25 October 1838
Paris, Île-de-France, France
3 June 1875 (aged 36)
Georges Bizet (1838–1875) was a French composer and pianist of the romantic era.
Bizet was born on 25th October 1838 in Paris. He was registered with the legal name Alexandre-César-Léopold Bizet, but was baptised Georges Bizet and was always known by the latter name. A child prodigy, he entered the prestigious Paris Conservatory of Music a fortnight before his tenth birthday.
In 1857 he shared a prize offered by Jacques Offenbach for a setting of the one-act operetta Le docteur Miracle, and won the Prix de Rome. As per the conditions of the scholarship, he studied in Rome for three years. There, his talent began to mature with such works as the opera Don Procopio. Apart from this stay in Rome, Bizet lived in the Paris area for his entire life.
On his return from Rome, he dedicated himself to composition. In 1863 he composed the opera Les pêcheurs de perles for the Theatre-Lyrique. During this period Bizet also wrote the opera La jolie fille de Perth, his well-known L'arlésienne (written as incidental music for a play), and the piano piece Jeux d'enfants. He also wrote the romantic opera Djamileh, which is often seen as a percursor of Carmen. His first symphony, the symphony in C major, was written at the Paris Conservatory when he was only seventeen years old, evidently as a student assignment. It seems that Bizet completely forgot about it himself, and it was not discovered again until 1935, in the archives of the Conservatory library. Upon its first performance, it was immediately hailed as a junior masterwork and a welcome addition to the early Romantic period repertoire. he symphony is noteworthy for bearing a strong stylistic resemblance to the music of Franz Schubert, whose work was virtually unknown in Paris at that time (with the possible exception of a few of his songs). A second symphony, "Roma" was not completed.
Bizet's best-known work is his 1875 opera, Carmen, which was based on an 1846 novel of the same name by Prosper Mérimée. Influenced by Giuseppe Verdi, Bizet composed the title role in Carmen for a mezzo-soprano. The opera was not an immediate success, and Bizet became despondent over the perceived failure, but praise came from such luminaries as Camille Saint-Saëns, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and Claude Debussy, who recognised its greatness. Their views were prophetic, as the public eventually made Carmen one of the most popular works in operatic history.
Although best known as a composer, Bizet was also a fine pianist, whose playing was praised by no less a judge than Franz Liszt. After Bizet flawlessly sightread a complex piece, Liszt said he considered himone of the three finest pianists in Europe.
Bizet had long suffered from quinsy, a painful inflammation of the tonsils associated with angina, and never got to enjoy Carmen's success. Just a few months after the opera's debut, he died on his sixth wedding anniversary, 3rd June 1875, at the early age of thirty-six, the official cause of death being listed as a failed heart due to "acute articular rheumatism". He was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.
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