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Classical Composers A-Z: George Bizet

Peter Wintersgill introduces us to George Bizet, composer of the operas The Pearl Fishers and Carmen.

Born

25th October, 1838, in Paris

Father

Adolphe, singing teacher.

Mother

Marie Louise, pianist.

Family

Only child.

Childhood

Entered Paris Conservatoire, studied with Zimmerman, Gounod, Halevy and Marmontel. Became a fine pianist.

Adolescence

Married Halevy’s daughter Genevieve. While in Paris wrote Symphony in C (1855).

Adult Life

Won Prix de Rome, stayed there three years. Mother died 1861. Had an affair with a maid who had a son in 1862. Wrote an opera, Don Procopio, which had its premier in 1906.

Wrote an opera The Pearl Fishers (1863), winner of Prix de Rome, which got a cool reception but later became more popular.

He also taught and arranged other composers’ works. Another opera was The Fair Maid of Perth (1867), which was a flop.

He enlisted in the National Guard in the Franco-Prussian War. Another opera Djamileh (1867) and incidental music to L’Arlesienne (1872) were both flops.

His masterpiece was Carmen (1875), a comic opera which has been popular ever since. Non-operatic works, such as piano variations, vocal and orchestral music, were more popular in his lifetime.

He died in Paris on 3rd June, 1875, aged 37, from coronary thrombosis.

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