Gounod, Charles

BORN 17 Jun 1818, Paris - DIED 17 Oct 1893, Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine
BIRTH NAME Gounod, Charles François
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Auteuil Cimetière, Rue Claude Lorrain, Auteuil (division 01)

Son of a painter and a pianist. His mother taught him music. He studied philosophy and then music with Anton Reicha. After Reicha died in 1836 he went to the Conservatory in Paris where Fromental Halévy and Pierre Zimmermann were his teachers.

In 1839 he won the Prix the Rome with his cantata "Fernand". In Italy he studied the composer Giovanni da Palestrina. In Vienna some of his works were performed. On his way back to France he met Mendelssohn in Leipzig. Fanny Mendelssohn introduced him to the keyboard music of Bach and in 1859, after her death, he combined a melody inspired by this music with the words of "Ave Maria".

In several preceeding years he had mostly composed religious works. He composed his first opera "Sapho" in 1851, supported by his friend Pauline Viardot. He married Zimmerman's daughter Anna Marie (1929-1907) in 1852. When he wanted to break-up the engagement he was so heartily received by Madame Zimmermann that he went along with marriage. His motives may have been financial as well.

In 1859 his opera "Faust" was first performed. Initially it was little successful, but Berlioz and the Empress Eugénie liked it and soon France followed. After a long breakdown he produced his masterpiece, the opera "Roméo et Juliette" (1867). In 1870 he went to London because of the war. In 1874 he moved back to France. In his later years he returned to religious music. He became a Grand Officer of the Légion d'honneur in 1888.

Related persons
• influenced Bizet, Georges
• was sculpted by Dubois, Paul
• is uncle/aunt of Dubufe, Guillaume
• was a friend of Dupont, Pierre
• corresponded with Lefuel, Hector
• knew Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Fanny
• knew Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Felix
• was photographed by Nadar
• was pupil to Reicha, Anton
• was a friend of Viardot-Garcia, Pauline
• was pupil to Zimmermann, Pierre
• is son-in-law/daughter-in-law of Zimmermann, Pierre

16/4/1851Premiere of Gounod's opera "Sapho" in Paris. It was performed by the Opera of Paris at the Salle Le Peletier. Pauline Viardot was Sapho and Anne Poinsot was Glycère. Narcisse Girard was the conductor. It was performed nine times and considered to be a succes for Gounod. The libretto was written by Émile Augier. [Girard, Narcisse][Viardot-Garcia, Pauline]
18/10/1854Premiere of Gounod's opera "La nonne sanglante" at the Salle Pelletier in Paris. The opera was perrformed eleven times in October and November 1854. It was poorly received and when opera director Nestor Roqueplan was replaced by François Crosnier the opera was cancelled immediately. The libretto was written by Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne and was a loose adaption of a scene from the novel "The Monk" by Matthew Lewis. Narcisse Girard was the conductor. Jean-Baptiste Merly played comte Ludorf and Jacques-Alfred Guignot was baron Moldaw. Louis Guéymard was Rudolf's son Rodolphe and Anne Poinsot was Angès. Palmyre Wertheimber was La nonne sanglante. [Girard, Narcisse][Roqueplan, Nestor][Scribe, Eugène]
19/3/1859Premiere of Gounod's opera "Faust" in Paris. At the Théâtre Lyrique. The libretto was written by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré and it was based on Goethe's "Faust". It was conducted by Adolphe Deloffre. Marie Caroline Miolan-Carvalho was Marguerite, Joseph-Théodore-Désiré Barbot was Faust and Émile Balanqué was Méphistophélès. Siébel was performed by Amélie Faivre. [Carvalho-Miolan, Caroline][Faivre, Amélie]
28/2/1862Premiere of Gounod's opera "La reine de Saba" at the Opéra in Paris. It was based on Gérard de Nerval's "Le voyage en Orient". The libretto was written by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. Pierre-Louis Dietsch was the conductor. Bernardine Hamaekers played the role of Bénoni and Pauline Guéymard-Lauters played queen Balkis. Louis Guéymard was Adoniram and Mécène Marié de l'Isle was Phanor. [Nerval, Gérard de]
27/4/1867Premiere of Gounod's opera "Roméo et Juliette" at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris. Marie Caroline Miolan-Carvalho played Juliette and Pierre-Jules Michot was Roméo. Adolphe Deloffre was the conductor and the libretto was written by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. Joséphine Daram was Romeo's page. Eléonore Ragaine-Duclos was Juliet's nurse Gertrude. [Carvalho-Miolan, Caroline]
5/4/1877Premiere of Gounod's opera "Cinq-Mars" at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. The role of Henri Coiffier de Ruzé, Marquis of Cinq-Mars, was played by Etienne Dereims. The opera was performed a few times and was rarely seen after that. The librettto was written by Paul Poirson and Louis Gallet and it was a loose adaption of Alfred de Vigny's historical novel of the same name. [Vigny, Alfred Victor, Comte de]
22/10/1883Gounod's "Faust" is performed as the first opera ever at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The theatre was inaugurated with this opera. Singers were Sofia Scalchi, Christina Nilsson, Italo Campanini and Franco Novara. Auguste Vianesi was the conductor. [Campanini, Italo]
2/4/1884Premiere of the revised version of Gounod's "Sapho" at the Opéra in Paris. Gounod had rewritten the piece and increased the number of acts from three to four. He conducted the performance himself. Gabrielle Krauss sang the role of Sapho. Étienne Dereims was Phaon, Alphonsine Richard (Renée Richard) was Glycère. 


The grave of Charles Gounod at the Auteuil Cemetery, Paris.
Picture by Androom (04 Nov 2016)


The grave of Charles Gounod at the Auteuil Cemetery, Paris.
Picture by Androom (04 Nov 2016)


Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2004
Encyclopedie van de Muziek, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1959
Charles Gounod - Wikipedia
Cinq-Mars (opera) - Wikipedia
Faust (opera) - Wikipedia
La nonne sanglante - Wikipedia
La reine de Saba - Wikipedia
Roméo et Juliette - Wikipedia
Sapho (Gounod) - Wikipedia
Sofia Scalchi - Wikipedia
Sapho (Gounod) — Wikipédia

Gozlan, Léon

Published: 25 Nov 2016
Last update: 11 Nov 2022