Charles Gounod was a French composer who was born in Paris in 1818 and studied at the Paris Conservatoire. His works for the stage brought French opera to new heights and had indelible influence on the succeeding generation of French composers, including Bizet, Faure and especially Massenet. As a young man, he considered joining the priesthood and his fervent spiritual life is evident in his supple 1885 work Messe solennelle de Ste Cecile. His small operas remain his most widely-performed, including three works written between 1858 and 1860, Le medecin malgre lui, Faust and Philemon et Baucis, as well as the hugely successful Romeo et Juliette. In 1870, Gounod took refuge in England from the Franco-Prussian War, composing for chorus to satisfy British audiences and serving as the founding conductor of the Royal Albert Hall Choral Society. But he experienced considerable intrigue in his private life, including an allegation of plagiarism, effectively marking the end of his life fruitfulness as a composer. He died in 1893.