June 17, 1818 – October 18, 1893
Charles Gounod - the author of the world-famous opera "Faust" - occupies one of the most honorable places among composers of the XIX century.
The author of twelve operas, over a hundred romances, a large number of spiritual compositions with which he began and by which he completed his creative path, a number of instrumental works (including three symphonies, the last for wind instruments), Charles Gounod was born on June 17, 1818. His father was an artist, his mother an excellent musician.
The way of life of the family, its broad artistic interests, brought up the artistic inclinations of Gounod. He acquired versatile compositional technique from a number of teachers, different in creative aspirations (Antonin Reich, Jean François Lesuer, Fromantale Halevy). As a laureate of the Paris Conservatoire (he became its student at the age of seventeen) Gounod spent 1839-1842 in Italy, then for a short time he lived in Vienna and Germany.
The early period of his creative work is marked by the predominance of spiritual writings. In 1843-1848 Gounod was an organist and regent of the Foreign Missions Church in Paris. He even intended to accept the order, but in the late 40's after long hesitation returned to art. Since that time, the leading genre in Gounod’s work was the opera.
Since the early 50's, Gounod is more active in the musical life of Paris. The premiere of his first opera, “Sappho”, was held in 1851; followed by the opera "The Bloodied Nun" - in 1854. Both works, staged in the "Grand Opera", are marked by unevenness, melodramatics, even pretentious style. They were not successful. Much warmer was accepted "The doctor involuntarily" (by Moliere), shown in 1858 in the "Lyrical Theater". In full force the composer’s talent was revealed in the next work. It was “Faust”, staged in the same theater in 1859. Not immediately the audience loved the opera, realized its innovative essence. Only ten years later it was staged in the "Grand Opera", and the initial dialogues were replaced by recitative and ballet scenes were added. In 1887, the 500th performance of “Faust” was held there, and in 1894 its thousandth performance was celebrated (in 1932 it was a two thousandth performance). (The first production of Faust in Russia falls on 1869.)
After “Faust”, there were composed «Philemon and Baucis" (1860), the plot of which is borrowed from the "Metamorphosis" of Ovid; "The Queen of Sheba" (1862) on the Arabian tale of J. de Nerval; "Mireille" (1864) and the comic opera "Golubka" (1860), which was not successful for the composer. It is interesting that Gounod was skeptical about his creations.
The second top of Gounod's opera was the opera “Romeo and Juliet” (1867). Its premiere took place in 1867 and was marked by great success - within two years there were ninety performances.
Written after the "Romeo and Juliet" opera "Fifth of March", "Polyeukt", "Tribute to Zamora" (1881) did not have much success. The last years of the composer's life were again marked by clerical moods. He refers to the genres of choral music - he creates a grandiose canvas "Atonement" (1882) and the oratorio "Death and Life" (1886), in which the composition, as a part, was Requiem.
In the last twelve years of his life, Gounod did not write operas. He died on October 18, 1893.