(b Muret, Haute-Garonne, 8 June 1753; d Paris, 26 Nov. 1809). French composer. He was trained as a lawyer before turning to music as a career, and was fortunate in attracting the patronage of Marie Antoinette before the Revolution and that of Napoleon later. He composed nearly 60 opéras comiques, which were hugely successful in the 1790s. An inheritor of the tradition of Grétry, he similarly set a range of dramatic subjects—from historical romance to Gothic fantasy to lighthearted comic intrigue—and cultivated an increasingly lyrical, Italianate melodic style. His operas reveal careful dramatic planning, and his use of recurring themes and motifs frequently creates conceptual and musical unity within a work. In Deux mots, ou Une nuit dans la forêt (1806), for example, the fragment of a romance returns in different guises and comes to represent the voice of the mute heroine, functioning as a warning signal to the hero in its final appearance. Dalayrac was also a resourceful orchestrator. Among his most popular operas were Nina, ou La Folle par amour (1786), Raoul sire de Créqui (1789), Camille, ou Le Souterrain (1791), and Maison à vendre (1800). His other works include violin duos, string quartets, trios, instrumental overtures, and songs.
From The Oxford Companion to Music in Oxford Reference.