Massenet: Thaïs

( 5 )

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Renée Fleming adds another role to her repertory on disc -- and accomplishes some of her finest singing to date -- with this lavish recording of Jules Massenet's 1894 opera, Thaïs. A lush fin-de-siècle blend of exoticism, sex, and religion set in fourth-century Egypt, this lyrical gem by the composer of Werther and Manon hasn't had a complete recording since the 1970s, when Anna Moffo and Beverly Sills both took it into the studio as a star vehicle. Ironically, this little-heard opera has spawned one of classical music's most ubiquitous hits, the "Méditation," an orchestral interlude that's been a favorite encore of violinists for more than a century. But there's much ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Renée Fleming adds another role to her repertory on disc -- and accomplishes some of her finest singing to date -- with this lavish recording of Jules Massenet's 1894 opera, Thaïs. A lush fin-de-siècle blend of exoticism, sex, and religion set in fourth-century Egypt, this lyrical gem by the composer of Werther and Manon hasn't had a complete recording since the 1970s, when Anna Moffo and Beverly Sills both took it into the studio as a star vehicle. Ironically, this little-heard opera has spawned one of classical music's most ubiquitous hits, the "Méditation," an orchestral interlude that's been a favorite encore of violinists for more than a century. But there's much more to Thaïs than this though the tune is also woven through the score of the opera at telling moments. Fleming has already proven her affinity for Massenet with an acclaimed recording of his Hérodiade, and her lustrous voice is in absolute top form for Thaïs, a vocally and dramatically challenging role in which a worldly, seductive courtesan becomes an ascetic Christian hermit. Fleming inhabits both of these facets credibly, and her emotional range and commitment take the music out of the realm of the merely "pretty" to give a strong taste of Massenet's theatrical achievement, not to mention his skill in setting the French language. As the monk who first thinks he loves Thaïs only spiritually, confronting his more physical desires too late, Thomas Hampson sings with granitic force. Initially, he may seem to lack subtlety, but Athanaëel is for the most part an unsubtle character; when tenderness creeps into Hampson's voice in the final act -- as he begins to express human feelings rather than religious dogma -- the thoughtfulness of his interpretation is revealed. As Thaïs's debauched suitor Nicias, tenor Giuseppe Sabbatini also makes a strong, characterful impression. Massenet's music has ample charms to beguile the operaphile, and this new version, captured in spacious, sumptuous sound, is sure to win Thaïs many new fans.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/22/2000
  • Label: Decca
  • UPC: 028946676622
  • Catalog Number: 466766
  • Sales rank: 88,765

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–50 Thaïs, opera in 3 acts - Jules Massenet & Renée Fleming (146:26)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Renée Fleming Primary Artist
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Review of Thais

    Renee Fleming's silky voice enlightens the opera. With her voice and the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine, I would say this is one of the best opera man can ever produce. Generally, this is an A+ opera.

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  • Posted October 1, 2010

    Massenent: Thais

    Ms Fleming's voice is superb on this CD. She becomes the difinative Thais. I was not as pleased by some of the authenticity of the recoding, but the sound quality and voices of everyone on the recording is great.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A hammy, but effective Thais

    The biggest drawback to this recording is that is is mixed and re-mixed to within an inch of its life. The microphones are terribly close so we can hear all of the page turns, conductor's breath intakes, and other studio sound. However, this doesn't mean this recording is bad. The three leads sing beautifully, particularly Fleming, though she tends to let the sheer beauty of her voice hinder her good taste. She has a very nuanced performance, letting each note tell the stroy of her rise to grace and Athanael's fall. Thomas Hampson, exciting and thriiling in the French repertoire, sings with conviction and style, though not always beautifully. We find him here at the beginning of his unfortunate foray into more dramatic rep. Thankfully, this journey was short-lived. That said, he (along with Bryn Terfel) is my favorite baritone and I could listen to him sing just about anything. Though not a truly stupendous opera recording, if you are a fan of either Renee or Tom, this is one that you should pick up. It is readily available and easy to get into.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    for Renee fans only

    What's wrong with Fleming's singing? Nothing much technical, the voice is still in superb shape. But she is in dire need of some lessons in style, and, more to the point, taste. I only wish she had read (and heeded) the liner notes by Rodney Milnes (''Thais: from scandal to success'') in which the critic very sagely notes: ''On stage, Thais has no need to be the operatic vamp of tradition. She is a mature woman at the very top of her profession, supremely confident of her powers -- at least in public....[Following her conversion] her music has a chaste, trusting simplicity to it...'' He notes again later in his essay that the Oasis Duet contains ''music of a simplicity that only the most daring composer can achieve.'' There is no trace of ''simplicity'' in Fleming's portrayal: phrases are broadened to the point of inertia, and every note is a different contrived color, with all the interpolated gasps, grunts, coos and gurgles so familiar from her Marschallin. She affects an aggressive open chest tone for the quietly pleading phrase ''Que rien ne fletrira les roses des mes levres,'' sounding for all the world like Lainie Kazan. The topmost notes (the high D-flat at the end of the Air du Miroir, the D's in the Finale) are screamy and heavily engineered, with echo suggesting the interior of a tiled shower. Hampson fares somewhat better, sounding small-voiced but generally in tune (far better than his disastrous Met attempt at WERTHER.) The color is very light and unvaried, rather like an operetta tenor, and as soon as he puts any pressure on it, the sound starts to flap. He is totally out of his element in the Finale, what with the lugubrious tempo and Fleming yelling her head off and the cavernous echo; Hampson is reduced to pitchless shouting. I liked Sabbatini's Nicias (though he's no Carreras, frankly); he does seem to croon more than necessary. Yves Abel's tempi (except when he's following Ms. Fleming's maunderings) are crisp and dramatic. I can't comment on what Abel does with tone color, as everything is distored by the engineers -- they apparently thought they were mixing early 60's lounge music, all triangle and solo violin against a background of aural mush.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews