The composer André-Modeste Grétry (1741-1813) was born in Liège, and his birth house has been turned into a small museum.
Grétry was extremely popular during his lifetime. He composed about fifty operas, mainly comic operas, none of which I have ever seen or heard.
I went to the museum on a rainy Saturday morning when I was the only visitor. The man in charge was evidently bored just sitting around waiting for someone to come, so when I arrived he was delighted and told me thousands of things about Grétry and the museum and this part of Liège, which is called Outremeuse, meaning The Other Side of the Meuse.
Outremeuse is traditionally a working-class neighborhood, and on my way to the museum I did in fact pass a café full of men (whom I assumed were unemployed, but since it was a Saturday perhaps they just had the day off) playing cards.
As befitting the neighborhood, Grétry was born in poverty. His father was “a poor musician”. Today the outside of the museum still looks poor and neglected, but the inside is no doubt more genteel that it was in Grétry’s day. He did later become quite wealthy through his comic operas, but by that time he had long since moved to France and taken French citizenship.
The piano in this photo is one that was previously used by Grétry’s idol, the philosopher (and composer) Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Grétry acquired the piano in 1797 along with a house called the Hermitage in Montmorency, France, where Rousseau had once lived.
The museum is only open three times a week: Tuesday and Friday afternoons from 14:00 to 16:00 and Saturday mornings from 10:00 to 12:00.
Address: Rue des Récollets, 34 – 4020 Liège
GPS 50°38’28.12″ North; 5°35’1.59″ East
My photos in this post are from 2011. I revised the text in 2017.
See also: Grétry in Montmorency, France.