Irish musician and composer. Born May 15th, 1808, in
Dublin. His father, William Balfe, was a dancing-school master. As a
young child, he showed precocious musical talent and was a skilled
violin player at the age of nine, by which time he was performing
In 1823, upon his father's death, he moved from Dublin to London,
where he continued to study music under several masters and perform in
public concerts. He soon joined the orchestra of the Drury Lane
Theatre for a short time, but the next few years found him pursuing
further studies in France and Italy.
It was in Italy that he began his composing career, producing a
symphony in 1829. By 1833, he had composed three operas which had
been performed in various Italian cities.
In 1835, Balfe returned to London, where he continued to
successfully compose and produce operas. He even composed music
intended for performance at the coronation of Queen Victoria in
Following a brief return to Dublin, Balfe took on the role of theatre manager in London, as Queen Victoria had supported the creation of a British National Opera at the Lyceum Theatre on the Strand. This organization was, however, unsuccessful, as Balfe's fellow composers didn't write the Operas that they pledged they would. As well, Balfe's managerial and fiscal skills were lacking. Within less than a year, he had gone bankrupt, and the whole experience prompted another move, this time to Paris.
In Paris, Balfe returned to composing, and his success with several French-language operas restored his international fame and noteriety. This allowed him to return to London after a year and a half, where he produced first an English translation of a succesful French opera, and then debuted the work that would come to be his most famous, The Bohemian Girl. This work went on to be performed and translated in many languages throughout Europe, and remains Balfe's most well-known work today. (Enya recorded a cover of the song Marble Halls from Bohemian Girl on her Shepherd Moons album.)
Balfe's career continued successfully for many years after, seeing him continuing to compose and perform operatic and symphonic works throughout Europe, though as stated above, none of his works have had the lasting popularity of his pinnacle work Bohemian Girl. Balfe died in October of 1870, in his home just outside of London.
Information taken from http://www.britannica.com and