Georges Bizet

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About Georges Bizet

Bizet stood outside the French Romantic mainstream, cultivating a unique musical style based on melodic precision, piquant orchestral colors, and a miniaturist’s eye for detail. His lifelong quest for creative purity resulted in many projects being abandoned or consigned to the flames, yet what survives marks him out as one of the most naturally gifted of all French composers. Bizet was born to musical parents in Paris in 1838 and admitted to the Paris Conservatory aged nine. His precocious genius first made itself felt with a Symphony in C (1855), whose bright and breezy Neoclassicism lay unacknowledged in the Conservatory archives until being rediscovered in 1933. Already one can sense Bizet’s acute ear for indelible thematic ideas and expressive concision, which reached its apex in the sparkling invention of Jeux d’enfants (“Children’s Games,” 1871). But his true métier proved to be music for the stage. Initially, he struggled to channel his creative flair into convincing dramatic scenarios—witness the otherwise-enchanting operas Les pêcheurs de perles (“The Pearl Fishers,” 1863) and La jolie fille de Perth (“The Fair Maid of Perth,” 1866). However, during the early 1870s, Bizet realized his full potential with two unassailable masterpieces: the incidental music to Alphonse Daudet’s play L’Arlésienne (“The Girl from Arles,” 1872) and the earthily Spanish opera Carmen (1874). Just as he achieved true greatness, Bizet died of a heart attack in 1875, aged just 36.

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