Berlioz, Hector

1803 - 1869

Generally regarded as the most important French Romantic composer.

Berlioz as a child learned flute and guitar and managed to teach himself the rudiments of harmony from his reading of textbooks. Her went to Paris in 1821 where he won the Prix de Rome in 1830. It was in this same year that he wrote his most famous piece, the "Symphonie fantastique".

He made his most important mark in the area of orchestration. His original manner of using and combining instruments was based not on tradition, but on an intuitive sense of what was possible and how it could be most effectively realized.

His masterpieces include the 'Requiem', the operas 'Les Troyens' and 'Beatrice et Benedict', the dramatic choral work 'The Damnation of Faust' and the oratorio 'L'enfance du Christ'.


Bizet, Georges

1838 - 75

French composer who wrote piano music, orchestral works and eight operas.

Bizet was born into a musical family, where he received a good early training that led to his entrance into the Paris Conservatory at the age of nine. At the age of seventeen he composed his Symphony in C, and in 1858 he won the Prix de Rome.

Bizet's years in Rome were not very productive. Upon his return to Paris he found moderate success in 1863 with his opera "Les pecheurs de perles".

In 1875, he wrote his opera "Carmen". The story is set in Spain and deals with the exotic culture of the Gypsies. But the plot's exploration of sexual desire, moral ambiguity and a brutal murder insured a brief and controversial run.

Ironically, only five years after his death, the work returned to the Parisian stage after a series of successes abroad. It has, from that time on, remained one of the best loved of all nineteenth century operas.