Katherine indulges in French Romanticism this week, with a survey of favourite Massenet recordings.
Set in Egypt, Massenet's drama 'Thais' (1894) traces the ill-fated attempt of the monk, Athanaël, to rescue the soul of the celebrated Alexandrian courtesan, Thaïs. Though she is presently living with his wealthy friend Nicias, Athanaël persuades her to renounce her way of life and riches, but as she dies in the desert in a state of grace, he realises he has succumbed to her worldly charms and begs God for mercy.
Renée Fleming triumphs as the glamorous courtesan Thaïs in Massenet’s romantic tragedy set in fourth century Alexandria and the Egyptian desert. The timeless struggle between earthly desire and spiritual redemption finally destroys the resolve of the monk Athanaël (Thomas Hampson), just as the newly penitent Thaïs ascends heavenward. Jesús López-Cobos gives a masterly performance of Massenet’s sensuous score, with concert master David Chan contributing a ravishing ‘Méditation’.
The first Met staging in over 30 years of Massenet’s Thaïs is released on a starry DVD sure to win this beguiling French opera many new fans.
Renée Fleming is Thaïs to the life. She sings Massenet’s taxing role with the utmost ease and beauty of tone while looking as glamorous as her famous predecessors.
Fleming’s co-star is the great American baritone Thomas Hampson in the role of Athanaël, a part he sings and acts with mastery.
Renée Fleming’s best-selling audio set of Thaïs was greeted by the Associated Press: “Fleming was in glorious voice, floating high pianissimos with ease, pouring out melting, creamy tone.” If anything, Renée Fleming’s DVD assumption is deeper, subtler, more touching
The New York Times lauded Renée Fleming as a “vocally sumptuous and unabashedly show-stealing Thaïs”. If this is crime, opera needs more of it!
Short bonus feature: “Backstage at the Met” with Plácido Domingo (7’52”).
Filmed in High Definition.
Renée Fleming’s costumes for this production were made by French designer Christian Lacroix.
There is virtually no DVD competition on Thaïs.
146 mins (opera)
English, French (sung language), German, Spanish, Chinese
16:9 (anamorphic widescreen), Colour, NTSC, Region code 0 (worldwide)
LPCM Stereo & DTS 5.1 Surround (DVD)
LPCM Stereo & DTS Master Audio Surround (Blu-ray)
'Backstage at the MET', presented by Plácido Domingo, featuring interviews with Fleming and Hampson