind made her first appearance in oratorio, and in 1850 he accompanied that great singer on her American tour. Benedict returned to England in 1852, and soon after became conductor of the Italian opera, in which capacity he wrote recitatives for Weber's 'Oberon,' on its production (1860) at Her Majesty's Theatre, in an Italian version. In the same year his cantata 'Undine' was produced at the Norwich festival, of which he was for many years conductor. The year 1862 saw the production of his best-known opera, 'The Lily of Killarney,' which was written for the Pyne and Harrison opera company, the libretto being founded on Dion Boscicault*s 'Colleen Bawn,' then at the height of its popularity. His last opera, a short work entitled 'The Bride of Song,' was performed in 1864. For the Norwich festival, on his connection with which has been already mentioned, Benedict composed 'Ricard Cœur de Lion' (1863) and 'St. Cecilia' (1866). For the Birmingham festivals he wrote 'St. Peter' (1870) and 'Graziella' (1873). He also produced two symphonies, which were played at the Crystal ralace concerts. a pianoforte concerto, and several concert overtures, besides many smaller works. In 1871 Benedict, who had become a naturalised Englishman, received the honour of knighthood, and in 1874 he was made a knight commander of the order of Franz Josef by the Emperor of Austria, and of the order of Frederick by the King of Würtemberg. He was twice married. His first wife was Mlle. Jean, and his second Miss Mary Comber Fortey. On 18 March 1885 Benedict caught a severe cold at Manchester, which brought on an attack of bronchitis, aggravated by heart disease. He recovered from this sufficiently to resume teaching, but a sudden relapse ended in his death, which took place at his residence, 2 Manchester Square, at eight o'clock on the morning of 6 June 1885. He was buried at Kensal Green on 11 June following.

[London newspapers of 6 and 13 June 1885; Grove's Dict. of Musicians, i. 222 b.]

W. B. S.