A CHRONOLOGICAL VIEW OF WESTERN MUSIC HISTORY IN THE CONTEXT OF WORLD EVENTS
May 30, 1839: Charles Gounod (20) is awarded the Prix de Rome for his cantata Fernand.
December 5, 1839: Charles Gounod (21) leaves Paris for Rome for his Prix de Rome year.
January 27, 1840: Charles Gounod (21) arrives in Rome for his Prix de Rome year.
November 2, 1842: Charles Gounod’s (24) Messe de Requiem is performed for the first time, in Vienna.
May 15, 1843: Charles Gounod (24) leaves the Hensels in Berlin with a letter of introduction to Felix Mendelssohn (34) in Leipzig.
May 17, 1843: At the request of Charles Gounod (24), Felix Mendelssohn (34) performs works of JS Bach (†92) upon the organ in the Thomaskirche, Leipzig for Gounod and other invited guests. Mendelssohn plays for two hours. Gounod will recall, “Great shivers ran down my spine, and every time I think of it I seem to feel those shivers again.” (Little, 70)
April 1, 1850: Charles Gounod (31) signs his first contract to produce an opera, with librettist Emile Augier and Nestor Roquplan, director of the Paris Opéra. It will be Sapho. See 16 April 1851.
April 16, 1851: Sapho, an opéra by Charles Gounod (32) to words of Augier, is performed for the first time, at the Paris Opéra with Pauline Viardot (29) in the leading role. The audience is generally pleased, but it will be a financial failure.
January 9, 1852: Incidental music to Molière’s play Le bourgeois gentilhomme by Charles Gounod (33) is performed for the first time, in the Théâtre-Français, Paris.
April 20, 1852: Charles Gounod (33) marries Anna Zimmerman, daughter of Pierre-Joseph Zimmerman, a retired professor of piano at the Paris Conservatoire, at a church in Auteuil.
May 30, 1852: Charles Gounod (33) is appointed director general of vocal instruction for the Paris public schools. He is also named director of Orphéon, an organization of choral societies intended for the middle and lower classes.
June 18, 1852: Incidental music to Ponsard’s play Ulysse by Charles Gounod is performed for the first time, at the Comédie-Française, Paris, on the composer’s 34th birthday.
April 10, 1853: Meditation sur le Ier prélude de Bach (Ave Maria) by Charles Gounod (34) is performed for the first time. The composer-arranger calls it a “mischievous prank.”
June 12, 1853: Messe des orphéonistes by Charles Gounod (34) is performed for the first time, in the Church of Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois.
December 18, 1853: Symphony no.1 by Camille Saint-Saëns (18) is performed for the first time, anonymously in Paris. The composer sits behind Charles Gounod (35) and Hector Berlioz (50) and listens as they discuss the work in glowing terms. After learning the identity of the composer, Gounod will send him a letter saying in part, “...and remember that on Sunday, 18th December 1853, you contracted the obligation of becoming a great master.”
October 18, 1854: La nonne sanglante, an opéra by Charles Gounod (36) to words of Scribe and Delavigne after Lewis, is performed for the first time, at the Paris Opéra. It will ultimately fail.
February 4, 1855: Symphony no.1 by Charles Gounod (36) is performed for the first time, in Paris.
November 29, 1855: Messe Solennelle de Sainte Cécile for soloists, chorus, orchestra and organ by Charles Gounod (37) is performed for the first time, in the Church of Saint-Eustache, Paris to critical acclaim.
January 6, 1856: Charles Gounod (37) is named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
December 29, 1856: A jury of eleven, including Daniel Auber (74), Ambroise Thomas (45), and Charles Gounod (38), announces the first prize in a composition competition sponsored by Jacques Offenbach (37) and the Bouffes-Parisiens. The prize will be shared by Georges Bizet (18) and Charles Lecocq. See 9 April 1857.
