Ailyn Pérez is the alluring courtesan and Gerald Finley is the holy man who tries to resist her powers of seduction in Massenet’s tale of sensuality versus spirituality. Emmanuel Villaume conducts.
Premiere: Paris Opéra, 1894. Jules Massenet’s opera about the power of feminine allure and the desperation of male obsession has served as a showcase for a variety of great artists in the lead roles. Thaïs is an Egyptian courtesan and priestess of Venus whom the Christian monk Athanaël seeks to reform. While she ultimately achieves salvation, he falls prey to his growing lust for the woman. Although Massenet composed Thaïs for the Paris Opéra, where spectacle was often the order of the day, he wisely concentrated on the inner lives of the two lead roles. The result is an opera as seductive as its heroine, a fascinating story of two people locked in an opposing yet parallel metamorphosis.
Emmanuel Villaume – Conductor
Ailyn Perez – Thais
Jea-Francois Borras – Nicias
Gerald Finley – Athanael
David Pittsinger – Palemon
Jules Massenet (1842–1912) a French composer wildly popular in his day, was noted for his operas, songs, and oratorios. His somewhat sentimental style lost popularity in the early 20th century, with only his romantic treasure Manon (1884) maintaining a steady place in the repertory. Many of his other operas, especially Werther (1892) and Thaïs, have found places for themselves in the repertory in the last few decades. The libretto for Thaïswas written by Louis Gallet (1835–1898), a prolific writer who provided other theatrical adaptations for composers such as Bizet and Saint-Saëns.
John Cox – Production
Duane Schuler – Lighting Designer
Christian Lacroix – Costumes for Renee Fleming
Choreographer – Sara Jo Slate
The opera takes place in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, and in the surrounding desert, in the fourth century A.D. Alexandria was a cosmopolitan city, while the harsh desert was the birthplace of the severe traditions of hermits and monks. The setting reflects the conflict of human passion and religious fervor that is at the core of the drama.