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Summary Article: Massenet, Jules Emile Frédéric
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

French composer of operas. His work is characterized by prominent roles for females, sincerity, and sentimentality. Notable works are Manon (1884), Le Cid (1885), and Thaïs (1894); among other works is the orchestral suite Scènes pittoresques (1874). He was professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory 1878–96.

His long and successful career included no fewer than 27 operas, mainly for the Paris Opéra and Opéra-Comique, and the Monte Carlo Opera. There have been revivals of some of his lesser-known works since the 1980s.

Massenet was born at Montaud, St Etienne, and entered the Paris Conservatory at the age of 11, studying composition with A Thomas and winning the Prix de Rome in 1863. On his return from Rome in 1866 he married a piano pupil and had his first opera, La Grand'tante, produced at the Opéra-Comique the next year. He achieved his first major success with the opera Le Roi de Lahore (1877), indulging a current taste for the exotic and oriental. Similar success came with Hérodiade (Brussels, 1881) but lasting fame came with Manon, premiered at Paris in 1884, in which Massenet indulged to the full the lifelong sympathy he felt for his central female characters. In Werther (1892), the lyrical impulse is balanced with a strong dramatic flair. Later operas such as Cendrillon, Grisélidis, Chérubin, and Don Quichotte have found recognition as a result of recent revivals.

WorksOperaDon César de Bazan (1872), Le Roi de Lahore (1877), Hérodiade (1881), Manon (after Prévost, 1884), Le Cid (after Corneille, 1885), Esclarmonde (1889), Le Mage, Werther (after Goethe, 1892), Le Portrait de Manon, La Navarraise (1894), Sapho (after Daudet), Cendrillon (1899), Grisélidis (1901), Le jongleur de Notre-Dame (1902), Thaïs (1894), (both after A France), Chérubin (1905), Ariane (1906), Thérèse (1907), Bacchus, Don Quichotte (after Cervantes, 1910), Roma, Panurge (after Rabelais), Cléopâtre (1914), Amadis (composed 1895; produced 1922).

BalletLe Carillon, La Cigale, Espada.

OratorioMarie-Magdeleine (1873), Eve (1875), La Vierge, La Terre promise (1900).

CantatasDavid Rizzio, Narcisse, Biblis.

Other 13 orchestral works including Scènes pittoresques (1874), Scènes napolitaines (1876), and three other similar suites, symphonic poem Visions; incidental music to Leconte de Lisle's Les Erynnies, Racine's Phèdre, and other plays; piano concerto, fantasy for cello and orchestra; about 200 songs; duets; choruses.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

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