Émile Paladilhe was born in Montpellier. He was a musical child prodigy, and moved from his home in the south of France to Paris to begin his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris at age 10. He became an accomplished pianist, and was the youngest winner of the Prix de Rome, three years after Bizet, in 1860. For a time Galli-Marié was his lover, and she helped create some of his works. Paladilhe married the daughter of the librettist Ernest Legouvé. He formed a friendship with the elderly Charles Gounod.
He wrote a number of compositions for the stage, a symphony, over a hundred mélodies, piano works, and a wide range of sacred music, including cantatas, motets, masses, chorales, and a noted oratorio, Les Saintes-Marie de la mer.
His opera Patrie! of 1886 was his greatest success, and was one of the last grand operas to premiere at the Paris Opéra. It was a piece d'occasion, created for a gala in honour of the French colony in Monaco, but had a Flemish-nationalist theme. The librettists were Victorien Sardou and Louis Gallet
- La fiancée d'Abydos, 1864–66, fragments
- Le passant, opéra-comique in one act, (F. Coppée), f.p. Opéra-Comique, 24 April 1872
- L'amour africain, opéra-comique in two act, (E. Le Gouvé), f.p. Opéra-Comique, 8 May 1875
- Suzanne, opéra-comique in 3 acts, (de Lockroy & Cormon), f.p. Opéra-Comique, 30 December 1878
- Diana, opéra-comique in 3 acts, (Regnier & Normand), f.p. Opéra-Comique, 23 February 1885
- Patrie!, drame lyrique in 5 acts, (Sardou & Gallet), f.p. L'Opéra de Paris, 16 décember 1886
- Vanina, opéra in 4 acts, (Legouvé & Gallet), composed 1890 (unperformed)
- Dalila, opéra in 3 acts, (Feuillet et Gallet), composed 1896 (unperformed)
- The Cambridge companion to grand opera David Charlton - 2003 p300 "The Flemish patriots Rysoor and Karloo seek to cast off the yoke of oppression. Karloo is the lover of Dolores, Rysoor's wife. ... Another difference between the two works is that whereas Paladilhe accords considerable musical weight to ...
- Le guide musical 54 1908 "La semaine dernière, nous avons eu, au Théâtre royal français, la première représentation de Patrie, grand-opéra en cinq actes, poème de Victorien Sardou et Gallet, musique de Paladilhe, qui fut exécuté pour la première fois au théâtre "