Composer Profile: George Bizet – Struggling Composer In Life, Immortalized by ‘Carmen’ in Death

By David Salazar

Georges Bizet, born on Oct. 25, 1838, created perhaps the most popular opera of all-time.

Unfortunately died without knowing that.

Bizet had a solid start to his career, winning the prestigious Prix de Rome during his student years at the Conservatoire de Paris.

But that never translated into a sturdy opera career, with Bizet finding his works largely ignored. He served in the National Guard during the Franco-Prussian War and resumed his career as a composer thereafter. Unfortunately, it never came to fruition for the composer, despite his continued insistence and output.

“Carmen” had its world premiere in 1875, but was a major failure. Shortly thereafter he died from illness, thinking that his final opera would never be a success.

He was wrong in the biggest way possible.

Greatest Works

“Carmen” is considered by many to be not only one of the most popular operas of all time but also one of the greatest. When it comes to French repertoire, “Carmen” is usually at the very top, beloved not only for its melodic invention but dramatic dynamism and the complexity of its characters.

In fact, it has even been adapted into other forms (see below).

“Carmen” has withstood the test of time in a way that only a handful of operas have and its Bizet’s popular work that has opened the door for his other operas to be reconsidered.

“Les Pêcheurs de Perles” has seen a surge of performances in recent decades and is now considered a part of the operatic canon.

Read More on Bizet

Read About His Other Works

The Adaptations of Carmen Across Different Artforms

Quiz: Which “Carmen” Character Defines Your Personality

Watch and Listen

Here is a famed recording of “Carmen” starring Shirley Verrett as the tragic heroine.

And the iconic duet from “Les Pêcheurs de Perles.”


Opera Wiki