When I was a 10-year-old in 1963, the very first record I purchased on my own was a recording of the Peer Gynt Suite by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (1843-1907). It may come as a surprise to some but these days, more often than not, I listen to classical music while I work at my easel. Being a longtime devotee of the genre, I would like to share the following historical detail with readers. French composers Georges Bizet (1838-1875) and Ernest Guiraud (1837-1892) worked together on Bizet’s operatic masterpiece, Carmen, a favorite of mine. In an 1875 letter addressed to Guiraud, Bizet wrote about one of his emotive dreams:
“I dreamed last night that we were all at Naples, installed in a charming villa; we were living under a purely artistic government. The senate consisted of Beethoven, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Giorgione… e tutti quanti (“all of those”).
The National Guard was no more. In place of it there was a huge orchestra of which Litolff (Henry Charles Litolff, a piano virtuoso, composer, and music publisher) was the conductor. All suffrage was denied to idiots, humbugs, schemers, and ignoramuses; that is to say, suffrage was cut down to the smallest proportions imaginable. Geneviève (Geneviève Halévy, Bizet’s wife) was a little too amiable for Goethe (Germany’s great literary figure), but despite this trifling circumstance the awakening was terribly bitter.”
Yes, waking reality is rarely superior to our dream world, especially in these unsettling times. In part Bizet’s dream of “a purely artistic government” is shared by this author, and it is that vision that continues to enthuse and inspire my blog.