Saint-Saëns, Camille

BORN 9 Oct 1835, Paris - DIED 16 Dec 1921, Algiers
BIRTH NAME Saint-Saens, Charles Camille
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Cimetière du Montparnasse, 3 Boulevard Edgar Quinet (division 13)

Camille Saint-Saëns was the son of Jacques-Joseph-Victor Saint-Saëns (1798-1835), who worked for the Ministry of the Interior. His father died of consumption shortly after his birth and he lived in Paris with his mother. He received piano lessons from Camille-Marie Stamaty when he was only seven years old and he debuted at the Salle Pleyel when he was ten years old. At school he was a brilliant student.

In 1848 he entered the Conservatory in Paris. In 1851 he won the top prize for organists and he started studying composition with Fromental Halévy. After he left the conservatory in 1853 he became organist at the Saint-Merri church in Paris. After he won a prize as a composer his career was supported by Rossini, Berlioz, Liszt and Pauline Viardot. In 1858 he became the organist of La Madeleine in Paris. He worked as a teacher at the Niedermeyer school, where Gabriel Fauré was his pupil.

During the Franco-Prussian War he served in the National Guard. During the Paris Commune he escaped to England. In 1871 he returned to France. In 1875 he married the nineteen year old Marie-Laure Truffot, the sister of one of his pupils.Their two sons died in infancy and hte marriage wasn't happy.

His opera "Samson and Delilah" premiered in Weimar on 2 December 1877 in a German translation, but it was only staged at the Paris Opera in 1892. In 1881 he suddenly left his wife and they never saw each other again. She returned to her family and lived until 1950.

During the 1880s he was popular in England, and he led a travelling existence, often visiting England and Germany, but also countries in Africa. From 1900 until his death in 1921 he lived in a flat in the rue de Courcelles in Paris. In 1913 he gave a farewell performance as a pianist, but because of the First World War he soon returned and gave many performances to raise money for charities. His recital in November 1921 sounded as good as ever but in December he died of a heart attack in Algiers.

He received a state funeral at La Madeleine and his widow Marie-Laure was among the mourners. He was buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery.

Related persons
• was published by Durand, Jacques
• was teacher of Fauré, Gabriel Urbain
• was teacher of Gigout, Eugène
• was pupil of Halévy, Fromental
• was a friend of Holmès, Augusta
• was teacher of Jaëll, Marie
• was teacher of Messager, André
• met Panthès, Marie
• was pupil of Stamaty, Camille-Marie

26/6/1870Premiere of Wagner's "Die Walküre" at the Hoftheater in Munich. Wagner wanted to stage it in 1871, but Ludwig II of Bavaria was the legal owner of the piece and didn't want to wait. Wüllner was the conductor and Joachim, Brahms, Saint-Saëns and Liszt were in the audience. Wagner wasn't there and Ludwig also stayed away. He had decided to wait for the second performance so that he would be able to see "Das Rheingold", that would be staged again during the summer, and "Die Walküre" in the right order. [Bausewein, Kaspar][Brahms, Johannes][Joachim, Joseph][Liszt, Franz][Possart-Deinet, Anna von][Vogl, Heinrich][Vogl, Therese][Wagner, Richard]
2/12/1877Premiere of "Samson et Dalila" by Saint-Saëns in Weimar. The opera was performed at the Grossherzogliches Theater in a German translation. The part of Dalila was written for Pauline Viardot but she was no longer able to sing it and it went to Auguste von Müller. The conductor was Eduard Lassen. [Milde, Hans Feodor von][Viardot-Garcia, Pauline]
8/2/1879Premiere of Saint-Saëns' opera "Étienne Marcel" at the Grand-Théâtre de Lyon. Reine Mézeray sang the part of Beatrice Marcel. 
14/3/1887Premiere of Saint-Saëns' drama "Proserpine" at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. the libretto was written by Louis Gallet. Cécile Simonnet created the part of Angiola. 


The grave of Charles Camille Saint-Saens at the Cimetière Montparnasse, Paris.
Picture by Androom (18 Feb 2016)


• Blunt, Wilfrid, The Dream King, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, 1973
Camille Saint-Saëns - Wikipedia
Samson and Delilah (opera) - Wikipedia
Étienne Marcel (opéra) — Wikipédia
Proserpine (Saint-Saëns) — Wikipédia

Sais, Tatjana

Published: 16 Jun 2017
Last update: 19 Apr 2022