Charles GOUNOD
17 June 1818 - 18 October 1893 (age 75)

Charles Gounod was one of the most notable French composers of the 19th century. His opera 'Faust' was used for the opening of New York's Metropolitan Opera House in 1883.
His 'Funeral March of a Marionette' is better known as the theme tune of the 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents' TV programs.



Travels and career



More French composers here

portrait of Charles Gounod


Born: Paris, 17 June 1818
Father: Francois-Louis Gounod, art teacher and architect, died when he was 5
Mother: Victoire Lemachois, taught him the piano
Siblings: one brother, Urbain - architect
Wife: Anna
Children: 2, Jean, painter and musician, and Jeanne
Died: suffered a stroke at St.Cloud, France. 18 October 1893
Grave: Cimetiere d'Auteuil, Paris see findagrave

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Deeply religious, at one point he thought he had a vocation to the priesthood. Emotional and sentimental. A weakness for women. Delicate artistic temperament.

Faust - Soldiers' Chorus


- 2 Symphonies
- Petite Symphonie (for 10 wind instruments)

12 Operas best known of which are
- Faust
- Romeo and Juliet

Church Music
- Solemn Mass of St Cecilia
- 16 other masses
- Ave Maria (derived from a Bach Prelude)
- oratorios, songs, hymns
- organ music


Funeral March for a Marionette (trailer)

If you like it watch the full version ( 6min 21sec)

This was also the theme tune of the 'Hitchcock Presents' TV series

Travels and career

  • Age 5 - Father died leaving his mother to oversee his education. She begins teaching him the piano.
  • Age 13 - His mother took him to see Rossini's 'Otello' and later to see a performance of Mozart's 'Don Juan'. These had a profound influence on him as did performances of Beethoven's symphonies.
  • Age 21 - Won the Prix de Roma with his cantata 'Fernand'.
  • Age 21- 23 Lived in Rome at the Villa Medici. Studied Palestrina and music of the 16th century
  • Age 24 - 9 months in Vienna where he studied Bach and counterpoint.
  • Age 25-30 - Returned to Paris. Appointed musical director of the Church of Foreign Missions.
    During this period he thought he might have a vocation for the priesthood and studied theology. He also started wearing clerical robes and even signed himself Abbé Gounod.
  • Age 30 - Decides that operatic theatre is the way to go: "For a composer, there is but one road to follow in order to make a name, and that is the theatre [the operatic stage]."
  • Age 32 - Urbain, his elder brother, dies.
  • Age 34 - Marries Anna Zimmerman.
  • Age 37 - publishes 2 symphonies
  • Age 38 - son Jean born.
  • Age 40 - his mother dies .
  • Age 41 - 'Faust' his best known opera debuts in Paris.
  • Age 45 - daughter Jeanne born
  • Age 49 - Opera 'Romeo et Juliette' premieres in Paris, followed by London.
  • Age 52 - Owing to the Franco-Prussian war and the Siege of Paris he moves to London with his family. The following year his wife, mother and children return to France.
  • Age 52-56 - Lived in London. Became the first conductor of the Royal Choral Society soon after the opeing of the Royal Albert Hall.
  • Age 59 - made Commander of the Legion of Honour.
  • Age 75 - Wrote a Requiem Mass for his grandson and died while making finishing touches.

Gounod in Art
A fascinating collection of images - art, portraits, caricatures, cartoons, album covers and postage stamps.

Bobby McFerrin - the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria

Romeo et Juliette 
performance in the Arena, Verona

Petite Symphonie for wind instruments: II Andante cantabile

Gounod signature


" God created three beautiful things: music, flowers and women, It is them I always sang."

"Musical ideas sprang to my mind like a flight of butterflies, and all I had to do was to stretch out my hand to catch them."

“I fight against the void. I think I've written something acceptable, and then, when I look at it again, I find it execrable.”


Links - Where to go for more information

Click the above banner to go to an excellent site run by his great-great grandson Francois Davin.

- Answers.com - an aggregate of reference sites

- The Catholic Encylcopedia

- French composers here at 52composers.com

Back to 52composers HOME page

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