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Massenet ALS About the Premiere of “Werther” and Contract for “Thais”

$300 net
Item: 22759
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MASSENET, JULES. (1842-1912). French composer; the most prolific and important French opera composer of his time. ALS. (“J. Massenet”). 3pp. Small 8vo. Bordeaux, January 11, 1892. To a gentleman. In French with translation.

It is here, while traveling, that I received your letter, and I am answering it without delay –

As I told you I cannot engage myself – perhaps you know about it? – I have signed a contract for a work entitled Thais inspired by the book by Anatole France –

Here I am then at work (already underway for a year… and which is going to preoccupy and occupy me for more than a year more!…

Afterwards, I have a contract with the Opera – I cannot divulge the title –…I will not be in Paris until April after my trip to Vienna for Werther.”

Massenet’s influence on turn-of-the-century French music was profound. Not only did his more than 30 operas bridge the transition from a traditional to a more modern style, but his classes at the Paris Conservatory beginning in 1878 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 such operas as Manon, Sapho, Werther, and Thaïs.

Massenet wrote his Goethe-inspired work, Werther, between 1885 and 1887 but the Opéra-Comique deemed the subject too serious for its repertoire and it was shelved until the Vienna Hofoper, pleased with the recent success of Manon, requested another work. Werther premiered in Vienna February 16, 1892, plans for which Massenet mentions in our letter, written five weeks earlier.

Massenet devoted much of 1892 to the composition of Thaïs, based on the 1890 Anatole France novel of the same name. Its story involving a Cenobite monk’s attempts to convert an Alexandrian courtesan, his former lover, to Christianity combines the spiritual and the carnal. Thaïs most famous section is likely the intermezzo from act 2, Méditation, one of music’s best-known themes, and often performed on its own. Thaïs premiered at the Opéra Garnier on March 16, 1894. Less than two months later, his one-act comic opera Le portrait de Manon, premiered at the Opéra Comique, on May 8, 1894, possibly the secret work referred to in our missive.

At the time of our letter, Massenet was in Bordeaux for the January 13, 1892 performance of his grand opera Esclarmonde. He made a brief return to Paris before departing for Vienna.

Written on the first three leaves of a folded sheet and in very fine condition.

Massenet ALS About the Premiere of “Werther” and Contract for “Thais”

$300 net • item #22759

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