Born on June 17th 1818 in Paris, French composer Charles Gounod remains best known even today for his work Ave Maria, based on a work by Bach, as well as his opera Faust. His opera Roméo et Juilette is still occasionally performed. It was under the pianistic tutelage of his mother that Gounod first showed his musical talents. He enrolled at the Paris Conservatory and studied under Fromental Halévy and Pierre Zimmermann. He won the Prix de Rome in 1839, following in the footsteps of his father who won the second prize for painting in 1783. During his time in Italy, he spent much time studying the works of Palestrina and other sixteenth century sacred vocal works. He had a brief period between 1846 and 1847 in which he considered joining the priesthood. He changed his mind shortly before taking holy orders and decided on composition as a career. Although he did write other operas, none of them saw commercial success until Faust in 1859 that, whilst taking some time to reach its most popular point, became one of the most frequently staged operas of all time. Some of his other operas are occasionally revived today, but most have fallen away from the common repertory. In the later parts of his life, Gounod returned to the work of his early period, writing more sacred music. He died in October 1893 of a stroke in Saint-Cloud shortly after putting the last details in to a requiem for his grandson.