The Chairfather: Père Lachaise Part III
Coming up on the right is our next host, the last of the Georges.
Imagine dying just before your name is drawn for the sweepstakes prize. That's essentially how Georges Bizet faded out at 36 years old, never hearing the applause he so deserved.
Eeking out a living from giving piano lessons, none of his operas were well-received, least of which his latest, premiering in 1875, which didn't manage to sustain the audience who left before the end. Today it's known as the most popular of all: Carmen.
The music is innovative and lively. The lead character is a strong-willed woman, with a fiery independence never before represented so virulently on the stage. The lyrics are passionate, sung with allusions and sexual desire. Folks couldn't handle it.
Neither could Bizet's body, overworked from pouring himself into the 1200 partition pages, teaching during the day and participating in the production at night. While attending yet another poorly received performance, at the moment Carmen turns over the tarot card of 'death,' Bizet has a heart attack. Days later at his home in Bougival, he has a second attack, and dies. The architect of the Garnier opera palace decorated this tomb, whose bust was stolen. On the right side, Bizet's many pieces are listed.
For her part, Carmen danced on to performances in Vienna, where Brahms and Wagner become huge fans. Played in Russia, Tchaikovsky rightly predicted that Carmen would become the world's most famous opera. The rebel bird flies on to this day, never tamed, obeying only her own law.
At the end of this tour, I'll tell you how to get to the resting place of Carmen's most beloved interpreter, La Callas.
Leave Bizet on your right and make an immediate left onto Avenue des Ailantes.