Charles Gounod Composer
Season 24/25 Artist


Charles Gounod was born in Paris on June 17. A student of Halévy, Lesueur and Paer, recipient of the Prix de Rome, he first lived in Italy, where he discovered Palestrina and Bach, but also Lully, Gluck, Mozart and Rossini.

His close friendship with Henri Lacordaire, a major orator of the Dominican Order, and Charles Gay, future bishop of Poitiers, ignited in him a mystical fire which made him consider, for a time, priesthood. Though he never became a priest, he remained animated by a deep religious feeling which marks his entire work, especially his masses and oratorios (St. Cecilia Mass, Messe du Sacré-Cœur, Tobie, Mors et vita, etc).

Soprano Pauline Viardo introduced him to the Paris Opera with a first commission, Sapho, in which she created the title-role in 1851. Despite a good reception, the opera did not stay long on the bill. His subsequent opera, The Bloody Nun, also presented at the Paris Opera in 1854, was not a success either. His next opera Le Médecin malgré lui, created in 1858 at the Théâtre‑Lyrique, gained excellent reviews and marked the birth of a fruitful collaboration with the two librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carré.

However, it is Faust, also premiered at the Théâtre‑Lyrique, in 1859, which brought him a long-lasting fame. Many works followed: La Reine de Saba (1862), Mireille (1864), Roméo et Juliette (1867), CinqMars (1877), Polyeucte (1878) and Le Tribut de Zamora (1881). But he never managed to repeat the triumph of his Faust, which remains an emblematic work of the French repertoire.

He died on 18 October 1993 in Saint-Cloud of a stroke, while he was working on a Requiem. A state funeral was held in the Madeleine church, with Camille Saint-Saens at the organ and Gabriel Fauré conducting the choir.

Currently in

  • Opéra Bastille
  • from 26 September to 18 October 2024

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