BIZET, GEORGES. (1838-1875). French composer whose masterpiece, Carmen, is arguably one of the most popular operas ever written. ALS. (“Georges Bizet”). 1p. 8vo. (Paris, February 11, 1856). To Paris Conservatoire professor and second place winner of the 1853 Prix de Rome, Emile Durand (1830-1903). In French with translation.
“I am asking you a favor. You did the cantata Le Chevalier enchanté, therefore you should have it. If you could kindly lend it to me, please, leave it tomorrow, Tuesday, with Flichelle, the doorman at the Conservatoire; you can get it there again on Thursday. In case you have not got the detached… it does not matter; you can entrust me with one of your manuscripts without any danger. Here are the cantatas that I did. Imogene; Antonio; Le Retour de Virginie; Maria Stuart; Gaston de Montfort; Le Prisonnier; Le Rocher d’Appenzell; Eginhard et Emma; Herminie; Le Renegat de Fez; L’entrée en Toga; Fernand; Dalmocles; Francesco da Rimini. Acis et Galatea; L’ange et Tobie. If you happen to have some others put them with Le Chevalier enchanté. I would be very obliged to you…”
While a student at the Conservatoire, Bizet was encouraged to compete for the Prix de Rome. He decided to wait, however, and entered only in 1856, the year of our letter, when his cantata David took second place. Also “in 1856, Offenbach, wishing to raise the status of the operetta, offered a prize for a piece in one act, the winning work to be produced at the Bouffes-Parisian theatre…The jury divided the prize between Bizet and Charles Lecocq…The winning works were produced on succeeding nights, Lecocq’s on 8 April 1857, Bizet’s on 9 April,” (The New Grove Dictionary).
In 1857 Bizet won the Prix de Rome with his cantata Clovis et Clotilde, which the public received favorably as well. A composer of choral and orchestral works, operas and songs, Bizet began to work on Carmen in 1873 and by the following year he was completing the orchestration. Casting problems, troublesome musicians and Bizet’s own poor health delayed its premiere at the Opéra-Comique until March 3, 1875. The public’s response was terrible and the press denounced both the music and the libretto as obscene. The passage of time, however, has elevated Carmen to such a degree that it is now regarded as “the supreme achievement of Bizet and of opéra comique, a genre it completely transformed,” (ibid.).
Our letter, which mentions Bizet’s unfinished works Herminie, Le Retour de Virginie, L’ange et Tobie, Le Chevalier enchante, and Gaston de Montfort, as well as several unknown pieces, is darkly and attractively penned. Folded and creased with normal wear and with the conjugate address leaf. In fine condition and scarce from this early period.