Georges Bizet was a French composer of the Romantic era who was best known for his operas, particularly Carmen. Bizet showed talent from a young age, winning a number of prizes during his time as a student at the Paris Conservatoire, including the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1857, which had previously been won by such names such as Hector Berlioz, Charles Gounod, and François Bazin. He was also known as a talented pianist, but chose to perform only rarely in public.
Bizet’s career was fraught with difficulty. After spending a few years in Italy, he returned to Paris to find that French opera audiences were more interested in established classical repertoire than new works, meaning that it was very difficult to break into the public sphere. Only two of his operas were staged during this time, neither of them a success. The production of Carmen was similarly fated; its premiere delayed due to fears that audiences would be offended by its themes and Bizet died shortly after its eventual premiere believing it to have been a failure. In recent years, interest in Bizet’s music has begun to pick up, and many more of his works are now being played.