Georges Bizet

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Georges Bizet shortly before his death

Georges Bizet (* 25. October 1838 in Paris as Alexandre-César-Léopold Bizet , † 3. June 1875 in Bougival , Yvelines near Paris) was a French composer of the romantic , the opera Carmen became one of the greatest successes in opera history.


Georges Bizet in 1860
Caricature by Bizet on the creation of the opera La jolie fille de Perth , published in Diogène in 1863

Origin, childhood and education

Bizet was born at 28 rue de la Tour d'Auvergne in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. He was registered under the name Alexandre César Léopold Bizet, but was baptized Georges Bizet on March 16, 1840. His father was an amateur singer and composer, his mother was the sister of the famous singing teacher François Delsarte .

Two weeks before his 10th birthday, Bizet became a student at the Paris Conservatory in 1848 . He wrote his first symphony , the Symphony in C major , in November 1855, at the age of 17, apparently as a student homework assignment. It was not known to the public until it was found in the archives of the Paris Conservatory Library in 1933, where the score had been deposited by Reynaldo Hahn , who in turn had received it from Bizet's widow. From its first performance on February 26, 1935 under the direction of Felix Weingartner , it was hailed as an early masterpiece and included in the repertoire of many orchestras . The symphony bears an astonishing resemblance to Charles Gounod's First Symphony , which Bizet arranged for two pianos . Today's listeners may also be able to perceive parallels to the music of Franz Schubert , who was hardly known in France at the time of Bizet.

Bizet studied at the Conservatory with Fromental Halévy , whose daughter Geneviève (1849–1926) he married in 1869. When Halévy died in 1862, he left his last opera Noé as a fragment. Bizet completed it, but the work was not performed until 1885, ten years after Bizet's death.


In 1857 he won part of a prize donated by Jacques Offenbach for composing the one-act operetta Le docteur Miracle . He also won the Prix de Rome , the requirement for a three-year scholarship in Rome. There his talent unfolded in works such as the opera buffa Don Procopio (1858–59). There he also wrote his only significant liturgical work, the Te Deum (1858), which he submitted to the Prix ​​Rodrigues competition , a competition among winners of the Rome Prize. Bizet did not win the prize, so that with the two songs Ave Maria and L'Esprit Saint he composed only two other small sacred pieces with liturgical reference and the score of the Te Deum remained unpublished until 1971. In 1859 he made two attempts to write another symphony, but destroyed the manuscripts in December of that year. Apart from the short trip to Rome, Bizet lived all his life in the Paris area.

His mother died shortly after Bizet returned to Paris. In 1863 he composed the opera Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) for the Théâtre-Lyrique , which was initially unsuccessful. This was followed by the opera La jolie fille de Perth (premiered in 1867 at the Théâtre-Lyrique), a symphony called Roma (1868) and Jeux d'enfants (games for children) for piano four hands (1871).

The popular L'Arlésienne was originally an occasional composition for a play by Alphonse Daudet , which premiered on October 1, 1872. Bizet wrote a suite from it , the first performance of which took place on November 10, 1872. Ernest Guiraud later arranged a second suite; both suites are marked by considerable reworking of the original. Guiraud's contribution is usually not mentioned in performances and recordings of the second suite.

On May 22, 1872, the one-act Opéra comique Djamileh premiered, which is often seen as the forerunner of Carmen . The overture Patrie, which has no relation whatsoever to Victorien Sardou's play Patrie! stands, wrote Bizet in 1873.

Bizet's tombstone without the bust of Paul Dubois, stolen in 2006, in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris

Bizet's most famous work, the opera Carmen (1875), is based on the novel of the same name by Prosper Mérimée from 1846. Bizet composed the main role for mezzo-soprano . Carmen , initially not accepted by the audience, received praise from famous contemporaries such as Debussy , Nietzsche , Saint-Saëns and Tchaikovsky . Brahms attended over twenty performances and considered it the best opera to have been performed in Europe since the Franco-Prussian War . The composers' views turned out to be prophetic in that Carmen has since become one of the most popular works in all of operatic literature.


Bizet's work as a composer often takes a back seat to his outstanding pianistic skills. On May 26, 1861, at dinner at the Halévys' , at which Franz Liszt was also present, Bizet played a still unpublished, complicated work by Liszt without any mistakes. Liszt announced that Bizet was one of the most excellent pianists in Europe.

Early death

Georges Bizet could no longer witness the success of Carmen . He died of a heart attack at the age of 36 in Bougival , about ten miles west of Paris. His death fell on his sixth wedding anniversary, just three months after the premiere of Carmen . He was buried in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. In 1875 Bizet was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor .

