In a cruel twist of fate, Georges Bizet (1838-1875) died without ever knowing that Carmen would become one of the great success stories of opera. It premièred at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875. Three months later Bizet was dead. A musically gifted child, Bizet was nine years of age when he commenced studies at the Paris Conservatoire where he excelled at piano, organ and composition. The Symphony in C dates from this early period. He won the coveted Prix de Rome in 1857 and remained in Italy for three years. Upon his return to Paris he undertook whatever work he could find – composing, arranging, working as a rehearsal pianist and doing the rounds of theatres in search of commissions. He wrote a number of operas (including The Pearl Fishers) but none of them held the stage. He had a breakthrough in 1872 when his suite of incidental music from the play L’Arlésienne won widespread popularity and a succès de scandale with Carmen. Of course, Carmen went on to become a huge hit worldwide (it reached both Melbourne and Sydney before the end of the 1870s) and won the admiration of Brahms, Nietzsche, Mahler and countless others.

© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra