Charpentier, Gustave


One of the youngest and not the least gifted of the modern French composers was born at Dieuze, in Lorraine, and first studied at a school in Tourcoing, where his parents moved after the Franco-German war. He also studied at Lille and, in 1881, entered the Paris Conservatory, where he became a pupil of Massenet on the violin and studied harmony under Pessard. While at the Conservatory he won the Prize of Rome and during his residence in the Eternal City, wrote the orchestral suite, Impressions de Italic, consisting offivetonepictures, entitled At the Fountain, Serenade, Naples, On Mule-Back, and On the Summits. He lived at Montmartre for some time after his return to Paris, and did daily labor, and the scenes of the life of the artisan enter much into his music and tend to give it much of its individuality. His first work on the life of the people was La Vie du Poete, or the Life of a Poet, which was a symphonic drama set to words of his own. About this time he also wrote another symphony, which was performed at the Montmartre Festival in 1897, and reached the operatic stage the next year. Louise, his chief work, brought him fame and fortune, and shows great dramatic skill. In it he depicts the modest home of the French working man, and deals with episodes in the life of a young working girl. It was first produced at the Opera Comique, in 1900, and the Parisians became most enthusiastic over it. It is among the operatic novelties which Oscar Hammerstein brought to America, for the season of 1907, at the Manhattan Opera House, New York. Didon, a scene lyrique, with which Charpentier won the Prize of Rome, in 1887, was first performed at the Institut and afterwards at a Colonne concert at Brussels, and since then has been heard in many cities on the Continent. Charpentier wrote the libretto as well as the music for it. His other works are Fleurs du Mai, set to the poems of Baudelaire; an orchestral suite; a Serenade a Watteau, performed at the Luxenbourg Gardens; Ophee; Tete rouge; La Couronnement de la Muse; Impressions fausses, for voices and orchestra, and many others.