Manon : Work information
- Jules (Emile Frédéric) Massenet ( Music, Images,)
- Performed by
- Valerie Masterson (Voice), National Symphony Orchestra, John Owen Edwards (Conductor)
- Work name
- Work number
- 1883-01-01 02:00:00
- JAY Records
- Recording date
Jules (Emile Frédéric) Massenet
Jules Massenet, born on 12 May 1842, entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of eleven, and by 1863 had won the Prix de Rome for his cantata David Rizzio. During the resultant stay at the Villa Medici in Rome, where he spent some of the happiest years of his life and enjoyed all the refined spiritual pleasures of a true artist, he made the acquaintance of many talented musicians, including Liszt. Returning to France, Massenet found himself defending Paris during the siege of 1870, before settling down to teach at the Conservatoire, writing operas and enjoying his popularity. He died on 13 August 1912, mourned by many.
Initial success came with the one-act opera La Grand' Tante (1867), followed by Don César de Bazan (1872) and Marie-Magdeleine (1873). His greatest successes though were Le Roi de Lahore (1877), Manon (1884), Le Cid (1885), Werther (1892), The Juggler of Notre Dame (1902), and Don Quichotte (1910) - from a total of twenty-seven operas. Although thought of mainly as a composer of operas, Massenet also wrote ballets, orchestral and choral music, a piano concerto, cantatas, a cello fantasy, and some 200 songs.
For many years Massenet held a dominant position in French opera, although Debussy began to steal the limelight when his Pelléas et Mélisande was shown in 1902 (a work that owed a lot to Massenet). Massenet's style is very melodic, quite light, its singability no doubt a factor in its huge popularity at the time.
Massenet's most popular opera, Manon is a treasure-trove of wonderful extracts, mostly involving the title-character, one of the great female roles in all opera. From the shy innocence of 'Je suis encore tout etourdie' through the touchingly sentimental farewell to her humble existence 'Adieu, petite table', to the self-assurance of 'N'est-ce plus ma main' and the repentance of the finale, this is a role that sopranos long to sing.
Written mostly in 1882 and finished in the summer of 1883, Manon has a libretto by Meilhac and Gille based on Prevost's novel Manon Lescaut. It was first performed in Paris at the Opera-Comique on 19 January 1884 and was such a hit that it remained in the opera house's repertoire until 1959, notching up over 2000 performances.