Michael William Balfe, an Irish composer, born in Dublin, May 15, 1808, died in London, Oct. 20, 1870. When eight years old he played a concerto on the violin at a public concert. At the age of nine he wrote the ballad called "The Lover's Mistake,11 effectively introduced into the play of "Paul Pry11 by Mme. Vestris. He lost his father in 1823, and went to London with Mr. Charles Horn, the composer, as an articled pupil for seven years. He was soon engaged as principal violinist at the Drury Lane oratorios, and in the Drury Lane orchestra, under Thomas Cooke. In 1825 he went on the stage. His voice, which he had cultivated, was a rich baritone, but he utterly failed from timidity as Casper in Der Freischute, at the Norwich theatre. Immediately afterward Count Mazzara, who fancied that he resembled a son whom his wife had lost, took young Balfe with him to Koine, where the countess received him very tenderly. Here he remained for a year, studying under the best masters. After this, still through the bounty of Count Mazzara, he had similar advantages at Milan, where his first production of any pretension, a ballet called La Peyrome, was performed with great success.
Passing on to Paris, where Rossini held out hopes of an engagement at the Italian opera, he applied himself to study for several months, and at last appeared as Figaro in the "Barber of Seville,1' with Sontag as Rosina. His career as a dramatic singer was triumphant, in Italy as well as in France, after this. He sang in New York in 1834, and in 1835 returned to London, accompanied by his wife, who had been Mlle. Lina Rezer, prima donna of the troupe in Sicily. He sang at the ancient and philharmonic concerts in London, and appeared at Drury Lane in his "Siege of Rochelle," "The Jewess," and Chiara de Rosenberg. The " Maid of Artois," written for Mme. Malibran, and in which she won one of her greatest triumphs, came next. A variety of operas, among which "Falstaff" deserves particular mention, followed, and most of them were popular. In 1839 Mr. Balfe became manager of the English opera house, but did not succeed. His "Bohemian Girl," the most popular and one of the best of all his works, filled the treasury at Drury Lane, and is still a favorite in England and the United States. Toward the close of Mr. Balfe's life it was successfully produced in Paris under the composer's direction. "The Daughter of St. Mark," "The Enchantress," "The Bondman," "The Rose of Castile," " The Puritan's Daughter," "Satanella" (1858), and other operas were subsequently produced, and many of them were represented with great success in Germany. - In the spring of 1857 his daughter, Miss Victoria Balfe, appeared on the stage in London as a vocalist.
In 1860 she married Sir John Crampton, from whom she was divorced in 1863; and in 1804 she married the Spanish duke de Frias. She died in Madrid, Jan. 21, 1871.