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Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921). A child prodigy who could read, write and even play the piano by age three, Saint-Saëns composed his first symphony at the age of 16. His opera Samson et Dalila, which he completed in 1876, remains one of his most popular works today, although in his day the music was considered too progressive for conservative French ears, and for almost two decades it was only performed outside France—first in Weimar in 1877.