The Republic of France, more commonly known as France is a country whose metropolitan territory is located in Western Europe and that also comprises a collection of overseas islands and territories located in North America, the Caribbean, South America, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. France is the largest country in Europe (674,843 km² with its overseas départements). With a population of over 66 million inhabitants, France is the second most populous country in Western Europe (after Germany) and the 20th largest in the world. Paris is the most populous city in France with over 12 million people in its aire urbaine, Marseille is the second largest city with 1.7 million people, and the third is Lyon with just 1.6 million people, associated with Villeurbanne.
French is the official language of France, but each region has its own unique accent; in addition to French, there are several other languages of France traditionally spoken, although use of these languages has greatly decreased over the past two hundred years. French is also an official language in 41 countries, most of which form what is called in French la Francophonie, the community of French-speaking nations.
Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers) is an opera in three acts by the French composer Georges Bizet, to a libretto by Eugène Cormon and Michel Carré. It was first performed on 30 September 1863 at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris, and was given 18 performances in its initial run. Set in ancient times on the island of Ceylon, the opera is a story of how two men's vow of eternal friendship is threatened by their love for the same woman, whose own dilemma is the conflict between secular love and her sacred oath as a priestess. The friendship duet "Au fond du temple saint", generally known as "The Pearl Fishers Duet", is one of the best-known numbers in Western opera.
At the time of the premiere, Bizet was 25 years old and had yet to establish himself in the Parisian musical world. The commission to write Les pêcheurs arose from his standing as a former winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome. Despite a good reception by the public, press reactions to the work were generally hostile and dismissive, although other composers, notably Hector Berlioz, found considerable merit in the music. The opera was not revived in Bizet's lifetime, but from 1886 onwards it was performed with some regularity in Europe and America, and from the mid-20th century has entered the repertory of opera houses worldwide. Because the autograph score was lost, post-1886 productions were based on amended versions of the score that contained significant departures from the original. However, since the 1970s, efforts have been made to reconstruct the score in accordance with Bizet's intentions.
Fauré was born into a cultured but not particularly musical family. His talent became clear when he was a small boy. At the age of nine, he was sent to a music college in Paris, where he was trained to be a church organist and choirmaster. Among his teachers was Camille Saint-Saëns, who became a lifelong friend. After graduating from the college in 1865, Fauré earned a modest living as an organist and teacher, leaving him little time for composition. When he became successful in his middle age, holding the important posts of organist of the Église de la Madeleine and director of the Paris Conservatoire, he still lacked time for composing; he retreated to the countryside in the summer holidays to concentrate on composition. By his last years, Fauré was recognised in France as the leading French composer of his day. An unprecedented national musical tribute was held for him in Paris in 1922, headed by the president of the French Republic. Outside France, Fauré's music took decades to become widely accepted, except in Britain, where he had many admirers during his lifetime.