French composer Georges Bizet, was born Alexandre César Léopold Bizet on October 25, 1838. His family was musical and Georges, as he was baptized and known his whole life, showed his promise early. He won the Prix de Rome after brilliant studies at the Conservatoire de Paris. There, he met the composer Charles Gounod who remained a major influence on his career. He was a brilliant pianist, but hid his talent as though it were something to be ashamed of. Bizet was a great starter of ambitious projects, but he was quick to abandon them. Many of his completed scores disappeared leaving no trace. One of his operas, however, is still as popular as ever – Carmen – one of the most frequently performed operas in the world. It was not an overnight sensation, however, with critics and audiences appalled by the seductress who smoked, schemed, and had s-e-x. Another Bizet flop seemed inevitable and he left Paris, depressed and run-down, for his country home. He died on June 3, 1875 after suffering two heart attacks in quick succession at only 37 years of age. Gounod gave the eulogy at Bizet’s grave at the Père Lachaise cemetery.
Today’s expression, avoir le moral à zero (avwar luh morale ah zairoh) means “to have the morale at zero” or to be totally down. Bizet was so emotionally low after the first performances of Carmen that rumors circulated that he had committed suicide. Imagine how he would have felt if he could have known that over 40 film adaptations alone would be made of the famous opera, including a hip-hop version and “Carmen on ice.” Well, maybe he does know about those last two and he’s rolling in his grave.