Portal:France

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Flag Armoiries république française.svg
Map of France in the world and position of its largest single land territory in continental Europe.

France, officially the French Republic (In french : République française), 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 Western Europe (674,843 km² with its overseas départements). With a population of 67 million inhabitants, France is the second most populous country in Western Europe (after Germany) and the 20th largest in the world. Paris is the capital of France and the country's most populous city, with over 12 million people in its aire urbaine; Lyon is the second largest city with 2.2 million people (associated with Villeurbanne), and the third is Marseille with 1.7 million people.

The French Republic is a democracy which is organised as a unitary semi-presidential republic. It has the fifth-largest economy in the world in nominal terms. Its main ideals are expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. France is one of the founding members of the European Union, and has the largest land area of all members. France is also a founding member of the United Nations, and a member of the G7, G8, NATO, and the Latin Union. It is one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council wielding veto power, and it is also one of eight acknowledged nuclear powers. With almost 82 million foreign tourists each year, France is the most popular international tourist destination in the world.

French is the official national language, but each region has its own unique accent; additionally, there are several other languages of France traditionally spoken, although their use has greatly decreased over the past two centuries. French is also an official language in 41 countries, most of which form what is called la Francophonie, the community of French-speaking nations.

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From left to right: Giuseppe De Luca (Zurga), Frieda Hempel (Leila) and Enrico Caruso (Nadir), in the New York Met 1916 production
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.

Selected biography

Messiaen in 1930
Olivier Messiaen was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex (he was interested in rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources); harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations. Many of his compositions depict what he termed "the marvellous aspects of the faith", and drew on his deeply held Roman Catholicism.

Messiaen entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11 and was taught by Paul Dukas, Maurice Emmanuel, Charles-Marie Widor and Marcel Dupré, among others. He was appointed organist at the Église de la Sainte-Trinité in Paris in 1931, a post held until his death. He taught at the Schola Cantorum de Paris during the 1930s. On the fall of France in 1940, Messiaen was made a prisoner of war, during which time he composed his Quatuor pour la fin du temps ("Quartet for the end of time") for the four available instruments—piano, violin, cello and clarinet. He was appointed professor of harmony soon after his release in 1941, and professor of composition in 1966 at the Paris Conservatoire, positions he held until his retirement in 1978. His many distinguished pupils included Pierre Boulez and Yvonne Loriod, who became his second wife.

He found birdsong fascinating, believed birds to be the greatest musicians, and considered himself as much an ornithologist as a composer. He notated bird songs worldwide and incorporated birdsong transcriptions into most of his music. His innovative use of colour, his conception of the relationship between time and music, his use of birdsong and his desire to express religious ideas are among features that make Messiaen's music distinctive.

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Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy.
Photo credit: Jakob Voss

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The Montmartre funicular.

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Parent portals: Europe | European Union

Related portals: French literature | Lyon | Paris | Military history of France | Napoleonic Wars | New France | French language and French-speaking world

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