Bizet had poured enormous effort into Carmen and was worn out by months of rehearsal and tension. His sensitive nature was simply unable to tolerate its initial cool reception. He died three months after its premiere.
Sometimes, it seems like all of Bizet's most familiar melodies can be found in one place — his wildly popular opera, Carmen. Carmen's "Habanera," the "Toreador March" and the Don Jose's "Flower Song" are just a few of the opera's many hit numbers. But at least one of Bizet's best-loved tunes doesn't come from Carmen at all. It's from Bizet's "other opera," the only one of several others he wrote that is heard in opera houses today. It's called The Pearl Fishers, and even if the name sounds unfamiliar, its most famous number — a duet for tenor and baritone called "Au fond du temple saint" — is another one of those familiar, infectious Bizet melodies that has wandered out of the opera house and into pop culture.
By maintaining a clear French style and finesse, light - slightly reminding of Mozart as the fast flow of phrases and the charm of melody are concerned - but also expressive, Bizet's music constituted the perfect "vehicle" for the expression of his artistic ideals in the area of melodrama. Bizet's masterpiece, "Carmen", has a passion and a liveliness that we can also find in the remaining works of the composer, also underlining Bizet's deep relation with music as well as the perfection of all of his expressive resources. Bizet's operatic output achieved little by little to rise to prominence despite his era's fashionable light comical operas of the "Italian" character.
...in 1875 [Bizet] wrote his masterpiece, the opera, Carmen, which was in time to become possibly the world's most popular opera. Carmen actually was not immediately popular (though well received by great musicians such as Debussy, Saint-Saens and Tchaikovsky). Sadly, Bizet did not live to see Carmen's success as he suddenly died in 1875 at the age of just 36.
After a succession of failures, Bizet pinned all his hopes on Carmen, what was to be his last opera. At its premiere in Paris on 3 March, 1875, many in the audience were shocked by its stark realism: Carmen and her co-workers from a cigarette factory smoking on stage and the sordid stabbing at the end. The sheer dramatic power of the music also proved a little too much for those who had come to the theatre simply to be entertained.
1871-1872: Bizet finishes the one-act opera Djamileh and the piano suite Jeux d’enfants (Children’s games), some of which are orchestrated and performed. The orchestral suite of music to the play L’Arlesienne (The girl from Arles, 1872), is an immediate hit.
Les pêcheurs de perles (1863) is [Bizet's] first successful opera, and he cannibalized earlier works to finish it. It had an initial modest run, although most of the Parisian critics hated it. However, Berlioz, the greatest of them all, hailed the composer as a great talent with a brilliant future. For his part, Bizet was overwhelmed, a few weeks later, by the premiere of the older composer's Le Troyens à Carthage, the mutilated version of the masterpiece Les Troyens. In 1867 came the opera La jolie fille de Perth, based on the novel by Sir Walter Scott. Critics gave it a warm reception, but it mustered only a tepid response from the public.
Liszt declared Bizet as one of the three greatest pianists in Europe. Despite the distracting temptation to seek his fortune as a travelling virtuoso, Bizet's sights remained firmly set on a composing career.
Equipped with one of the quickest brains in musical France, Bizet took most of his 36 years to link it up with an equally exceptional artistic vision and imaginative power. His Variations chromatiques (1868) for piano is a virtuoso exploration of quick-changing harmonies that is almost as strenuous to listen to as to play. The humane qualities showed fitfully in his prolific early output of operas, as he found his way through a maze of French and Italian influences.
Bizet packed a lot into his short life. By the age of nine he had entered the Paris Conservatoire and within months was winning every major prize for piano, organ and composition. In 1857, aged 19, he won the coveted Prix de Rome, which set him on a steady course to security and fame. An example of his abilities at this time can be found un his Symphony in C major, an astonishing work...
Blessed with a great talent, Georges Bizet was rarely able to realize it to tits fullest, owing mostly to circumstances beyond his control, as the phrase has it, and for most people will remain the composer of a single operatic masterpiece, Carmen.