Bizet, like many classical composers we know and love today, struggled to achieve the success he sought during his lifetime. Read on to learn more about the life and career of one of France’s most famous classical composers.
Ah, music! What a beautiful art! But what a wretched profession! – Bizet
George Bizet was born on 25 October 1838 to a musical family. He entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of 9 and enjoyed a brilliant student career where he won multiple prizes and developed a reputation as an excellent pianist. However, professional life would prove cruel, with little success for his early compositions leaving him to earn most of his living by arranging and transcribing the music of others.
His most famous work, the gypsy opera Carmen, is perhaps one of the most well-loved of all operas. But in fact, Bizet wrote 30 operas, most of which are rarely, if ever performed today. One of his other better know operas, The Pearl Fishers, has given us one of opera’s best known arias - The Pearl Fisher’s Duet.
Bizet married Geneviève Halévy and had one son. She too was the daughter of a composer, Jacques-Fromental Halévy and their marriage was intermittently a happy one. After Bizet’s death, she went on to host salons for the distinguished in society, where they could meet with writers and intellectuals of the time.
Carmen was premiered on 3 March 1875 but sadly, Bizet would not live to realise what an enduring masterpiece he had created. Accused of plagiarism by fellow composer Gounod, the opera was met with some initial criticism. Bizet was to die just three months after Carmen’s premiere at 36 years old, never to know how popular his final opera would become.