Comédie lyrique in three acts and seven tableaux Jules Massenet (1842 – 1912)

French libretto by Louis Gallet, based on the novel Thaïs by Anatole France.

16th March 1894, Paris (Opéra Garnier)

Conductor: Stephen Higgins
with Sally Silver in the title role.

One of Massenet’s most popular operas, Thaïs was first performed in1894, two years after Werther.  Set in Alexandria in the 4th century AD, it tells the story of Thaïs, a courtesan, and Athanaël, a monk who converts her to the Christian faith but cannot prevent himself from becoming enslaved by her beauty.

The Meditation, the violin solo which depicts Thaïs’s awakening faith, is one of the most famous of operatic excerpts, but the whole score shows Massenet at his best.  The arias for Thaïs are brilliant and seductive and the confrontations between Thaïs and Athanaël have music of great beauty and emotional power.

© Simon Bainbridge

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