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
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).
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.