Jules Emile Frederic Massenet

(1842-1912)

Jules Emile Frederic Massenet (1842-1912)

Massenet was born in the Loire Valley and received his early musical education from his piano-teacher mother before studying at the Paris Conservatoire where his teachers included the composer Ambroise Thomas. In 1862 Massenet won the coveted Grand Prix de Rome (an award which his compatriots Berlioz and Ravel chased obsessively) for the cantata David Rizzio, but his real breakthrough came over a decade later with the dramatic oratorio Marie-Magdeleine.

A prolific and hugely diligent worker, Massenet focused primarily on vocal and choral music and compositions for the theatre, writing a huge number of mélodies and incidental music for more than a dozen plays. Of his two dozen operas, Manon (1884) and Werther (1892) remain repertoire staples in opera-houses through the world; his best-known composition, however, is the exquisite intermezzo or 'Méditation' for solo violin and orchestra from the opera Thaïs which showcases his ineffable gifts as a melodist.


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