Jules Massenet, classical music composer

Jules Massenet

Biography

Though Jules Massanet is principally known today for only a handful of his works, during his lifetime he was France's leading composer of opera. Born in Montaud, France on May 12th, 1842, the son of a struggling metal work, Jules moved with his family to Paris when he was six years of age. His father suffered from ill-health and to provide the family with income his mother began teaching piano lessons. She also taught Jules and at the age of eleven he was admitted into the prestigious Paris Conservatory. As a student, he showed no particular promise as a rising star in France's music scene until he won the Prix de Rome in 1862 with his cantata David Rizzio. As a condition of winning the competition, Jules then spent three years in Rome, during which time he was introduced to Franz Liszt and his future wife, Louise-Constance de Gressy.

Massanet's first opera, La grand' tante, premiered in 1867 to only moderate success. However, through his former teacher, Ambroise Thomas, his publisher and the social connections of his wife, Massanet slowly garnered recognition and in 1873, the production of his oratorio Marie-Magdeleine won him the praise of Tchaikovsky, d'Indy and Gounod. His greatest operatic successes came in the following decades with Manon in 1884, Werther in 1892 and Thaïs in 1894. His music was dominated by beautiful melodies, particularly in his operatic arias, and sensitive and colorful orchestration.

In addition to his prolific operatic output, Massanet also composed suites, ballet music, oratorios, cantatas and over two hundred songs. Following his death on August 13th, 1912, Massanet's music went out of fashion and his operas fell nearly into total obscurity, with the only exceptions being Manon and Werther. In recent times, however, his music has gone through periodic revivals.


Composer Title Date Action
Jules Massenet Meditation from Tais 08/01/2010 Play Add to playlist
Jules Massenet Meditation from Tais 04/29/2009 Play Add to playlist
Jules Massenet Tu pleures! Ah! je sens une pure flamme..., from Manon, Act V 05/12/2014 Play Add to playlist