History

Michael William Balfe

History

In the north choir aisle of Westminster Abbey is a memorial to composer Michael William Balfe. This is of white Carrara marble and consists of an oval medallion with a profile bust, on either side of which are books, sheets of music and instruments. The music consists of scores of his well known operas The Bohemian Girl and The Talisman and on the opposite side is a music book open at the song "Then you'll remember me".  The sculptor was L.A.Malempre and it was unveiled on 20 October 1882. The inscription reads:

"Michael William Balfe. Born in Dublin 15th May 1808. Died at Rowney Abbey, Hertfordshire 20th October 1870. Knight of the Legion of Honour of France, Commander of the Order of Charles III of Spain".

Michael was a son of William Balfe and Kate (Ryan) and was taught by his musical father and was a pianist and violinist. Later he travelled to Italy and Cherubini introduced him to Rossini. He sang Figaro in the Barber of Seville. He married singer Lina Roser and they had a son Michael William and two daughters Louise and Victoire (who also had a successful singing career). He became one of the most popular stage composers of his period and worked in London and Paris. His home was Rowney Abbey and he is buried in Kensal Green cemetery in London.

A photo of the memorial can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

"Michael William Balfe, his life and his English operas" by William Tyldesley, 2003

"Balfe, his life and work" by W.A.Barrett, 1882

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004