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Jules Massenet

May 12, 1842 - August 13, 1912
born in Montaud, Loire, France, composed during the Romantic period
Today Jules Massenet is best known for the operas Manon and Werther and the solo violin Méditation, from Thaïs. During his lifetime, however, Massenet was one of the most prolific and celebrated operatic composers on earth. The public anxiously awaited his output, and Massenet became both wealthy and famous practicing his craft. His legacy endures because of his ability to create music which portrays the intimacy of human relationships and the emotions and conflicts that arise from them. His gift for melody is reflected in a variety of arias that are among the most beautiful in the French operatic repertoire. He was also a brilliant orchestrator, a skill which allowed him to capture the moods and colors of a wide variety of places and eras. In addition to opera, Massenet composed songs, oratorios, ballets and orchestral works, as well as chamber music and works for solo piano.

Massenet was born in Montaud, France, to the family of a struggling metal worker. At the tender age of 10, he was admitted to the Paris Conservatory, where he studied with famed operatic composer Ambroise Thomas. In 1863, Massenet won the Prix de Rome, a prize which allowed him to travel and study in Italy. There the young man experienced the sounds and textures of the region and began to compose in earnest. While in Italy, Massenet met Liszt, who introduced him to his future wife, Mademoiselle Sainte-Marie.

Massenet's first opera, a one-act entitled La Grand' Tante (The Great Aunt), was produced (with only moderate success) at the Opéra-Comique in 1867. In 1877 Massenet's exotic opera Le Roi de Lahore (The King of Lahore) had a highly successful premiere at the Paris Opera, marking the beginning of his ascendancy as France's most prolific and celebrated operatic composer.

In 1878, his former teacher, Thomas, invited him to become a professor at the Paris Conservatory. Massenet achieved considerable success as a teacher, influencing an entire generation of French composers, including Gustav Charpentier and the song composer Reynaldo Hahn.

A highly prolific composer, Massenet worked continuously throughout his life, completing a great deal of music in addition to his 25 published operas. His approximately 250 songs often reflect the same melodic ingenuity and expressiveness that define his operatic works. Massenet composed several song cycles, including Poéme d'Avril (April Poem), which is often identified as the first French song cycle. Among the most famous of his solo songs are "Ouvre tes yeux bleus" (Open your blue eyes) and "Si tu veux, Mignonne" (If you wish it, sweetheart). The composer's First Orchestral Suite (originally entitled Symphony in F) premiered in 1867. This was the first of seven suites by Massenet, with programmatic subjects ranging from Alsace (Scènes alsaciennes, 1882) to Hungary (Scènes hongroises, 1871), and from Shakespeare (Scénes dramatiques, 1875) to Fairyland (Scènes de féerie, 1881). The most famous of his orchestral suites, Scénes pittoresques (Picturesque Scenes), was first performed in Paris during March of 1874. Massenet also composed several ballets, including La Cigale, Espada, and Les Rosati. In addition to Marie-Magdeleine, his oratorios include Ève (1875) and La Terre promise (The promised land, 1900). He wrote a considerable amount of incidental music for plays, including Sardou's Le Crocodile (1886) and Racine's Phèdre (1900). His only piano concerto was first performed in 1903 and receives occasional modern performances. ~ Robert Barefield, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Massenet - Thaïs / Fleming, Hampson, Sabbatini, Shkosa, Vidal, Devellereau, Cals, Yves Abel

Disc 1
Title: Thaïs, Lyric Comedy In 3 Acts
Disc 2
x

Track List: Massenet: Complete Works For Solo Piano, Piano Concerto & Complete Works For Piano Duet

Disc 1
Title: Piano Concerto In E Flat Major
Title: Pieces (2) For Piano
Title: Impromptus (2) For Piano
Title: Toccata For Piano In B Flat Major
Title: Musique Pour Bercer Les Petits Enfants, For Piano
Title: Pièces De Genre (10) For Piano, Op. 10
Title: Improvisations, Pieces (7) For Piano
Disc 2
Title: Valse Folle, For Piano
Title: Valse Très Lente, For Piano
Title: Devant La Madonne (Souvenir De La Campagne De Rome, Nuit De Noël, 1864), For Small Orchestra
Title: Année Passée, 4 Suites Of 3 Pieces Each For Piano, 4 Hands
Title: Dances (6) For Piano, 4 Hands
Title: Marches (3) For Piano, 4 Hands
Title: La Vierge, Sacred Legend In 4 Acts
Title: Pieces (3) For Piano, 4 Hands, Op. 11
Title: Berceuses (2) For Piano, 4 Hands
x

Track List: Massenet: Esclarmonde

Disc 1
Title: Esclarmonde, Opera In 4 Acts
Disc 2
Disc 3
x

Track List: Massenet: Werther

Disc 1
Title: Werther, Lyric Drama In 4 Acts
Disc 2

Comments

missyantonow i c z
love this song and the emotion put behind it
Love
Beautiful.
Thais. Wooooooow... . .....
I'm new to classical, I'm loving it
jeanninew30
Beautiful piece. Blissfully serene
u r a liar dontwanttobr o ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! LIAR!!!!!!!
Don't read this because it actually works. You will get kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the the best day of your life. However if you do not post this comment on at least 3 different songs you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in at least 143 minutes when if done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is scary cuz it actually works
I love Manon. Anna Netrebko did a fabulous job with it on Met HD broadcast a while back. Also love the Meditation - probably because I used to play violin! LOL.
evertgerrits e n
Renee Fleming has to be one the greatest sopranos of modern times. She sings each role with so much passion and can sing just about any role of any composer. I can listen to her all day.
This melody in Meditation speaks to me like the breathless, heart racing feeling in anticipation of one's beloved. Lilting, and yet dramatic. I adore this piece. I will want to consume more of Massenet's works for my listening pleasure.
krunk as hell fo sho
such beautiful melodies, what an extraordinar y intonation this resonates within me...
bema116
I love Saint Saens, but Massenet wrote so many more successful operas;
I really like Esclaremonde , Cendrillon, Roi de Lahore, Manon, Werther,
Thais. The others have lots of little good bits too
Saint-Saens blows Massenet out of the water.
this is really wonderful. no wonder he was so successful.
tbird.ring
Thais is breathtaking . . . e s p e c i a l l y at the Met with Renee Fleming...ab s o l u t e l y gorgeous
meditation de thais...best song ever

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