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Jean Robert Planquette

Robert Planquette

Jean Robert Planquette (July 31, 1848January 28, 1903), French composer of songs and operettas, was born in Paris.

Life and career

The son of a singer, Planquette was educated at the Paris Conservatoire. He did not finish his studies, lacking the funds to do so, and worked as a café pianist and composer and singing (he was a tenor). A few romances that he composed brought less fame than did his song, "Sambre et Meuse", first sung in 1867 by Lucien Fugère, who went on to be one of the foremost French opera singers of his day.

In 1876, the director of the Folies Dramatiques gave Planquette a commission to compose his first operetta, Les cloches de Corneville. It opened in Paris in 1877, running for an extremely successful 480 performances, and then enjoyed an astonishing London run, beginning in 1878, of a record breaking 708 performances. Planquette's music has been praised for its pathos and romantic feeling. Le Chevalier Gaston was produced in 1879 with little success. In 1880 came Les Voltigeurs du 32ieme which had a long run in London in 1887 as The Old Guard, and La Cantiniére, which was translated into English as Nectarine, though never produced.

In 1882 Rip Van Winkle was produced in London and subsequently given in Paris as Rip, in both cases with great success. The libretto is an adaptation by H. B. Farnie of Washington Irving’s famous tale. In 1884 the phenomenon of an opera by a French composer being produced in London previously to being heard in Paris was repeated in Nell Gwynne, which was modestly successful, but failed when produced in Paris as La Princesse Colombine. It was followed by La Crémaillere (Paris, 1885), Surcouf (Paris, 1887; London, as Paul Jones, 1889), Captain Thérése (London, 1887), La Cocarde tricolore (Paris, 1892), Le Talisman (Paris, 1892), Panurge (Paris, 1895) and Mam'zelle Quat'sous (Paris, 1897).

Another Planquette composition, the march Le Régiment de Sambre et Meuse, has achieved fame in an arrangement for brass band; it is the tune used by the Ohio State University Marching Band when performing their famed Script Ohio formation. The original orchestral version has been recorded by the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler and appears on the RCA Living Stereo CD Marches in Hi-Fi.

"The Song of the Cabin Boy," a barcarolle from Planquette's Les cloches de Corneville was played on the violin by W.K.L. Dickson in the first experiment in history in synchronizing sound and motion pictures (1894). It is viewable online as Dickson Experimental Sound Film.


  • Sadie, S. (ed.) (1980) The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, [vol. # 14].
  • Obituary: Robert Planquette in The Musical Times, Vol. 44, No. 721 (Mar. 1, 1903), p. 177

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