Born Oct. 25, 1838 in Paris, France
Died June 3, 1875 in Bougival, France
Bizet was born into a musical family and entered the Paris Conservatory when he was only 9. There he became a brilliant pianist, and studied composition and counterpoint. In 1857 he left for study in Italy, as winner of the coveted Prix de Rome. Despite his successful and precocious early life, his career and personal life were frought with many trials. His works were often unappreciated by the public and his life was disrupted by service in the Franco-Prussian War.
In 1971 he composed a piano duet, Jeux d’enfants, a delightfully descriptive suite of children’s games, which he later transcribed for orchestra in Petite Suite. His greatest masterpiece was the opera Carmen, which incorporated Spanish music and dance, and was first produced in Paris in 1975. Judged a colossal failure, it was ridiculed for its music and condemned as obscene. Bizet fell into a depression and illness, and died shortly afterwards at the age of 36, never knowing that his failed Carmen would become one of the most beloved operas of all times.
In The Composer’s’ Specials DVDs ( the award-winning PBS series for children), Bizet’s Dream tells a fictionalized story based on the creation of Carmen, with outstanding excerpts from his music.
Teaching tip: Jeux d’enfants offers a perfect introduction to descriptive program music. These 12 miniatures paint musical pictures of children’s games and toys that are universally loved. How fun it would be to introduce both the games/toys and the music in a classroom setting. Titles include such childhood treasures as Leap Frog, Blind Man’s Bluff, Soap Bubbles, Hobby Horses, The Top, The Doll, The Swing, & more. Hear this lively performance of The Ball to see how this imaginative piece would lend itself to a class of 3rd graders bouncing balls.