His widow Geneviève later had a liaison with the pianist Élie-Miriam Delaborde, who is generally regarded as the illegitimate son of Charles Valentin Alkan . She married Émile Straus, a bank clerk with ties to the Rothschild family, and became famous for hosting societies. Marcel Proust she served as a model for the Duchesse de Guermantes in his novel In Search of Lost Time . The Bizets' son, Jacques (1872–1922), was a writer and a school friend of Proust's. It was only after his father's death that he found out that Jean Reiter, the son of his grandfather Adolphe Bizet's housekeeper, was actually his half-brother and also a son of the Carmen composer.


Bizet portrait by Giacomotti

Bizet's music was used in several important ballets in the 20th century. Rodion Konstantinowitsch Shchedrin arranged the Carmen Suite in 1967 , which gave Bolshoi ballerina Maja Plissezkaja a key role in Alberto Alonso's choreography. In the West, L'Arlésienne was frequently performed in the choreography of Roland Petits , and the Symphony in C choreographed by George Balanchine is considered one of the most successful ballets of the 20th century. It premiered in 1947 under the title Palais de Crystal at the Paris Opera and has been in the repertoire of the Paris Opera Ballet ever since . The ballet has no plot, but is based solely on the music. Each movement of the symphony is danced by a different soloist or corps de ballet , who appear together in the finale.

The asteroid (343134) Bizet was named after him in 2020.


Bizet's works in 1948 were Winton Dean  published catalog of the works of Georges Bizet to Winton Dean (WD) cataloged.

Dramatic works

  • La maison du docteur , opéra comique, 1 act, (H. Boisseaux; composed approx. 1855, not orchestrated; not performed during his lifetime), orchestrated by William Girard, Austin / Texas, 1989
  • Le docteur Miracle , Operetta, 1 act, (L. Battu & L. Halévy , after RB Sheridan ; composed 1856; first performed in Paris, Bouffes-Parisiens, April 9, 1857)
  • Don Procopio , opéra bouffe, 2 acts, (C. Cambiaggio, after L. Prividali; composed 1858–59; first performed in Monte-Carlo , March 10, 1906, edited version by Charles Malherbe)
  • La guzla de l'émir , opéra comique, (composed by J. Barbier & M. Carré ca.1862 ; not listed)
  • Ivan IV , opera, 5 acts, (F.-H. Leroy & H. Trianon; composed approx. 1862–65; excerpts with piano accompaniment premiered in Hohenmühringen Castle in 1946, complete and scenic 1951 in Bordeaux)
  • Les pêcheurs de perles , opera, 3 acts, (E. Cormon & M. Carré; composed 1863; first performed in Paris, Théâtre-Lyrique, September 30, 1863)
  • La jolie fille de Perth , opera, 4 acts, (J.-H. Vernoy de Saint-Georges & J. Adenis, after W. Scott ; composed 1866; first performed in Paris, Théâtre-Lyrique, December 26, 1867)
  • Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre , operetta, 4 acts, (P. Siraudin & W. Busnach; composed in 1867, 1st act available, the others have been lost; first performed in Paris, Théâtre Athénée, 13 December 1867) (Title after the folk song of the same name )
  • La coupe du roi de Thulé , opera, 3 acts, (L. Gallet & E. Blau; composed 1868–69, after his death this work was changed by Winton Dean, 1978, so that only fragments remain; premiered (excerpt ) BBC Radio , July 12, 1955)
  • Clarisse Harlowe , opéra comique, 3 acts, (Gille & A. Jaime, based on S. Richardson; composed 1870–71, unfinished; never performed)
  • Grisélidis , opéra comique, 1 act, ( V. Sardou ; composed 1870–71, unfinished; never performed)
  • Djamileh , opéra comique, 1 act, (Gallet, after A. de Musset ; composed 1871; first performed in Paris, Opéra-Comique (Favart), May 22, 1872)
  • L'Arlésienne , incidental music, 3 acts ( A. Daudet ; composed 1872; first performed in Paris, Théâtre Vaudeville, October 1, 1872)
  • Don Rodrigue , Opera, 5 acts, (Gallet & Blau, after G. de Castro y Bellvis; composed 1872, unfinished draft; not listed)
  • Carmen , Opera, 4 acts, (H. Meilhac & L. Halévy, after P. Mérimée ; composed 1873–74; first performed in Paris, Opéra-Comique (Favart), March 3, 1875)


Manuscript of the Sérénade (1874)

(Lyricist / year)

