Charpentier, Gustave, famous French composer; b. Dieuze, Lorraine, June 25, 1860; d. Paris, Feb. 18, 1956. He studied at the Paris Cons. (1881–87), where he was a pupil of Massari (violin), Pessard (harmony), and Massenet (composition). He received the Grand Prix de Rome in 1887 with his cantata Didon. He evinced great interest in the social problems of the working classes, and in 1900 formed the society L’Oeuvre de Mimi Pinson, devoted to the welfare of the poor, which he reorganized during World War I as an auxiliary Red Cross society. His fame is owed to one amazingly successful opera, Louise, a “roman musical” to his own libretto (his mistress at the time was also named Louise, and like the heroine of his opera, was employed in a dressmaking shop), which was premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on Feb. 2, 1900. The score is written in the spirit of naturalism and includes such realistic touches as the street cries of Paris vendors. Its success was immediate, and it entered the repertoire of opera houses all over the world. Encouraged, Charpentier wrote a sequel under the title Julien (Paris, June 4, 1913), but it failed to arouse comparable interest.
A. Homonet, Louise (Paris, 1922); M. Delmas, G. C. et le lyrisme français (Paris, 1931).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire