- Georges Bizet
Bizet was born at 28 rue de la Tour d'Auvergne in the 9th arrondissement of Paris in 1838. He was registered with the legal name Alexandre César Léopold Bizet [Sadie, Stanley (Ed.)  (1994), "The New Grove Dictionary of Opera", vol. 1, A-D, chpt: "Bizet, Georges (Alexandre César Léopold)" by Hugh MacDonald, New York: MacMillan. p. 485. ISBN 0-935859-92-6] , but he was baptised on 16 March 1840 with the first name Georges, and he was always known thereafter as Georges Bizet. His father was an amateur singer and composer, and his mother was the sister of the famous singing teacher
François Delsarte. He entered the Paris Conservatory of Music in 1848, a fortnightbefore his tenth birthday.
His first symphony, the "Symphony in C Major", was written in November 1855, when he was still only sixteen, evidently as a student assignment. It seems that Bizet completely forgot about it himself, and it was not discovered again until 1933, in the archives of the Paris Conservatory library where it had been deposited by Reynaldo Hahn, to whom it had been given by Bizet's widow [Dean W., "Bizet", London, J M Dent & Sons, 1978.] . Upon its first performance on 26 February 1935, under the baton of
Felix Weingartner, it was immediately hailed as a junior masterwork and a welcome addition to the early Romantic period repertoire. The symphony is a delightful work (and a prodigious one, from a sixteen-year-old boy), and is noteworthy for bearing an amazing stylistic resemblance to the first symphony of Charles Gounod[Curtiss M., "Bizet and his world", New York, Vienna House, 1958] first played earlier in the same year, and which Bizet had arranged for two pianos [Dean, 1978, ibid] although present-day listeners may discern a similarity to music of Franz Schubert, whose work was little known in France at the time the symphony was written.
At the Conservatoire Bizet studied under
Fromental Halévy, whose daughter Geneviève he married in 1869. Halévy died in 1862, leaving his last opera "Noé" unfinished. Bizet completed it, but it was not performed until 1885, ten years after Bizet's own death.
In 1857, a setting of the one-act operetta "Le docteur Miracle" won him a share in a prize offered by
Jacques Offenbach. He also won the music composition scholarship of the Prix de Rome, the conditions of which required him to study in Romefor three years. There, his talent developed as he wrote such works as the operabuffa "Don Procopio" (1858-59). There he also composed his only major sacred work, "Te Deum" (1858), which he submitted to the Prix Rodrigues competition, a contest for Prix de Rome winners only. Bizet failed to win the Prix, and the "Te Deum" score remained unpublished until 1971. He made two attempts to write another symphony in 1859, but destroyed the manuscripts in December of that year. Apart from this period in Rome, Bizet lived in the Parisarea all his life.
His mother died shortly after his return to Paris. He composed the opera "
Les pêcheurs de perles" ("The Pearl Fishers") for the Théâtre Lyriquein 1863, which was initially a failure. He followed it with " La jolie fille de Perth" (premiered also in the Théâtre Lyrique, in 1867), a symphony titled "Roma" (1868), and "Jeux d'enfants" ("Children's games") for piano duet (1871).
The popular "L'Arlésienne" was originally produced as
incidental musicfor a play by Alphonse Daudet, first performed on 1 October 1872. Bizet himself derived a suite from the music (first performed 10 November 1872), and Ernest Guiraudlater arranged a second suite; both these suites contain considerable rewriting of the original score. Most performances or broadcasts of the second suite omit any mention of Guiraud's contribution.
That year (22 May 1872) also saw the production of the one-act opéra comique "
Djamileh", which is often seen as a precursor to "Carmen". His overture "Patrie" was written in 1873 (it had no connection with Victorien Sardou's play "Patrie!").
His widow Geneviève later had an alliance with Élie-Miriam Delaborde, generally believed to have been the illegitimate son of
Charles-Valentin Alkan. However, she married Émile Straus, a banker with Rothschild family connections, and became a noted society hostess. Marcel Proustused her as a model for the Duchesse de Guermantes in his roman fleuve "À la recherche du temps perdu". The Bizets' son Jacques (1872-1922), a writer, had been a school-friend of Proust.