  • L'âme triste est pareille au doux ciel ( Lamartine )
  • Petite Marguerite (Rolland 1854)
  • La Rose et l'abeille (Rolland 1854)
  • La Foi, l'Esperance et la Charité (de Lagrave 1854)
  • Vieille chanson (Millevoye 1865)
  • Adieux de l'hôtesse arabe ( Hugo 1866)
  • Apres l'Hiver (Hugo 1866)
  • Douce mer (Lamartine 1866)
  • Chanson d'avril (Bouilhet 1866)
  • Feuilles d'album (1866): À une fleur ( de Musset ), Adieux à Suzon (de Musset), Sonnet ( Ronsard ), Guitare (Hugo), Rose d'amour (Millevoye), Le grillon (Lamartine)
  • Pastorale (Regnard 1868)
  • Rêve de la bien-aimée (de Courmont 1868)
  • Ma vie a son secret, Félix Arvers, 1868
  • Berceuse (Desbordes-Valmore 1868)
  • La chanson du fou (Hugo 1868)
  • La coccinelle (Hugo 1868)
  • La sirène ( Mendès 1868)
  • Le Doute (Ferrier 1868)
  • L'Esprit Saint
  • Absence ( Gautier )
  • Chant d'amour (Lamartine)
  • Tarentelle (Pailleron)
  • Vous ne priez pas (Delevigne)
  • Le Colibri (Flan 1868)
  • Sérénade: Oh, quand je dors (Hugo)
  • Vœu (Hugo 1868)
  • Voyage; Aubade; La Nuit; Conte; Aimons, rêvons !; La chanson de la rose; Le Gascon; N'oublions pas !; Si vous aimez !; Pastel; L'abandonnée (these songs come from unidentified unfinished dramatic works)

Works for solo piano

  • Nocturne in F major
  • Variation chromatiques de concert , orchestrated by Felix Weingartner in 1933
  • Caprice in C sharp minor
  • Caprice in C major
  • Chasse Fantastique
  • Romance sans paroles in C major
  • Thème brilliant in C major
  • Valse in C major
  • Trois Esquisses Musicales
  • Grande Valse de Concert in E flat major
  • marine
  • Nocturne in D major
  • Chants du Rhin
  • Four Preludes
  • Jeux d'enfants , 12 pieces for piano four hands
    • L'escarpolette (Rêverie), La Toupie (Impromptu), La Poupée (Berceuse), Les Chevaux de bois (Scherzo), Le volant (Fantaisie), Trompette et tambour (Marche), Les Bulles de Savon (Rondino), Les quatre coins (Esquisse), Colin-maillard (Nocturne), Saute-mouton (Caprice), Petit mari, petite femme (Duo), Le Bal (Galop)

Other works

  • Overture in D major
  • Symphony in C major, 1855
  • Roma Symphony in C major, 1874
  • Petite Suite , five movements orchestrated from Jeux d'Enfants
  • Overture Patrie
  • Odensinfonie Vasco de Gama
  • Te Deum , 1858

Completion of the opera Noé

  • Fromental Halévy - Noé , opera, 3 act (Saint-Georges; composed 1858–62 and left unfinished after Halévy's death; completed by Bizet; first performed in Karlsruhe , April 5, 1885)


In 2004, Georges Bizet hit the German, Austrian and Swiss pop music charts when Melendiz used the aria L'amour est un oiseau rebelle (the Habanera from Carmen ) for the basic melody of his top 20 hit Fuck You All .

In 1970 the English rock group Love Sculpture adapted Bizet's Farandole on their album Forms and Feelings ; However, her version of Aram Chatschaturjan's Saber Dance on the same album became much better known .


  • Winton Dean: Georges Bizet. Life and work. Translated by Konrad Küster. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-421-06385-0 .
  • Edgar Istel: Bizet and Carmen. Stuttgart 1927.
  • Christoph Schwandt : Georges Bizet. With testimonials and photo documents. Rowohlt's monographs. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1991, ISBN 3-499-50375-1 .
  • Christoph Schwandt: Georges Bizet. A biography. Schott, Mainz 2011, ISBN 978-3-254-08418-7 .
  • Rémy Stricker: Georges Bizet. Gallimard 1999, ISBN 2-07-074803-0 .

Web links

Commons : Georges Bizet  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Georges Bizet  - Sources and full texts (French)

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hugh MacDonald: Bizet, Georges (Alexandre César Léopold) . In: Stanley Sadie (Ed.): The New Grove Dictionary of Opera , vol. 1, A-D. MacMillan, New York [1992] (1994), ISBN 0-935859-92-6 , p. 485.
  2. a b W. Dean: Bizet . JM Dent & Sons, London 1978.
  3. ^ M. Curtiss: Bizet and his world . Vienna House, New York 1958
  4. Georges Bizet . In: Grove's Dictionary (V), vol. I, p. 731
  5. ^ Document in the Base Léonore of the French Ministry of Culture; Retrieved January 2, 2013
  6. ^ Christoph Schwandt: Georges Bizet. A biography. Schott, Mainz 2011, p. 157
  7. (343134) Bizet = 2001 UT193 = 2009 FG5 , Minor Planet Center
  8. from the Sonnet d'Arvers ; German: My heart has its torment, my life its secret ... , Translator Paul Distelbarth