Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Pearl Fishing in Paris

Donald Macleod explains how, after having stayed in Rome with a full student grant, Bizet had to return to Paris and make his own way in the world.

After the prize of staying in Rome with a full student grant, Bizet must return to Paris and make his own way in the world.

A man of multiple love affairs who became devoted to his neurotic wife; a superb pianist who studiously avoided the concert stage; a man for ever associated with Spain, even though he'd never been there - George Bizet is a mass of contradictions. As well as composing what is arguably the world's best known and most popular opera - Carmen - Bizet also composed some spectacular flops. Always seeking popular as well as critical success, that was the very thing that eluded him during his lifetime. And yet, despite the caustic discouragement of Parisian reviewers, Bizet wrote songs and operas of astonishing beauty, even if the plots and libretti didn't always match the composer's dramatic sense.

In today's episode, Bizet returns from Italy to rush to his mother's sickbed. He comforts her, and he in turn is comforted by his mother's nurse - by whom he fathers a son. Despite his prodigious gifts as a pianist (praised by no less a genius than Franz Liszt) Bizet studiously avoids the concert platform, instead eking out a living through proof-reading, writing humdrum piano transcriptions and teaching piano. He will also write The Pearl Fishers.

Nocturne in F major
Julia Severus, piano

La marguerite a fermé sa corolle (from Vasco da Gama)
Joan Sutherland, soprano
Swiss Romande Orchestra
Richard Bonynge, conductor

Les Pêcheurs de Perles (Act 2, excerpt)
Pierrette Alarie, soprano (Léïla)
Leopold Simoneau, tenor (Nadir)
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Jean Fournet, conductor

Ivan IV, Act 2 (excerpt)
Paul Gay, bass (Temryuk),
Julian Gavi, tenor (Igor)
Orchestre National de France
Michael Schonwandt, conductor

Julia Severus, piano.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Georges Bizet

    Nocturne in F major

    Performer: Julia Severus.
    • NAXOS : 8.-570831-32.
    • NAXOS.
    • 1.
  • Georges Bizet

    Vasco de Gama -La Marguerite a ferme sa corolle

    Singer: Joan Sutherland. Orchestra: Suisse Romande Orchestra. Conductor: Richard Bonynge.
    • DECCA : 421 879-2-.
    • DECCA.
    • 15.
  • Georges Bizet

    Les Pecheurs de Perles - Act 2 extract

    Orchestra: Lamoureux Orchestra. Conductor: Jean Fournet.
    • Phillips 434 782-2.
    • Phillips.
    • 1.
  • Georges Bizet

    Ivan Iv - Act 3 The Ceremonial square in the Kremlin

    Orchestra: Orchestre national de France. Conductor: Michael Schønwandt.
    • Naive : V-4940.
    • Naive.
    • 1.
  • Georges Bizet

    Les Pecheurs De Perles - Venise

    Performer: Julia Severus.
    • Naxos: 857083132.
    • Naxos.
    • 1.


Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.