MASSENET, JULES. (1842-1912). French composer; the most prolific and important French opera composer of his time. SP. (“J. Massenet”). 1p. Boudoir. N.p., 1887. Inscribed to the “Cercle des Arts” in French. A handsome half-length, gilt-edged bust portrait photograph of Massenet by Charles Chambon of Bordeaux.
Massenet’s influence on turn-of-the-century French music was profound. Not only did his many operas form a bridge between the traditional to a more modern style, but his teaching at the Paris Conservatory from 1878 on shaped the work of nearly every major French composer of his era. His numerous works for voice, piano, orchestra, and chorus – now largely forgotten – have been eclipsed by the success of his operas Manon, Werther, Thais, and Sapho.
The year 1887 was a busy one for Massenet. He conducted Biblis in Paris in January and worked on the composition of Werther for much of the spring. In April, he travelled to Bordeaux to rehearse Le Cid which was performed on April 16 at the Grand Théâtre. During the summer Massenet traveled to Vevey, Switzerland and the island of Illiec, where he visited his colleague and friend Ambrose Thomas. Returning to Paris in September he composed the songs “Les belle de nuit”and “Pensée d’automne.” Inscribed at the top of the photograph, and in very fine condition. Rare in this format.