Opera San José Carmen Press Kit

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COMPOSER

Opera San José 

Carmen Press Kit 

Georges Bizet

 (1838-1875)

Georges Bizet, registered at birth as Alexandre César Léopold Bizet, 

was a French composer of the romantic era. Best known for his operas 

in a career cut short by his early death, Bizet achieved few successes 

before his final work, Carmen, which has become one of the most pop-

ular and frequently performed works in the entire opera repertoire.

During a brilliant student career at the Conservatoire de Paris, Bizet 

won many prizes, including the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1857. He 

was recognised as an outstanding pianist, though he chose not to cap-

italise on this skill and rarely performed in public. Returning to Paris 

after almost three years in Italy, he found that the main Parisian opera 

theatres preferred the established classical repertoire to the works 

of newcomers. His keyboard and orchestral compositions were likewise largely ignored; as a result, 

his career stalled, and he earned his living mainly by arranging and transcribing the music of others. 

Restless for success, he began many theatrical projects during the 1860s, most of which were aban-

doned. Neither of his two operas that reached the stage in this time—Les pêcheurs de perles and La  jolie fille de Perth—were immediately successful.

After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, during which Bizet served in the National Guard, he had 

little success with his one-act opera Djamileh, though an orchestral suite derived from his incidental 

music to Alphonse Daudet’s play L’Arlésienne was instantly popular. The production of Bizet’s final 

opera, Carmen, was delayed because of fears that its themes of betrayal and murder would offend 

audiences. After its premiere on March 3, 1875, Bizet was convinced that the work was a failure; he 

died of a heart attack three months later, unaware that it would prove a spectacular and enduring 

success.


Bizet’s marriage to Geneviève Halévy was intermittently happy and produced one son. After his 

death, his work, apart from Carmen, was generally neglected. Manuscripts were given away or lost, 

and published versions of his works were frequently revised and adapted by other hands. He founded 

no school and had no obvious disciples or successors. After years of neglect, his works began to be 

performed more frequently in the 20th century. Later commentators have acclaimed him as a com-

poser of brilliance and originality whose premature death was a significant loss to French musical 

theatre.

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