Bizet, Georges Alexandre César Léopold
b Paris, France 1838, d Bougival, nr Paris 1875. His early musical talent was encouraged mainly by his mother, and he was enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 9. For the next 9 years this remained at the heart of his life, and as a teenager he taught piano and learned the organ and composition there, emerging as a brilliant pianist. Taught by Fromental Halévy (whose daughter he later married) and influenced by Gounod (qv), he won the Prix de Roma in 1857, spending his next 3 years in Rome aged 19–22. Arranging music for others brought in welcome funds but was costly in time. On returning to Paris he remained there for most of the rest of a short life characterised by both ‘driving energy and thoughtful intelligence’. His series of operas culminated in 1875 in Carmen, one of the most popular of all operas. Its completion and production overcame many obstacles, but the initially hostile reviews affected his health and seem to have hastened his death. The composer saw several performances, but died at the age of 36, 3 months after its opening one and too soon to see its eventual success. Other music includes a symphony, incidental theatre music, and two suites. No.118.