January 15, 1858: Le médecin malgré lui, an opéra comique by Charles Gounod (39) to words of Barbier and Carré after Moliére, is performed for the first time, at the Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris in celebration of Moliére’s birthday. “My work was very well received,” the composer writes to Georges Bizet (19).
March 19, 1859: Faust, an opéra dialogué by Charles Gounod (40) to words of Barbier and Carré after Goethe, is performed for the first time, at the Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris. Among the onlookers are Hector Berlioz (55), Daniel Auber (77), and Eugène Delacroix. The timpanist is a Conservatoire student named Jules Massenet (16). The critics are undecided, but it does establish Gounod’s reputation.
January 25, 1860: Richard Wagner (46) conducts the first of three concerts of his music in Paris. Attending today at the Théâtre-Italien are Daniel Auber (77), Hector Berlioz (56), Valentin Alkan (46), Charles Gounod (41) and Pauline Viardot (38). The audience is enthusiastic but the press is merciless. Heard tonight for the first time is the Prelude to Tristan und Isolde with the concert ending composed by Wagner. Alkan leaves at intermission, later saying “Wagner is not music; it’s a sickness.” Viardot writes, "Wagner has just given a concert which exasperated three quarters of the audience and delighted the rest. Personally, I found a lot of it painful, even though I admired the vehemence of his musical feelings in certain instances. But the diminished sevenths, the discords and the crude modulations made me feverish, and I have to say that I find this sort of music loathsome and revolting." (Kendall-Davies I, 413-414) See 12 March 1859.
February 18, 1860: Philémon et Baucis, an opéra by Charles Gounod (41) to words of Barbier and Carré after de la Fontaine, is performed for the first time, in the Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris.
August 3, 1860: La colombe, an opéra comique by Charles Gounod (42) to words of Barbier and Carré after La Fontaine, is performed for the first time, in the Stadttheater, Baden-Baden.
February 28, 1862: La reine de Saba, an opéra by Charles Gounod (43) to words of Barbier and Carré after Nerval, is performed for the first time, at the Paris Opéra before the Emperor and Empress. Initially successful with the audience, the work is attacked by the critics.
March 19, 1864: Mireille, an opéra dialogué by Charles Gounod (45) to words of Carré after Mistral, is performed for the first time, at the Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris. The first act is well received but the rest is a disaster. Hector Berlioz (60) is there but leaves before the fifth act (which begins after 24:30).
January 21, 1865: Les deux reines de France, a play by Ernest Legouvé with incidental music by Charles Gounod (46), is forbidden to be staged in France by the censors because of the current conflict between Emperor Napoléon III and Pope Pius IX. See 27 November 1872.
April 27, 1867: Roméo et Juliette, an opéra by Charles Gounod (48) to words of Barbier and Carré after Shakespeare, is performed for the first time, at the Théâtre-Lyrique, Paris. The work is a resounding success despite a state ball on the same evening.
March 11, 1869: The funeral in memory of Hector Berlioz takes place at L’Église de la Trinité, Paris. The procession to the church is led by Adolphe Sax who directs the National Guard band in Berlioz’ Symphonie funèbre. Illustrious attenders include Daniel Auber (87), Ambroise Thomas (57), and Charles Gounod (50). The music features works of Christoph Willibald Gluck (†81),Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (†77), Ludwig van Beethoven (†41), Luigi Cherubini (†26), and the Hostias from Berlioz’ own Requiem. The mortal remains of Louis-Hector Berlioz are laid to rest in Montmartre next to those of his two wives, Harriet Smithson and Marie Recio.
August 8, 1870: A la frontière, a cantata by Charles Gounod (52) to words of Frey, is performed for the first time, at the Paris Opéra.
September 13, 1870: Charles Gounod (52) and his family cross the English Channel, fleeing the war. They will stay with friends outside London.
February 26, 1871: At the home of Sir Julius Benedict in London, Charles Gounod (52) meets the violinist Mrs. Georgina Weldon for the first time.
March 8, 1871: There is a Green Hill Far Away, a sacred song by Charles Gounod (52) to words of Alexander, is performed for the first time, in London.