Bizet's music has been used in the twentieth century as the basis for several important ballets. The Soviet-era "Carmen Suite" (1967), set to music drawn from
Carmenarranged by Rodion Shchedrin, gave the Bolshoi ballerina Maya Plisetskayaone of her signature roles; it was choreographed by Alberto Alonso. In the West the "L'Arlesienne" of Roland Petitis well-regarded, and the "Symphony in C" by George Balanchineis considered to be one of the great ballets of the twentieth century. It was first presented as Le Palais de Crystal by the Paris Opera Ballet in 1947, and has been in the repertory there ever since. The ballet has no story; it simply fits the music: each movement of the symphony has its own ballerina, cavalier, and corps de ballet, all of whom dance together in the finale.
Bizet's work as a composer has overshadowed how fine a pianist he was. On 26 May 1861, at a dinner party at the Halévys at which
Franz Lisztwas present, Bizet gave a faultless performance of an elaborate work of Liszt's, reading at sight from the unpublished manuscript. Liszt proclaimed that Bizet was one of the three finest pianists in Europe. [ Grove's Dictionary (V), vol. I, "Georges Bizet", p. 731]
List of works
Dramatic works [Sadie, p. 489.]
* "La maison du docteur", opéra comique, 1 act, (H. Boisseaux; composed ca. 1855; unperformed)
* "Le docteur Miracle", opérette, 1 act, (L. Battu & L. Halévy, after R.B. Sheridan; composed 1856; f.p. Paris, Bouffes-Parisiens, 9 April 1857)
* "Don Procopio", opéra bouffe, 2 acts, (C. Cambiaggio, after L. Prividali; composed 1858-59; f.p.
Monte Carlo, 10 March 1906)
* "La prêtresse", opérette, 1 act, (P. Gille; composed ca. 1861; unperformed)
* "La guzla de l'émir", opéra comique, (J. Barbier & M. Carré; composed ca. 1862; unperformed)
* "Ivan IV", opéra, 5 acts, (F.-H. Leroy & H. Trianon; composed ca. 1862-65; f.p.
Württemberg, Mühringen Castle, 1946)
Les pêcheurs de perles", opéra, 3 acts, (E. Cormon & M. Carré; composed 1863; f.p. Paris, Théâtre Lyrique, 30 September 1863)
La jolie fille de Perth", opéra, 4 acts, (J.-H. Vernoy de Saint-Georges & J. Adenis, after W. Scott); composed 1866; f.p. Paris, Théâtre Lyrique, 26 December 1867)
Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre", opérette, 4 acts, (P. Siraudin & W. Busnach; composed 1867, Act I only, lost; f.p. Paris, Théâtre Athénée, 13 December 1867)
* "La coupe du roi de Thulé", opéra, 3 acts, (L. Gallet & E. Blau; composed 1868-69, after his death the autograph full score was mutilated by various hands [Dean, 1978, ibid.] and only fragments remain; f.p. (excerpts)
BBC Radio, 12 July 1955)
* "Clarisse Harlowe", opéra comique, 3 acts, (Gille & A. Jaime, after S. Richardson; composed 1870-71, incomplete; unperformed)
* "Grisélidis", opéra comique, 1 act, (V. Sardou; composed 1870-71, incomplete; unperformed)
Djamileh", opéra comique, 1 act, (Gallet, after A. de Musset; composed 1871; f.p. Paris, Opéra-Comique (Favart), 22 May 1872)
* "L'Arlésienne", incidental music, 3 acts (A. Daudet; composed 1872; f.p. Paris, Théâtre Vaudeville, 1 October 1872)
* "Don Rodrigue", opéra, 5 acts, (Gallet & Blau, after G. de Castro y Bellvis; composed 1872, incomplete draft; unperformed)
Carmen", opéra, 4 acts, (H. Meilhac & L. Halévy, after P. Mérimée; composed 1873-74; f.p. Paris, Opéra-Comique (Favart), 3 March 1875)
"(words by / year composed)"
* L’âme triste est pareille au doux ciel (
* Petite Marguerite (Rolland, 1854)
* La Rose et l’abeille (Rolland, 1854)
* La Foi, l’Esperance et la Charité (de Lagrave, 1854))
