Jules Massenet (1842-1912)

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Episodes

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01A Master Of Melody20140127

Donald Macleod focuses on Massenet's celebrated gift for melody.

Donald Macleod introduces one of France's most spectaular operatic superstars.

He was one of the most successful composers of his age. Jules Massenet gave his adoring audiences just what they wanted: beautiful melody, rich sentimentality, romance, fantasy and an unmistakably French sense of elegance. It was a formula that served him well into the twentieth century, over a prolific output of twenty-five opera productions. His accomplishments were the product of a rigid personal regime, often starting work at four o'clock in the morning, and continuing for sixteen hours a day. When he wasn't composing, Massenet could often be found supervising his current stage production, or coaching the latest in a long line of brilliant leading ladies. Whether the whiff of scandal that followed him throughout his career had any basis in fact is still a subject for debate. What is unarguable is that he provided some of the best female voices of the age with music that tested their talents to the very limit.

In this programme, Donald Macleod explores Massenet's celebrated gift for melody, as well as some of the recurring dramatic themes that crop up throughout his work. He also presents a musical rarity among all the operatic arias, Massenet's only concerto.

In this programme, Donald Macloed explores Massenet's celebrated gift for melody, as well as some of the recurring dramatic themes that crop up throughout his work. He also presents a musical rarity among all the operatic arias, Massenet's only concerto.

02Rivals And Benefactors20140128

Donald Macleod reveals some of the colleagues who assisted Massenet on his way to stardom.

Massenet finds colleagues and competitors among the musical personalities of nineteenth-century Paris.

He was one of the most successful composers of his age. Jules Massenet gave his adoring audiences just what they wanted: beautiful melody, rich sentimentality, romance, fantasy and an unmistakably French sense of elegance. It was a formula that served him well into the twentieth century, over a prolific output of twenty-five opera productions. His accomplishments were the product of a rigid personal regime, often starting work at four o'clock in the morning, and continuing for sixteen hours a day. When he wasn't composing, Massenet could often be found supervising his current stage production, or coaching the latest in a long line of brilliant leading ladies. Whether the whiff of scandal that followed him throughout his career had any basis in fact is still a subject for debate. What is unarguable is that he provided some of the best female voices of the age with music that tested their talents to the very limit.

In this programme, Donald Macleod reveals some of the colleagues who assisted Massenet on his way to stardom, and the competitors who surrounded him in the cut-throat world of the Parisian opera scene. He introduces music from the composer's very first stage work, La Grand' Tante, and Massenet's take on an operatic favourite, the story of Manon Lescaut

La Grand' Tante (Je vais bientot quitter)

Rosamund Illing, soprano (La grand' tante); Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra; Richard Bonynge, conductor

Le roi de Lahore (De moi, je veux bannir)

Dame Joan Sutherland, soprano (Sitâ); National Philharmonic Orchestra; Richard Bonynge, conductor

Hérodiade (Act 1: 2nd tableau)

Nadine Denize, mezzo-soprano (Hérodiade); Ben Heppner, tenor (Jean); Thomas Hampson, baritone (Hérode); Capitole Orchestra of Toulouse; Michel Plasson, conductor

Scenes Pittoresque (4th orchestral suite)

Monte Carlo National Opera Orchestra; Sir John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Manon (Death scene)

Angela Gheorghiu, soprano (Manon); Roberto Alagna, tenor (Des Grieux); Orchestre Symphonique de la Monnaie; Antonio Pappano, conductor.

03Literary Leanings20140129

Donald Macleod explores the narrative sources that caught Massenet's dramatic eye.

The origins of some of Massenet's most celebrated stories.

He was one of the most successful composers of his age. Jules Massenet gave his adoring audiences just what they wanted: beautiful melody, rich sentimentality, romance, fantasy and an unmistakably French sense of elegance. It was a formulae that served him well into the twentieth century, over a prolific output of twenty-five opera productions. His accomplishments were the product of a rigid personal regime, often starting work at four o'clock in the morning, and continuing for sixteen hours a day. When he wasn't composing, Massenet could often be found supervising his current stage production, or coaching the latest in a long line of brilliant leading ladies. Whether the whiff of scandal that followed him throughout his career had any basis in fact is still a subject for debate. What is unarguable is that he provided some of the best female voices of the age with music that tested their talents to the very limit.

In this programme, Donald Macleod explores some of the varied narrative sources that caught Massenet's dramatic eye, including the oft re-told legend of El Cid and Goethe's autobiographical novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther", whose tragic ending so captivated the composer.

Le Cid (Castilian dance)

Opera Orchestra of New York; Eve Queler, director

Le Cid (Act 1, Scene 2)

Jake Gardner, bass (Le roi); Paul Plishka, bass (Don Diègue); Grace Bumbry, soprano (Chimène); Eleanor Bergquist, soprano (l'Infante); Arnold Voketaitis, bass (Le Comte de Gormas); Placido Domingo, tenor, (Rodrigue); Byrne Camp Chorale; Opera Orchestra of New York; Eve Queler, director

Scènes de Féerie (6th orchestral suite)

National Opera Orchestra of Monte Carlo; Sir John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Werther (excerpts from Act 3)

Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo soprano (Charlotte); Dawn Upshaw, soprano (Sophie); National Opera Orchestra of Lyon; Kent Nagano, conductor.

04The Ladies' Man20140130

Introducing some of the brilliant female singers who inspired Massenet's greatest roles.

He was one of the most successful composers of his age. Jules Massenet gave his adoring audiences just what they wanted: beautiful melody, rich sentimentality, romance, fantasy and an unmistakably French sense of elegance. It was a formula that served him well into the twentieth century, over a prolific output of twenty-five opera productions. His accomplishments were the product of a rigid personal regime, often starting work at four o'clock in the morning, and continuing for sixteen hours a day. When he wasn't composing, Massenet could often be found supervising his current stage production, or coaching the latest in a long line of brilliant leading ladies. Whether the whiff of scandal that followed him throughout his career had any basis in fact is still a subject for debate. What is unarguable is that he provided some of the best female voices of the age with music that tested their talents to the very limit.

In this programme, Donald Macleod introduces some of Massenet's most significant leading ladies; the female singers who inspired him and, through their performances, made his music famous. Including American soprano, Sybil Sanderson, who created the roles of Esclarmonde, and Thaïs.

05 LASTThe Monte Carlo Period20140131

Donald Macleod on the final years of Massenet's career, which included a surprise flop.

Operatic riches from Massenet's later career.

He was one of the most successful composers of his age. Jules Massenet gave his adoring audiences just what they wanted: beautiful melody, rich sentimentality, romance, fantasy and an unmistakably French sense of elegance. It was a formula that served him well into the twentieth century, over a prolific output of twenty-five opera productions. His accomplishments were the product of a rigid personal regime, often starting work at four o'clock in the morning, and continuing for sixteen hours a day. When he wasn't composing, Massenet could often be found supervising his current stage production, or coaching the latest in a long line of brilliant leading ladies. Whether the whiff of scandal that followed him throughout his career had any basis in fact is still a subject for debate. What is unarguable is that he provided some of the best female voices of the age with music that tested their talents to the very limit.

In this programme, Donald Macleod looks at the final years of Massenet's career, which included a surprise flop as his music came to be seen as increasingly old-fashioned, and a new relationship with the theatre in Monte Carlo.