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Andre Ernest Modeste Gretry

 Composer (1741-1813) André Ernest Modeste Grétry was born in Liège, the son of a poor musician. As a boy he sang in the choir at St Denis’s Church, and began organ and composition lessons at the age of 12. He was greatly influenced by the performances of Italian operas given by touring companies in Liège, and wrote a setting of the mass in 1759 which he dedicated to the canons of Liège Cathedral, hoping to receive sponsorship from them to continue his studies in Italy. The canons were impressed and paid for Grétry to live at Liège College in Rome for five years, while taking lessons from the opera composer Casali. His first operetta was performed in 1765, and its success inspired him to move to Paris in 1767, where he enjoyed a similar success with his operetta Le Huron the following year. He went on to compose around 50 operas, of which Zémire et Azor (1771) and Richard Coeur de Lion (1784) are the best known. He lived through the turbulent years of the French revolution relatively unscathed and was awarded the Légion d’Honneur by Napoleon. He died at Montmorency in 1813, and 15 years later, his heart was removed from his tomb and re-interred at Liège. An enormous bronze statue of Grétry was erected in Liège in 1842.

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