* Vieille chanson (Millevoye, 1865)
* Adieux de l'hôtesse arabe (Hugo, 1866)
* Apres l’Hiver (Hugo, 1866)
* Douce mer (Lamartine, 1866)
* Chanson d'avril (Bouilhet, 1866)
* Feuilles d'album (1866): À une fleur (de Musset), Adieux à Suzon (de Musset), Sonnet (
Ronsard), Guitare (Hugo), Rose d'amour (Millevoye), Le grillon (Lamartine)
* Pastorale (Regnard, 1868)
* Rêve de la bien-aimée (de Courmont, 1868)
* Ma vie a son secret (Arvers, 1868)
* Berceuse (Desbordes-Valmore, 1868)
* La chanson du fou (Hugo, 1868)
* La coccinelle (Hugo, 1868)
* La sirène (Mendès, 1868)
* Le Doute (Ferrier, 1868)
* L’Esprit Saint
* Absence (Gautier)
* Chant d’amour (Lamartine)
* Tarentelle (Pailleron)
* Vous ne priez pas (Delevigne)
* Le Colibri (Flan, 1868)
* Sérénade ‘Oh, quand je dors’ (Hugo)
* Vœu (Hugo, 1868)
* Voyage, Aubade, La Nuit, Conte, Aimons, rêvons!, La chanson de la rose, Le Gascon, N’oublions pas!, Si vous aimez!, Pastel, l'abandonnée (these songs are from unidentified unfinished dramatic works)
Works for solo piano
* Nocturne in F major
* Variation chromatiques de concert (orchestrated by
Felix Weingartnerin 1933)
* Caprice in C# minor
* Caprice in C major
* Chasse Fantastique
* Romance sans paroles in C major
* Thème brillant in C
* Valse in C major
* Trois Esquisses Musicales
* Grande Valse de Concert in E flat
* Nocturne in D major
* Chants du Rhin
* Four Préludes
* Jeux d'enfants (Children's Games) 12 pieces for piano duet.
**L'escarpolette (Rêverie), La Toupie (Impromptu), La Poupée (Berceuse), Les Chevaux de bois (Scherzo), Le volant (Fantaisie), Trompette et tambour (Marche), Les Bulles de Savon (Rondino), Les quatre coins (Esquisse), Colin-maillard (Nocturne), Saute-mouton (Caprice), Petit mari, petite femme (Duo), Le Bal (Galop)
* Overture in A
* Symphony in C major, 1855
* Symphony in C major (Roma)
* Petite Suite (five movements orchestrated from "Jeux d'Enfants")
* Overture "Patrie"
* Ode Symphony "Vasco de Gama"
* Te Deum
Completions of others' works
Fromental Halévy- "Noé", opéra, 3 acts (Saint-Georges; composed 1858-62 and left unfinished at Halévy's death; completed by Bizet; f.p. Karlsruhe, 5 April 1885)
* [http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/bizet.html Georges Bizet]
* [http://www.mfiles.co.uk/Composers/Georges-Bizet.htm Georges Bizet (1838-1875)]
* [http://www.pianoparadise.com/bizet.html Bizet Biography]
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=96 Georges Bizet's Gravesite]
* [http://www.nypl.org/research/manuscripts/music/muscurtiss.xml Mina Curtiss collection] (research materials used by one of Bizet's biographers) in the [http://www.nypl.org/musicdiv Music Division] of [http://www.nypl.org/research/lpa/lpa.html The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts] .
* [http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/b#a25599 Lettres à un ami, 1865-1872 (French) at Gutenberg.org]
Free sheet music
* [http://hdl.handle.net/1802/3856, Carmen. Selections, piano] (From the Sibley Music Library Digital Score Collection)
* [http://hdl.handle.net/1802/3141 Carmen Fantasie, for violin and piano] (From the Sibley Music Library Digital Score Collection)
* [http://hdl.handle.net/1802/2132 L’Arlésienne : incidental music to the melodrama by Alphonse Daudet, for piano 4 hands] (From the Sibley Music Library Digital Score Collection)
NAME= Bizet, Georges
ALTERNATIVE NAMES= Bizet, Alexandre-César-Léopold
DATE OF BIRTH= 25 October 1838
PLACE OF BIRTH=
DATE OF DEATH= 3 June 1875
PLACE OF DEATH=
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