Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lacy, Michael Rophino

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LACY, MICHAEL ROPHINO (1795–1887), violinist and composer, was born at Bilbao in Spain on 19 July 1795 (not in 1765 as stated in Fétis's 'Biographie Universelle'). His father, an Englishman, was engaged in mercantile pursuits in Bilbao; his mother was Spanish. He commenced to learn the violin at the age of five, and at six he made his public début at a concert given in Bilbao by Andreossi, an Italian violinist. He played a concerto of Jarnowick (or Giornovichi), and aroused the utmost enthusiasm, although he was so small that he had to stand up on a table before the audience could see him. Until 1802 he was patronised by the court of Madrid as an infant prodigy. In 1802 he commenced his education at the college of Bordeaux, and after spending eighteen months there proceeded to a lycee at Paris where his scholastic successes were amazing. While in Paris he was a pupil of Kreutzer, under whom he made rapid progress, and in 1805 he played a violin solo as 'le petit Espagnol' at the Tuileries. Meanwhile his father was ruined by some American speculations, and Lacy was brought to England in 1805 to study under Viotti. On the journey he played in various Dutch towns, and became a great favourite at the Hague. He arrived in England at the age of ten years and three months. At this time, we are told, he was able to speak fluently English, French, Italian, and Spanish, and had a fair knowledge of Latin. His performances roused much enthusiasm in England, where he was at first known merely as 'the young Spaniard;' his real name was not publicly revealed until May 1807, when there was published an engraved portrait of him by Cardon, from a drawing by Smart, on which was the legend 'Master M. M. J. R. Lacy, the celebrated young Spaniard, born in Bilbao 19 July 1795.' Among his patrons were the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Sussex, the Duchess of York, and Count Stahremberg, the Austrian ambassador. His first concert in London was given at the Hanover Square Rooms, and soon after he played at Catalani's first concert in Dublin, where the lord-lieutenant, the Duke of Richmond, and the duchess warmly patronised him. For performances at Corri's concerts in Edinburgh he received the large fee of twenty guineas per night. Subsequently his father caused him to abandon the musical for the dramatic profession, and for about ten years (1808-18) he filled 'genteel comedy parts' in Edinburgh, Dublin, and Glasgow, only playing the violin in public at his benefits. In 1818, at the invitation of the directors, he succeeded Yanevics as first violin and director of the Liverpool concerts, which were recruited from the best talent in London. At the end of 1830 Lacy returned to London, and until 1823 directed the ballets and composed most of the ballet-music for the Italian opera. In 1823, in consequence of disagreements with the musical director, he returned to the management of the Liverpool concerts, but resumed his position at the Italian opera in 1824. From this time until his retirement and death, which took place at Pentonville on 20 Sept. 1867, he devoted himself principally to composition and to the adaptation of foreign libretti, for which his linguistic talents eminently fitted him. It is to Lacy that we owe the first English adaptations of 'Semiramide,' 1829, 'Armida,' 'Cenerentola,' 'Cinderella,' and 'William Tell,' 1830, 'Fra Diavolo,' 1831 and others of minor importance. He is known as the composer of an oratorio entitled 'The Israelites in Egypt,' 1833, and of a re-adaptation of Weber's 'Freischutz,' 1839, as well as of several minor pieces of some merit, notably a set of rondos for the pianoforte anda quintett for two violins, tenor, flute, and violoncello, with pianoforte accompaniment. He also collaborated in Schalcher's 'Life of Handel.'

[Fétis's Biographie Universelle des Musiciens; Grove's Dictionary of Music; A Dictionary of Musicians (anon.),1822; private sources.]

E. H.-A.