Musical selection for the 180th birth anniversary of Jules Massenet

The main virtue of the music by Jules Massenet music is in the melodies, which, to quote the composer Alfred Bruneau "you recognize among thousands". Most often the melodies are closely linked with words, hence their unparalleled legerity and expressiveness. The border between melody and recitative is almost imperceptible and, therefore, Massenet's operatic scenes are not divided into insular numbers and "secondary" episodes that tie them together, the way it was with his predecessors Charles Gounod, Ambroise Thomas and Fromental Halevy. The demands of the transverse action and musical realism were extremely relevant for that epoch. Massenet embodied them in a very French way, to the great extent re-establishing traditions that descended back to Jean-Baptiste Lully. Hence, recitation by Massenet was not based on the triumphant, somewhat turgid declamation of tragic actors but on the unsophisticated everyday speech of a common person. This is the major strength and uniqueness of the lyricism by Massenet. A born lyricist and glorifier of soul intimate movements that can render particular poetic qualities to female characters, he often took on tragic and pompous plots of "grand" opera. Massenet anticipated some of the achievements of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel (the recitative style in opera, chord flares, stylization of old French music), but, working in parallel with them, he remained within the aesthetics of the 19th century.

Massenet's musical career features the unbroken chain of ever-increasing successes. His first opera “The Grandmother-in-Law” was staged in 1867, the following year he came out with the regular publisher and his orchestral suites gained success. A that time Massenet wrote more and more mature and significant works: the operas "Don Cesar de Bazan" (1872), "The king of Lahore" (1877), the oratorio-opera "Mary Magdalene" (1873), the music to " The Erinyes" by Leconte de Lisle (1873) with the famous "Elegy", the melody of which appeared in 1866 as one of Ten Piano pieces - the first published work by Massenet. In 1878, Massenet was appointed a professor at the Paris Conservatoire and a member of the Institut de France. He was in the public eye, loved by the public and known for his constant courtesy and wit. The operas "Manon" (1883) and "Werther" (1886) were the pinnacle of the works by Massenet and were staged in many theatres throughout the world. This tumultuous beginning was followed by a long-running worship to the opera genre. Moving from verismo to decadence, from fairy tale to historical or exotic narrative with varied use of vocal parts and orchestra, Massenet never disappointed his audience. In all his operas, even those that were not so warmly received by the public, there was a memorable page that lived a life of its own, outside the general context. For the rest of his life Jules Massenet never slowed down - he created opera after opera.

The composer always remained faithful to himself - lyrical and passionate, tender and sensual, conveying his awe to the parts of his most consonant protagonists, lovers, whose character was is not alien to the refinement of symphonic solutions, achieved with ease and devoid of pedant limitations.

Musical selection dedicated to the 180th birth anniversary of Jules Massenet, the famous French composer, is posted in the museum Sound Library.

The creative heritage of Jules Massenet is huge - he wrote 25 operas, other music-theatrical and cantata-oratorical works, a number of various compositions for the piano, about 200 romances, works for chamber-instrumental ensembles and literary works ("My Memoirs", 1912).

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Е. Rubakha, G. Marchesi (translated by E. Grechana)