French Composer and Pianistby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Georges Bizet, born in 1838, lived a life full of frustrations and dejections, dying early at the age of thirty-six, only a few months after the exhibition of his most successful opera. The reception of most of his pieces waxed rather cold; their dramatic endeavors sometimes were thought too rigid or overstepping certain unwritten bounds.
Bizet, taught by musically inclined parents, was a very promising young musician. At the age of nine, a short time before he turned ten, he was accepted into the Paris Conservatory. There he continued his musical studies under several teachers, including one with a surname of Halevy. Under another, he became an incredibly accomplished pianist, making an impression on even Franz Liszt. These were the beginnings of a composing mastermind, someone who had an extraordinary talent and inclement for melody.
Bizet’s first major work was titled, “Symphony in C,” and, though written in 1855, it was not performed until nearly 1935. It is truly amazing to have written such a piece at the age of seventeen.
In 1857, at nineteen, Bizet received an award for “a setting”1 of an operetta entitled, “Le Docteur Miracle.” Later, he set out for Rome, and there he began to compose several pieces. Unfortunately, only four of the original have survived long years of wear and tear. In 1862, after returning to Paris, he refused an offer to teach at the Paris Conservatory, and he even decided against becoming a concert pianist. Instead, he was requested to write an opera for a director from Théâtre-Lyrique. He requested that Bizet write an opera called Les pêcheurs de perles. The piece was finished in four months, but the reaction it received was rather nonchalant. Les pêcheurs de perles was slightly unbalanced, with “stiff characterization,”1 yet it contained unusual and striking numbers. His opera following Les pêcheurs de perles in 1868 resulted in only 18 performances—though it had better dramatic aspects.
In the year of 1870, the Franco-Prussian war erupted as Bismarck maneuvered to magnify Prussia into a greater Germany. Bizet needed not join the French army, as he was “exempt from national service as a Priz de Rome winner,”2 but still he joined up with the National Guard. Bizet’s practical view of life would not allow him to indulge in nationalistic proceedings; indeed, he saw the terrors of war for what they really were.
Victory was not hard for the new Germans alliance. With collective service, well-organized railroads, and inventive ammunition, the Prussians were able to secure a victory in a crucial battle at Sedan, when they captured Napoleon III, the French king at the time. In January of 1871, Paris laid down her arms after a four-and-a-half month siege, and on May 10, 1871, both sides signed the Treaty of Frankfurt. The defeated party gave up Alsace, and an agreement was reached pertaining to German occupation: Germany was allowed to stay in Northern France until the sum of five billion francs was paid in full. Bizet returned home to express his viewpoint of life in a piece that would evolve into his most celebrated and acclaimed opera, Carmen.
At first, the storyline of Carmen turned out to be more than enough for an audience in a Parisian theater geared especially towards a family environment. Placed in Spain, with much of the plot revolving around Gypsy culture, Carmen allowed Bizet to use his creative abilities to their fullest, most exotic extent. However, because of Carmen’s controversial subject matter, including a cruel murder, and its straying away from familiar moral values, the opera was presented briefly, until the public decided it had gone far enough. Bizet’s physical (and likely, emotional) health declined at an alarming rate; three months’ time and two heart attacks were all that was needed for the controversial composer to leave this Earth a broken man in 1875. His time here may have been brief, but his works, particularly Carmen, leave an imprint in history too deep to easily be erased.
Colossians 3:1 tells one to “…seek things of above…” not things of this Earth. For this life is but a passing blink, lasting infinitely shorter than eternity after one’s death. Bizet clearly set his heart on his music, something that will fade as quickly as time flies. Unable to withstand defeat, his fixation on his pieces eventually killed him at merely thirty-six years old.Endnotes:
 Boynick, Matt. 1 February 1996. http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/bizet.html (accessed 12 December 2008).
 Paterson, Jim. 1999-2000. http://www.mfiles.co.uk/composers/Georges-Bizet.htm (accessed 12 December 2008).
 Entertainment, Sony Music. October 2000. http://www.essentialsofmusic.com/composer/bizet.html (accessed 12 December 2008).
 FrancoPrussianWar.com, Uncertain when written. http://francoprussianwar.com/ (accessed 11 December 2008).