May 1, 1871: In the first important musical evening in Royal Albert Hall, Gallia: lamentation, a motet for soprano, chorus, orchestra, and organ by Charles Gounod (52) to his own words, is performed for the first time, for the opening of the London International Exhibition. Also on the program is the premiere of On Shore and Sea, a cantata by Arthur Sullivan (28) to words of Taylor. Both composers conduct their own works.
May 21, 1871: Mme Charles Gounod leaves her husband (52) in London because of his liaison with Georgina Weldon. Mme Gounod and their son return to France.
June 19, 1871: Charles Gounod (53) moves into Tavistock House, Georgina Weldon’s home in London.
October 29, 1871: The French premiere of Charles Gounod’s (53) Gallia takes place at the Paris Conservatory. Among the performers is the composer’s lover, Georgina Weldon.
January 10, 1872: The Praise of Music for double chorus by Samuel Sebastian Wesley (61) to words of Oliphant, is performed for the first time, in Royal Albert Hall, London. It was composed at the request of the conductor, Charles Gounod (53).
May 8, 1872: Charles Gounod (53) conducts the first of four choral concerts in Royal Albert Hall. Critics do not like him or his music or the fact that he is not English and does not program English music.
November 27, 1872: Incidental music to Legouvé’s play Les deux reines by Charles Gounod (54) is performed for the first time, in the Théâtre-Ventadour, Paris.
November 8, 1873: Incidental music to Barbier’s play Jeanne d’Arc by Charles Gounod (55) is performed for the first time, at the Théâtre de la Gaîté, Paris. The critical response is somewhat tepid.
June 8, 1874: Charles Gounod (55) and Georgina Weldon, after a stormy love affair of over three years, see each other for the last time, at Charing Cross Railroad Station. They will correspond, sometimes bitterly, sometimes accusingly, for many years to come.
March 3, 1875: Carmen, an opéra comique by Georges Bizet (36) to words of Meilhac and Halévy after Mérimée, is performed for the first time, at the Théâtre Favart, Paris. Present are Ambroise Thomas (63), Charles Gounod (56), Léo Delibes (39), Jacques Offenbach (55), Jules Massenet (32) and Vincent d’Indy (23). The work is not a success but will produce a good reception on the second night. Reviews are mixed. Carmen will enjoy 48 performances but the hall will never be filled.
March 21, 1875: Impressed with Eve, three days ago, Charles Gounod (56) writes to Jules Massenet (32), “Prepare yourself for the martyr’s role: it is given to those who descend from on high and disturb those who mount from below. Never bemoan your fate, and do not be sad. Remember that when God said, ‘This one is a chosen vessel’ he added, ‘and I will show him how he must suffer in my name.’” (Massenet, 47)
June 5, 1875: A funeral for the remains of Georges Bizet is held at the Montmartre church of La Trinité attended by 4,000 people. Among the pallbearers are Ambroise Thomas (63) and Charles Gounod (56). The earthly remains of the composer are laid to rest in the Cimetière Père-Lachaise.
February 23, 1877: Le timbre d’argent, a drame lyrique by Camille Saint-Saëns (41) to words of Barbier and Carré, is performed for the first time, at the Théâtre National-Lyrique, Paris. It is moderately successful and receives 18 performances. Charles Gounod (58) is in the audience and is very impressed.
April 5, 1877: Cinq Mars, an opéra dialogué by Charles Gounod (58) to words of Poirson and Gallet after de Vigny, is performed for the first time, at the Salle Favart, Paris. The work proves a success.
August 4, 1877: Charles Gounod (59) is named a Commander of the Legion of Honor.
October 7, 1878: Polyeucte, an opéra by Charles Gounod (60) to words of Barbier and Carré after Corneille, is performed for the first time, at the Paris Opéra. The work is not successful.
April 1, 1881: Le tribut de Zamora, an opéra by Charles Gounod (62) to words of d’Ennery and Brésil, is performed for the first time, at the Paris Opéra, conducted by the composer. The work is a success with the audience which includes President Jules Grévy.
