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Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny

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Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny (October 17, 1729 – January 14, 1817) was a French composer and a member of the French Académie des Beaux-Arts (1813).

He is considered alongside André Grétry and François-André Danican Philidor to have been the founder of a new musical genre, the opéra comique, laying a path for other French composers such as François-Adrien Boieldieu, Daniel-François-Esprit Auber, Charles Gounod, Georges Bizet, and Jules Massenet in this genre.

Paul Dukas is quoted as saying, “Of all the composers of our country, he may be the first who had the gift of true, human emotion, of communicative expression and of fair feeling”.

Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny was born at Fauquembergues, near Saint-Omer, in the former Artois region of France (now Pas-de-Calais), four months before the marriage of his parents, Marie-Antoinette Dufresne and Nicolas Monsigny.

He was educated at the Collége des Jésuites Wallons in Saint-Omer. It was here that he first discovered his aptitude for music.

As the eldest child, in 1749, a few months after his father’s death, he left for Paris with only a few coins in his pocket, a violin and a recommendation letter, in an attempt to further his musical career and provide for his siblings. He entered into the service of a M. de Saint-Julien, in the bureau of the Comptabilité du Clergé de France. In 1752, after watching a performance of La serva padrona by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi at the Paris Opera, he decided upon his true vocation. He then became Gianotti’s student, and a counter-bassist at the Paris Opéra.

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