The Kelvin Harrison Jr.-led biopic, Chevalier, about 18th-century French composer Joseph Bolonge, Chevalier de Saint-Georges, debuted at TIFF. Check out the first look at Harrison Jr. as Saint-Georges, aka Black Mozart, the first known composer of classical music from African descent below.
Stephen Williams who executive produced the HBO limited series Watchmen directed the biopic based on Stefani Robinson’s script.
Chavelier is based on the incredible true story of composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. The illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner, Bologne (Harrison Jr.) rises to improbable heights in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, complete with an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) herself and her court.
The film also stars Minnie Driver, Samara Weaving, and more
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Producers are Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe at Element Pictures; Stefani Robinson; and Dianne McGunigle. At Searchlight, overseeing are Director of Production Zahra Phillips and Creative Executive Cornelia Burleigh. At Element Pictures, Robinson and Dianne McGunigle produce with SVP Production DanTram Nguyen, Director of Production Zahra Phillips and creative exec Cornelia Burleigh.
As of now there is no US release date.
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De Saint-Georges, real name Joseph Boulogne, was a prolific 18th-century French composer once dubbed the ‘Black Mozart’. Born the son of a slave and white plantation owner in 1745, Boulogne was a master fencer, violin virtuoso, leading conductor, and a composer in the court of Marie Antoinette.
Boulogne, as well as writing numerous symphonies, sonatas, concertos, operas, and string quartets, led one of Europe’s great orchestras, Le Concert des Amateurs. He was also the first black colonel in the French army and led an all-Black 800 infantrymen and 200 cavalries against France’s enemies.
Former US president John Adams called him “the most accomplished man in Europe”.
His influence on arts and culture was phenomenal. Boulogne reached the height of his fame within Marie Antoinette’s court, where he was one of her music teachers. Allegedly the Queen enjoyed playing with him publicly, and Boulogne was eventually fired because they got ‘too close’.
Born 11 years before Mozart, Boulogne was a contemporary of the young Austrian composer – who, it appears, was extremely jealous of him. There’s even a popular theory that Mozart used his jealousy of Boulogne to fuel the creation of the villainous black character Monostatos, who appears in his opera The Magic Flute.
Unfortunately, a lot of the Chevalier’s music was lost during the French Revolution, and what survived was quickly forgotten.
His story is largely untold. It has only been covered before in at least one book, The Other Mozart, and play, The Chevalier, – but never on this scale.