August 30, 1882: La rédemption, a sacred trilogy for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra by Charles Gounod (64) to his own words, is performed for the first time, by 500 musicians at the Birmingham Festival, conducted by the composer.
September 8, 1882: Nadezhda von Meck writes to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (42) from her country home at Pleshcheyvo near Podolsk, “Yesterday, to my great joy, Achille Debussy (20) arrived. Now I shall gorge myself listening to music, and he’ll bring the whole house to life. He’s a Parisian to his fingertips, a real gamin de Paris, as witty as they come and a brilliant mimic. He takes Gounod (64) and Ambroise Thomas (71) off perfectly, he makes you die laughing.”
October 22, 1883: The Metropolitan Opera House opens in New York with a production of Faust by Charles Gounod (65). This is the first permanent opera company in the United States.
May 10, 1885: An English court rules in favor of Georgina Weldon in her libel suit against Charles Gounod (66). He is currently in France and she can not collect, but she retains the right to have him arrested should he set foot in England.
August 26, 1885: Mors et Vita, an oratorio by Charles Gounod (67) to his own words, is performed for the first time, in Birmingham. The work proves a great success but the composer is unable to attend. Should he set foot in England, he would be arrested for debts he owes Georgina Weldon. She won a judgment against Gounod of over £11,000 for secretarial work, room, and board and damages for libels he spoke since their breakup.
July 24, 1887: Mass in memory of Jeanne d’Arc by Charles Gounod (69) is performed for the first time, in Rheims, conducted by the composer. The work celebrates the anniversary of Joan’s entry into Reims to crown Charles VII.
March 17, 1893: Les drames sacrés, incidental music to eleven tableaux of Silvestre and Morand by Charles Gounod (74), is performed for the first time at the Vaudeville, Paris.
October 15, 1893: Charles Gounod (75) collapses into a coma in his home at St. Cloud, just west of Paris.
October 27, 1893: After a state funeral in the Church of the Madeleine, where the organ is played by Gabriel Fauré (48) the earthly remains of Charles Gounod are laid to rest in the family vault in Auteuil Cemetery.
April 30, 1894: Erik Satie (27) applies for the second time to the Institut de France, this time to fill the vacancy left by the death of Charles Gounod (†0). See 17 May 1894.
May 17, 1894: Having been ignored by the jury choosing a successor to Charles Gounod (†0) for the Academy of Fine Arts of the Institut de France, Erik Satie, on his 28th birthday, fires off a letter to Le Ménestrel addressed to Camille Saint-Saëns (58), the jury president. “Your aberration can only be due to your refusal to accept the ideas of the Century and to your ignorance of God, which is the direct cause of Esthetic decline. I forgive you in Jesus Christ and embrace you in the grace of God.”
May 18, 1894: An election to fill the place of Charles Gounod (†0) in the Académie des Beaux Arts takes place in Paris. It is won by Théodore Dubois, who receives 20 votes. Gabriel Fauré (49) receives four votes.
December 24, 1921: A funeral mass is celebrated in the Madeleine, Paris to the memory of Camille Saint-Saëns. Two battalions of soldiers are called out to hold back the crowds. The Archbishop of Paris officiates and the music is by Charles Gounod (†28), Gabriel Fauré (76), and Saint-Saëns. The body is transported to Montparnasse Cemetery where, after orations, it is laid to rest.
June 5, 1937: The British Broadcasting Corporation televises opera for the first time. The third act of Faust, by Charles Gounod (†43) is transmitted to a receiver in the company’s London studio.
1904:Russo-Japanese War: Japanese forces begin a general assault on the Russian base at Port Arthur (Lüshun).
Having traveled from Port Arthur all the way around Japan making for Vladivostok, the Russian cruiser Novik is set upon by two Japanese ships in La Perousse Strait between Sakhalin and Hokkaido. After seriously damaging one of the Japanese ships, the Russian captain is forced to beach his vessel.