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The original poster for Thaïs

   
       
 

Thaïs at the Met

   
 

The Sensuous vs. the Sacred

   

 

  

 

Tragic love is one of the most enduring themes in opera.  Nineteenth century French composer Jules Massenet, whose credits include Manon and Werther, adds religious fervor and sensuality to the equation, and the result is Thaïs, a love story so heartbreaking that audience members have been known to weep disconsolately during the opera's finale.  Louis Gallet's libretto for Thaïs was based on the novel by Anatole France.

The opera is set in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, a place of learning, luxury, and licentiousness.  The monk Athanaël comes back to Alexandria, the city of his birth, to attempt to convert Thaïs, the beautiful courtesan, to Christianity.  Athanaël fools himself into believing that his desire to convert the young beauty is motivated only by religious sentiment.  Thaïs, for her part, is swayed by his words and becomes aware of the futility of the life that she leads.  Athanaël convinces Thaïs to enter a convent, then repents when he cannot hide his true feelings from himself.  He rushes to the convent to declare his love for her, but alas he arrives too late - Thaïs is passing on to another world…

Composed in 1894, Thais stands out for its delicate compositions; Méditation, a violin solo with orchestra, is one of the most popular pieces in opera.  The soprano role of Thaïs is considered one of the most difficult in the operatic repertory.  Leontyne Price and Beverly Sills are among the divas to have mastered the role in the past.  The remarkable Renée Fleming currently reprises the role at the Met, with The New York Times calling her performance "a vocally sumptuous and unabashedly show-stealing Thaïs."  Christian Lacroix designed the costumes for the lush production and Thomas Hampson is Athanaël.

 

See: Thaïs at The Metropolitan Opera 

 

Tags:  music  egypt    opera   love

 

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