Symphony in C
Alexandre-Cesar-Leopold (Georges) Bizet was born to musician parents in Paris on October 25, 1838. His father was a singing teacher and his mother, a gifted pianist. Considered a child prodigy, Georges entered the Paris Conservatory of Music at the age of 9. There he studied counterpoint and composition, and developed into a brilliant pianist. He also wrote many piano pieces, small songs and orchestral works as a student, most notably the Symphony in C, which he completed in 1855. At the age of just 19, Bizet won the Grand Prix de Rome, which enabled him to spend three financially secure years working in Rome.
In 1860, Georges returned to Paris but refused all offers of teaching and a career as a concert pianist. Instead, he dedicated himself to composition. The director of the Theatre-Lyrique invited Bizet to compose Les pecheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers), which Bizet finished in four months. It was produced in September 1863 and, while the production received an indifferent reception, no one could deny Bizet's brilliant scoring and composition.
In 1869, Georges married Genevieve Halevy, and their son, Jacques, was born in 1872. The marriage did not bring much happiness to Bizet. He continued to compose, with modest successes such as L'Arlesienne, but the Bizets were poor and Georges began battling with depression. He also worked on a one-act opera, Djamileh, which was completed in 1872. That opera met with little success, but Bizet was finally convinced he had found his true operatic path. And Djamileh did convince Camille du Locle, co-director of Paris' Opera-Comique, to commission Bizet to write what would become his best-known work, Carmen.
The original version of Carmen premiered on March 3, 1875 and
met with only lukewarm response from the audience and critics. Though
the opera was not a failure (it ran for 45 more performances), Bizet
felt that no one understood his work and battled depression again. He
died on June 3, 1875, just three months after Carmen's premiere.
Many have speculated that his premature death was due to his despondence,
although the official cause of death was a failed heart due to "acute
articular rheumatism." Ironically, today Carmen is arguably
the most popular opera in the repertory and is annually one of the most
produced operas in the world.