Charles Gounod

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gounod, Charles


Born June 17, 1818, in Paris; died Oct. 18, 1893, in St. Cloud, a suburb of Paris. French composer. Member of the Institut de France (1866).

Gounod’s father was an artist, and his mother taught music. He took lessons in music theory from A. Reicha. During 1836–38 he studied counterpoint and fugues with J. F. Halévy and composition with J. F. Lesueur and F. Paer at the Paris Conservatory. In 1839 he won the Grand Prix de Rome for the cantata Fernand. This gave him the opportunity to spend three years in Italy and some time in Germany. Beginning in 1845, Gounod held the post of organist and later choirmaster at one of the churches in Paris for several years. From 1852 to 1860 he was the director of the Parisian choral society Orphéon. Between 1870 and 1875 he lived in London, where he founded the Gounod Choir (now the Royal Choral Society).

Gounod is the most outstanding representative of the French school of lyric opera. His masterpiece is the opera Faust, based on the tragedy by Goethe. (It was first staged at the Théâtre-Lyrique in 1859, and it was performed in 1869 at the Grand Opera Theater with recitatives instead of spoken dialogues and with the ballet scene “Walpurgis Night.”) Gounod’s Faust has won worldwide recognition. His best operas are distinguished by their realistic depiction of the feelings and experiences of the protagonists and by a subtle psychological revelation of their spiritual world. The lyric opera created by Gounod is characterized by sincerity and heartfelt simplicity of melodies, which are saturated with phrases from urban folk song and dance, as well as by dynamic contrasts in the dramatic writing, realistic depiction of scenes from everyday life, and exquisite harmony and instrumentation.

Gounod wrote 14 operas, two of which remained unfinished. Among them are Sapho (1850), Le Médecin malgré lui (1857), Philāmon et Baucis (1859), La Reine de Saba (1861), and Romeo and Juliet (1865). He also wrote cantatas, including Gallia. Gounod wrote music for several plays, including Molière’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, Pon-sard’s Ulysses, and Barbier’s Jeanne d’Arc, and he composed many religious pieces, especially masses and requiems. He was the composer of orchestral works, including two symphonies, and art songs, songs, and piano pieces.

Gounod’s work had an appreciable influence on many French composers, including Bizet, Massenet, and Delibes. He also wrote on musical subjects.


“Ascanio” de Saint-Saëns. Paris, 1890.
Le “Don Juan” de Mozart. Paris, 1890.
Mémoires d’un artiste, 3rd ed. Paris, 1896. In Russian translation: Zapiski artista. St. Petersburg [1904]. Vospominaniia artista. Moscow, 1962.


Frantsuzskaia muzyka vtoroi poloviny XIX veka: Sb. perevodnykh rabot. Edited by M. S. Druskin. Moscow, 1938.
Prod’homme, J. G., and A. Dandelot. Gounod (1818–1893), vols.1–2. Paris, 1911.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
One does not need to review the works of Charles Gounod to very great extent before discovering that above all things he was an idealist.
' Romeo & Juliet by Charles Gounod' will be staged at Kamani Auditorium, Copernicus Marg on March 21 at 7 pm and March 22 at 4 pm.
Dressed in a beautiful green gown at the beginning of the show, a radiant Yunus took the stage to deliver a stirring interpretation of the song "Je Veux Vivre" ("I Want to Live"), from the waltz of Charles Gounod's opera "Romeo and Juliet."
Demain sera diffuse le fameux "Faust" du compositeur francais Charles Gounod, base sur la legende du meme nom et la piece de Goethe, creee au Theatre lyrique le 19 mars 1859.
Given that at least two works from France, Charles Gounod's Faust and Georges Bizet's Carmen, have been among the most popular operas of all time--and that, furthermore, not even the shortest history of music could decently omit such masterpieces as Camille Saint-Saens's Samson et Dalila, Claude Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande, and Jules Massenet's Manon--one might think that the genus would have attracted vast secondary literature.
Kyra Koh, a classically trained coloratura soprano and a member of the Loudoun Lyric Opera, presented a program of opera selections, including Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro and Charles Gounod's Romeo and Juliette.
Flynn presents an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources related to the life and music of French composer Charles Gounod (1818-1893).
BECAUSE CHARLES GOUNOD'S REPUTATION WANED DRASTICALLY in the second half of the nineteenth century, he has been thought by some--if he was thought of at all--to be a composer of mediocrity and qualified competence.
On the opening night, Charles Gounod's Faust was performed by the Italian Opera Company.
Expert translator Mary Dibbern presents Faust/Romeo Et Juliette: A Performance Guide, an in-depth translation of two of Charles Gounod's great nineteenth-century operas, which were in turn based on the classic parables of "Faust" by Goethe and "Romeo and Juliet" by Shakespeare.
Despite early affinity for scribbling and drawing, his fine singing voice was noticed first, and he studied under composer Charles Gounod, who encouraged a music career for him.
Music by Charles Gounod, with orchestral adaptations by Juan Pinera.