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MASSENET: Meditation From Thaïs

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Uploaded on Sep 3, 2007

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Thaïs is an opera in three acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Louis Gallet based on the novel of the same name by Anatole France. It was first performed at the Opéra in Paris on March 16, 1894, starring the American soprano Sybil Sanderson, for whom Massenet had written the title role.

Set in Roman Egypt, the story concerns a Cenobite monk, Athanaël, who attempts to convert Thaïs, a courtesan of Alexandria and devotée of Venus, to Christianity, but discovers, too late, that his obsession with her is rooted in lust. It has been described as bearing a kind of religious eroticism and has spawned many controversial productions. Its famous Méditation for violin, an entr'acte played before a closed curtain between the scenes of Act II, is among the most frequently performed concert pieces and has been arranged for many different instruments.

After Manon and Werther, Thaïs is one of Massenet's most performed operas, but it is not part of the standard operatic repertoire. The role of Thaïs, similar to another Massenet heroine, Esclarmonde, is notoriously difficult to sing and is reserved for only the most gifted of performers. Modern interpreters have included Carol Neblett, Anna Moffo, Beverly Sills, Leontyne Price and, most recently, Renée Fleming.

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