Georges Bizet (October 25, 1838 – June 3, 1875), was a French composer of the romantic era best known for his opera Carmen.
Born Alexandre-César-Léopold, but baptized Georges, Bizet, a child prodigy, entered the prestegious Paris Conservatory of Music at the unheard-of age of nine.
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 Symphony in C (Roma) and the opera Don Procopio. Besides this stay in Rome, Bizet lived in the Paris area for his entire life.
Following his stay in Rome, he returned to Paris where he dedicated himself to composition. Early into his return to Paris, Georges' mother died. In 1863 he composed the opera Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) 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 (Children's games) He also wrote the romantic opera Djamileh, which is often seen as a percursor to Carmen.
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, he composed the title role in Carmen for a mezzo-soprano. Not an immediate success, Bizet became despondent over the perceived failure, but praise came from such luminaries as Camille Saint-Saëns, Peter Tchaikovsky, and Claude Debussy, who recognized its greatness. Their views were prophetic, as the public made Carmen one of the most popular works in operatic history.
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 at the early age of 36, the official cause of death being listed as a failed heart due to 'acute articular rheumatism'. He was interred in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France.
The 1954 motion picture Carmen Jones, adapted from the opera, won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Musical.
Although it is not well known, Bizet was an extraordinarily fine pianist, whose playing was praised by no less a judge than Franz Liszt himself. After Bizet flawlessly sightread a complex piece, Liszt said he considered Bizet one of the three finest pianists in Europe.
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