Augustin-Philippe de Peellaert was born in Bruges, the son of a former chamberlain of emperor Napoleon. Sources mention that in 1808 he took harmony lessons with a Mr d'Ennery in Lille. Subsequently he completed his formative years with Jérôme-Joseph de Momigny in Paris, while concurrently becoming friends with Ferdinand Paër and François-Adrien Boïeldieu.
In 1813 he returned with his family to Bruges, and a year later he had his comical opera Crispin Momie performed by friends and relatives at the family castle Het Forreyst in Sint-Andries near Bruges. In 1815 his father's bankruptcy forced De Peellaert to abandon his artistic ambitions: he enlisted in the army of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. During this period he had enough leisure to compose eleven operas, nine dramas or comedies, as well as church music such as a Salve Regina which was performed in 1816 at Our Lady's church in Kortrijk. After the Belgian revolution he became a captain in the Belgian army. During the siege of the citadel of Antwerp his courage was exceptional enough to receive the 'Légion d'honneur'. In 1832 he became a member of the board of the Royal Conservatory in Brussels until 1870, with an interruption from 1839 till 1847.
His operas, most of them based on libretti of his own, were mostly performed in Brussels: among others Agnès Sorel (1823), Teniers, ou La noce flamande (1826), Faust (1827) and Louis de Male (1838) were widely acclaimed, resulting in several reruns. Furthermore he composed chamber music, Masses, choral works, songs and romances.
In 1849 he took his leave from the army in the rank of lieutenant-colonel, devoting himself to his various passions: painting, composing, and writing. Concurrently he made hundreds of meticulous drawings and water colours during his travels. In addition to his opera librettos De Peellaert published quite a few novels, short stories and plays. Because of his versatility as 'amateur distingué' he was much in demand as a jury member for several competitions, and enjoyed a high profile in the artistic Belgium of the mid-nineteenth century.
© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek vzw - Annelies Focquaert (translation: Joris Duytschaever)