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French Opera 1850–1900

Developments in Opera

French operas are written to ensure the audience will understand every word.

The budget at the Paris Opéra allows for lavish productions with huge orchestras, gargantuan spectacle, and special effects ranging from ice-skating ballets to exploding volcanoes.

The most important composers are Charles Gounod (Faust), Georges Bizet (Carmen), Jacques Offenbach (The Tales of Hoffmann), Jules Massenet (Manon, Werther), and Claude Debussy (Pelleas and Melisande).

The Masterworks

Faust by Gounod:
Old doctor Faust sells his soul to the devil to win youth and the beautiful Marguerite. This traditional tale is enveloped in Gounod's sweet, poignant, and catchy tunes.

Carmen by Bizet:
Opera's sexiest gypsy femme fatale seduces and then spurns a down-and-out soldier, who then kills her. Perhaps the most popular opera ever, with strong characters, intense drama, and instantly recognizable tunes.

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Photo Credit

Carmen, 2004 © Rozarii Lynch photo