Charles Gounod's life
Charles Gonoud was born in Paris in 1818 into a family of artists. His widowed mother teaches piano to support her children and soon understands young Charles’ musical character. During his study years, Charles attends with his mother the performances of Rossini’s Othello and Mozart’s Don Giovanni, operas which inspire him to the point of desiring to become a composer. He spends years in Rome, Vienna and Leipzig, where he is fascinated by other forms of art such as theatre and drawing. It is an extremely prolific time for Gonoud: he composes a Agnus Dei for 3 voices and choir and melodies on Lamartine’s poems, showing a very personal style; he is in fact described as an “unpredictable composer” by Hector Berlioz. Gonoud meets other composers who will be deeply inspirational, amongst others, Felix Mendelssohn. After he conducts his own Requiem, he goes back to his country where is taken by a deep spiritual crisis. He finds comfort in religion and in the liturgical musical form; he commits to sacred operas among which the popular Ave Maria and the Pontifical Anthem and March , chosen in 1949 as anthem for Vatican City.
Sapho (1851) La nonne sanglante (1854), Le médecin malgré lui (1858), Faust (1859, revised 1869), Philémon et Baucis ( 1860), La colombe (1860), La reine de Saba (1862), Mireille (1864), Roméo et Juliette (1867), Cinq-Mars (1877), Polyeucte (1878), Le tribut de Zamora (1881), Maître Pierre ( incomplete , 1877–84).
Gounod's Roméo et Juliette
Roméo et Juliette, was first put on stage on 27 April 1867 at Théâtre Lyrique in Paris and later on, was revised a few times by Charles Gonoud. It is a clear example of French “grand-opéra”: five acts with long crowded scenes and the guaranteed dances. Gonoud's rich and genuine musical creativity perfectly combines with a skillful and moving orchestration. Many are the passages which remain in our memory, starting from Roméo's aria «Ah lève toi soleil» (the popular Alfredo Kraus made this role his forte) to Juliette's waltz «Je veux vivre» a common test bench for every virtuoso, up until the “poison aria”, «Amour, ranime mon courage», where you need the real vocal essence of a soprano.