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Georges Bizet (1838) Options
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Georges Bizet (1838)

A French composer, Bizet became disgusted with the frivolity of French opera and decided to change it. In 1875, his masterpiece, Carmen, premiered. Though its harsh realism repelled many, it eventually won international acclaim and is now one of the most popular operas in history. Sadly, Bizet did not live to see Carmen's success, dying just months after it premiered. Although rumors of suicide surrounded his death, what likely killed him? More...
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Georges Bizet (1838)
A French composer, Bizet became disgusted with the frivolity of French opera and decided to change it. In 1875, his masterpiece, Carmen, premiered. Though its harsh realism repelled many, it eventually won international acclaim and is now one of the most popular operas in history. Sadly, Bizet did not live to see Carmen's success, dying just months after it premiered.
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Bizet, Georges
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Georges Bizet
Georges Bizet

Georges Bizet (French pronunciation: ​[ʒɔʁʒ bizɛ]; 25 October 1838 – 3 June 1875), formally Alexandre César Léopold Bizet, was a French composer, mainly of operas. In a career cut short by his early death, he achieved few successes before his final work, Carmen, became one of the most popular and frequently performed works in the entire opera repertory.

During a brilliant student career at the Conservatoire de Paris, Bizet won many prizes, including the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1857. He was recognised as an outstanding pianist, though he chose not to capitalise on this skill and rarely performed in public. Returning to Paris after almost three years in Italy, he found that the main Parisian opera theatres preferred the established classical repertoire to the works of newcomers. His keyboard and orchestral compositions were likewise largely ignored; as a result, his career stalled, and he earned his living mainly by arranging and transcribing the music of others. Restless for success, he began many theatrical projects during the 1860s, most of which were abandoned. Neither of the two operas that reached the stage—Les pêcheurs de perles and La jolie fille de Perth—were immediately successful.

After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, in which Bizet served in the National Guard, he had little success with his one-act opera Djamileh, though an orchestral suite derived from his incidental music to Alphonse Daudet's play L'Arlésienne was instantly popular. The production of Bizet's final opera Carmen was delayed through fears that its themes of betrayal and murder would offend audiences. After its premiere on 3 March 1875, Bizet was convinced that the work was a failure; he died of a heart attack three months later, unaware that it would prove a spectacular and enduring success.

Bizet's marriage to Geneviève Halévy was intermittently happy and produced one son. After his death, his work, apart from Carmen, was generally neglected. Manuscripts were given away or lost, and published versions of his works were frequently revised and adapted by other hands. He founded no school and had no obvious disciples or successors. After years of neglect, his works began to be performed more frequently in the 20th century. Later commentators have acclaimed him as a composer of brilliance and originality whose premature death was a significant loss to French musical theatre.
Life
Early years
Family background and childhood

Georges Bizet was born in Paris on 25 October 1838. He was registered as Alexandre César Léopold, but baptised as "Georges" on 16 March 1840, and was known by this name for the rest of his life. His father, Adolphe Bizet, had been a hairdresser and wigmaker before becoming a singing teacher despite his lack of formal training.[1] He also composed a few works, including at least one published song.[2] In 1837 Adolphe married Aimée Delsarte, against the wishes of her family who considered him a poor prospect; the Delsartes, though impoverished, were a cultured and highly musical family.[3] Aimée was an accomplished pianist, while her brother François Delsarte was a distinguished singer and teacher who performed at the courts of both Louis Philippe and Napoleon III.[4] François Delsarte's wife Rosine, a musical prodigy, had been an assistant professor of solfège at the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of 13.[5]

Georges, an only child,[3] showed early aptitude for music and quickly picked up the basics of musical notation from his mother, who probably gave him his first piano lessons.[2] By listening at the door of the room where Adolphe conducted his classes, Georges learned to sing difficult songs accurately from memory, and developed an ability to identify and analyse complex chordal structures. This precocity convinced his ambitious parents that he was ready to begin studying at the Conservatoire, even though he was still only nine years old (the minimum entry age was 10). Georges was interviewed by Joseph Meifred, the horn virtuoso who was a member of the Conservatoire's Committee of Studies. Meifred was so struck by the boy's demonstration of his skills that he waived the age rule and offered to take him as soon as a place became available.[3][6]
Conservatoire
Part of the Paris Conservatoire, where Bizet studied from 1848 to 1857 (photographed in 2009)

Bizet was admitted to the Conservatoire on 9 October 1848, two weeks before his 10th birthday.[3] He made an early impression; within six months he had won first prize in solfège, a feat that impressed Pierre-Joseph-Guillaume Zimmermann, the Conservatoire's former professor of piano. Zimmermann gave Bizet private lessons in counterpoint and fugue, which continued until the old man's death in 1853.[7] Through these classes Bizet met Zimmermann's son-in-law, the composer Charles Gounod, who became a lasting influence on the young pupil's musical style—although their relationship was often strained in later years.[8] Under the tuition of Antoine François Marmontel, the Conservatoire's profe

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