Today Jules Massenet is best known for the operas Manon
and Werther and the solo violin Méditation, from Thaïs.
During his lifetime, however, Massenet was one of the
most prolific and celebrated operatic composers on
earth. The public anxiously awaited his output, and
Massenet became both wealthy and famous practicing his
craft. His legacy endures because of his ability to
create music which portrays the intimacy of human
relationships and the emotions and conflicts that arise
from them. His gift for melody is reflected in a
variety of arias that are among the most beautiful in
the French operatic repertoire. He was also a brilliant
orchestrator, a skill which allowed him to capture the
moods and colors of a wide variety of places and eras.
In addition to opera, Massenet composed songs,
oratorios, ballets and orchestral works, as well as
chamber music and works for solo piano.
Massenet was born in Montaud, France, to the family of
a struggling metal worker. At the tender age of 10, he
was admitted to the Paris Conservatory, where he
studied with famed operatic composer Ambroise Thomas.
In 1863, Massenet won the Prix de Rome, a prize which
allowed him to travel and study in Italy. There the
young man experienced the sounds and textures of the
region and began to compose in earnest. While in Italy,
Massenet met Liszt, who introduced him to his future
wife, Mademoiselle Sainte-Marie.
This famous "Méditation", the entr'acte for violin and
orchestra played between the scenes of Act II, is an
oft-performed concert music piece; it has been arranged
for many different instruments as with the Viola & Harp
Although originally scored for Opera, I created this
arrangement for Viola & Concert (Pedal) Harp.