October 25, 1838 - Paris (France) — June 3, 1875 - Bougival (France)
Georges Bizet, the genius
The composer of the famous Carmen, Bizet, was destined for a successful career. He benefitted fully from his gifted relations, his singing-teacher father, pianist mother and uncle who was a singer. A special dispensation was made for Bizet to start the Paris Conservatoire at the exceptional age of seven where he rapidly achieved the Premier Prix for theory of music, piano, fugue and organ. A remarkable pianist, Hector Berlioz and Franz Liszt admired him. In 1858, he was awarded the first Prix de Rome and was destined for a successful career.
Georges Bizet, alone against the Wagnerian mists
However, his perfectionism, anxiety and indecision held him back. Around fifteen operas got no further than original sketches and his first works often received a lukewarm response. The public reacted coldly to the melodic inventiveness, rich orchestration and dramatic expression of The Pearl Fishers, which were more complex than they appeared. Bizet was often criticised for his brilliant sunshine at a time when Wagnerian mists still held sway.
Carmen, The Girl from Arles: the sunny Georges Bizet
The sunny score composed as incidental music for Daudet’s The Girl from Arles like the burning eroticism of Carmen both encountered difficulties from the start: mediocre stage directing, bad casting, lack of commitment from the musicians. Exhausted, he died of a heart attack in 1875 aged thirty-eight, three months after the first production of Carmen.
Having the ease of a genius, Bizet’s music shone with great vivacity and creativity. Gounod, Frank and D’Indy praised the composer’s gifts. Nietzsche, a Wagnerian to the last, was overwhelmed by the novelty and clarity of Bizet’s melodies. The philosopher, at the end of his life, preferred Carmen’s brilliance to Tristan’s mists. For, to use the philosopher’s own words, “the spirit of dance” was in Bizet’s music.