Jules Massenet was a composer from France. His operas, which were very common in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are his most well-known works. To the joy of the crowd, Massenet was able to use the ensemble and vocalists to reveal a storyline and the identities of characters on stage. He was able to share some of his insight in the propagation of character and spiritual development by music education by using the music he composed to make the story and characters more realistic. For the most part, Massenet's works disappeared into obscurity, but they have been resurrected on a frequent basis since the 1980s. Manon and Werther have unquestionably dominated the stage for well over a century.
Massenet was born in Montaud, a remote hamlet in the Loire département of France that is now part of the city of Saint-Étienne. His family moved to Paris when he was eleven years old so that he could study at the Conservatoire. He won the Grand Prix de Rome in 1862 and lived in Rome for three years. His first opera, Marie-Magdeleine, was a one-act performance at the Opéra-Comique in 1867, but it was his dramatic oratorio that earned him the acclaim of Tchaikovsky and Gounod. Massenet took a break from composition to fight as a soldier in the Franco-Prussian War, but after the war ended in 1871, he returned to his craft. Gustave Charpentier, Reynaldo Hahn, and Charles Koechlin were among his students at the Paris Conservatory, where he taught composition from 1878. Manon (1884), Werther (1892), and Thas (1894) were among his most successful works. Don Quichotte, a later opera with the famous Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin in the title role, was premiered in Monte Carlo in 1910. Massenet borrowed Wagner's leitmotiv technique but infused it with a Gallic lightness, a look that some might find saccharine. However, during his lifetime, Massenet was one of the most influential and prolific composers in the world, and the best of his music has preserved its vitality and beauty. He was a consummate melodist and man-of-the-theater, as well as a truly unique artistic person, for better or worse. His music should never be mistaken for anyone else's. He also wrote concert suites, dance music, oratorios, cantatas, and over two hundred songs in addition to his operas. The Méditation réligieuse from Thas, which is a violin solo with orchestra, as well as the Aragonaise from his opera Le Cid and Élégie for solo piano, are examples of his non-vocal performance that have acquired widespread prominence and are often performed. Piano students often perform the latter two pieces.
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