Jules Massenet

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Jules Massenet
Poster on Roma by Georges-Antoine Rochegrosse

Jules Émile Frédéric Massenet (born May 12, 1842 in Montaud near Saint-Étienne , † August 13, 1912 in Paris ) was a French opera composer at the end of the 19th century.


Jules was the fourth and youngest child from the second marriage of his father Alexis Massenet (1788–1863), an engineer, officer and industrialist, with Adélaïde Royer de Marancour (1809–1875). The father was married to Sophie von Jaegerschmidt (1797–1829), with whom he already had eight children. Jules received his first piano lessons from his mother. At the age of eleven (1853) he received his first training at the Conservatoire de Paris with Ambroise Thomas and Charles Gounod and finished his studies there in 1863 when he won the Prix ​​de Rome . During this time he also met Franz Liszt and his future wife Louise-Constance de Gressy (called Ninon ), whom Liszt had given him as a piano student.

Massenet stayed at the Villa Medici for three years , after which he returned to his homeland. He was involved in the Paris opera scene and brought his first opera to the stage in 1867. But his success came only gradually and it wasn't until a decade later that he had his first real success with Le Roi de Lahore . In 1884 he achieved international fame with his opera Manon . He was soon one of the most influential musical dramatists in France. His works were particularly convincing with their nuanced melodies and harmonies.

The strict rules of the Paris Opéra Comique required spoken dialogue between the musical numbers. Massenet found the solution to let the texts speak to the orchestra accompaniment. This maintained the musical line. This particular integration of the plot was noticeable in the opera Manon .

In 1871 Massenet co-founded the Société Nationale de Musique , and in 1878 he became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts . From 1878 to 1893 he was professor of composition at the Conservatoire and taught among others George Enescu and Gustave Charpentier . He turned down the management of the Conservatoire after the death of Ambroise Thomas . He wanted to deal exclusively with the composition. Three of his works were premiered after his death in 1912. Massenet achieved particular fame through the violin solo Meditation , which is part of the slightly oriental opera Thaïs . This solo is a popular encore in concerts and is often part of classic editions on specific topics. During the past two decades, a subtle renaissance of French late romanticism began, which meant that Massenet's operas can regularly be found on the repertoire of international houses.

He wrote Thais, Manon and other title roles for the diva Sibyl Sanderson , with whom he was personally connected at times and whom he had brought to Paris.

Works (selection)

Poster for Massenet's opera Sapho
  • La grand'tante. Comic opera in one act, Paris 1867
  • Don Cezar de Bazan. Comic opera in four acts, Paris 1872
  • Marie-Magdeleine . Holy drama in three acts and four parts, Paris 1873, scenic Nizza 1903
  • Ève . Mystery in three parts, Paris 1875
  • Le roi de Lahore. Opera in five acts, Paris 1877
  • Hérodiade . Opera in four acts, Brussels 1881
  • Manon . Opera in five acts, Paris 1884
  • Le Cid . Opera in four acts, Paris 1885
  • Esclarmonde. Romantic opera in four acts, Paris 1889
  • Le mage. Opera in five acts, Paris 1891
  • Werther . Lyric drama in four acts, Vienna 1892
  • Thaïs . Lyrical comedy in three acts, Paris 1894 (including the later concert piece Méditation )
  • Le portrait de Manon . Opera in one act, Paris 1894
  • La Navarraise. Lyric episode in two acts, London 1894
  • Sapho . Pièce lyrique, Paris 1897
  • Cendrillon . Fairy tale poem in four acts, Paris 1899
  • Grisélidis . Lyric fairy tale in a prologue and three acts, Paris 1901
  • Le juggler de Notre-Dame . Opera in three acts, Monte Carlo 1902
  • Cherubin. Lyric opera in three acts, Monte Carlo 1905
  • Ariane . Opera in five acts, Paris 1906
  • Thérèse. Musical drama in two acts, Monte Carlo 1907
  • Bacchus. Opera in four acts, Paris 1909
  • Don Quixote . Heroic comedy in five acts, Monte Carlo 1910
  • Roma. Tragic opera in five acts, Monte Carlo 1912
  • Panurge. Musical farce in three acts, Paris 1913
  • Cléopâtre. Opera in four acts, Monte Carlo 1914
  • Amadis. Opera in four acts, Monte Carlo 1922
  • L'organiste, recueil de 20 pieces faciles pour harmonium. 1911


  • Eckhardt van den Hoogen: ABC of classical music. The great composers and their works . Eichborn Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-821-83961-9 .
  • Anne Massenet: Massenet en toutes lettres . Fallois, Paris 2001, ISBN 2-87706-422-0 .
  • Jules Massenet: My life. Autobiography . Heinrichshofen Verlag, Wilhelmshaven 1982, ISBN 3-7959-0313-0 .
  • Stefan Schmidl: Jules Massenet. His life, his work, his time . Schott, Mainz 2012, ISBN 978-3-254-08310-4 .

Web links

Commons : Jules Massenet  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : Operas by Jules Massenet  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. John Burrows (Ed.): Classical Music. Dorling Kindersley Verlag, p. 238.
  2. Naxos: The ABC of Classical Music - The great composers and their works. DDD 8.551079, p. 144.
  3. Membrane: Jules Massenet - Manon (large cross-section in German) ( Memento from January 14, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  4. ↑ Brief curriculum vitae of Massenet Klassika
  5. ^ Biography of Massenet Klassikakzente