MANHATTAN SCHOOL OF MUSIC OPERA THEATER
Music by Jules Massenet; Libretto by Louis Gallet
GEORGE MANAHAN, conductor;
RENAUD DOUCET, director and choreographer
Wednesday, December 5, and Friday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m.
and Sunday, December 9 at 2:30p.m. in the School’s Borden Auditorium
The Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater will be presenting Jules Massenet’s Thaïs, a 3-act opera set to a French libretto by Louis Gallet, for three performances on Wednesday, December 5 and Friday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, December 9 at 2:30 p.m. in the School’s Borden Auditorium. George Manahan will be conducting the MSM Opera Orchestra and the stage direction will be by Renaud Doucet. André Barbe joins the artistic team as scenic and costume designer. The MSM production will be using the sets that he designed for l’ Opéra de Montréal’s 2003 production of Thaïs. Guy Simard is the lighting designer.
An opening night Pre-Performance Talk with Gordon Ostrowski, assistant dean of opera studies and production will take place on Wednesday, December 7 at 6:00 p.m. in the School’s Greenfield Hall. This Pre-Performance Talk allows interested audience members the opportunity to hear directly from the production’s artistic team on the ins-and-outs of this production as well as hear a sampling of the evening’s music. The event is free and tickets are not required.
Thaïs received its premiere on March 16, 1894 at the Opéra Garnier in Paris showcasing the American soprano Sybil Sanderson, for whom Massenet wrote the title role. Thaïs received its Italian premiere on October 17, 1903 in Milan at the Teatro Lirico Internazionale with Lina Cavalieri as Thaïs and Francesco Maria Bonini as Athanaël. In 1907, Mary Garden made her American debut singing the role in the U.S. premiere of Thaïs, performed in New York. Among other sopranos identified with the role are Géori Boué, Carol Neblett, Anna Moffo, Beverly Sills, Leontyne Price and Renée Fleming. The entr’acte that appears between the scenes of Act II, the famous Meditation scored for violin and orchestra, is often performed as a concert piece.
Louis Gallet based his libretto on the novel Thaïs by Anatole France. The opera is set in Egypt during the time of the Byzantines, where Athanaël, a Cenobite monk, attempts to convert Thaïs, an Alexandrian courtesan and devotee of Venus, to Christianity and to persuade her to enter a convent. He discovers too late that he is obsessed with her and tells her that he loves her according to the spirit rather than the flesh. Thaïs is intrigued and asks him to teach her the ways of this love. Athanaël tells her that if she converts to Christianity and enters the convent she will be given eternal life. She is resolved to follow him and agrees to free herself from her wicked past. Thaïs enters the convent and Anthanaël realizes that he has accomplished his mission, but also realizes that he will never see Thaïs again. He becomes depressed and during his sleep has an erotic vision of Thaïs, followed by a second vision in which she tells him that she is dying. Anthanaël goes to the convent and finds Thaïs on her deathbed. He collapses in despair.
Renaud Doucet, director/choreographer, and Andre Barbé, set and costume designer, for the MSM Opera Theater production of Thaïs, first joined forces in 2000, and since have created more than 20 new opera productions together. In 2003, they created a co-production of Thaïs for the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and l’Opéra de Montréal. Their production of Thaïs has been staged at other companies including Pacific Opera Victoria, the Palm Beach Opera and the Boston Lyric Opera.
The Manhattan School of Music Opera Theater, Dona D. Vaughn, Artistic Director is recognized as one of the foremost opera training programs in the world, Manhattan School of Music’s Opera Program attracts some of the most talented young singers from the United States and more than forty countries. Students in the program refine theirtechnique and develop artistry under the guidance of a faculty of eminent artist-teachers while gaining exposure before New York City audiences throughperformances in opera scenes, community outreach programs, and two fully-staged productions each year.
The Manhattan School of Music Opera Program has a long and proud tradition of producing some of the finest operatic artists in America and abroad. The School’s opera productions havebeen praised as a significant contribution to operatic life in New York City,and many students have gone on to major careers. Among notable alumnae aresopranos Pamela Armstrong, Elaine Alvarez, Alexandra Deshorties, LaurenFlanigan, Olivia Gorra, Kathleen Kim, Catherine Malfitano, Tonna Miller, Laquita Mitchell and Dawn Upshaw; mezzo-sopranos Kate Aldrich, Beth Clayton, Jennifer Dudley, Susan Graham, and Dolora Zajick; countertenor Anthony RothCostanzo; tenors Matthew Chellis and Brandon Jovanovich; and baritone ScottAltman. Margaret Juntwait, the firstwoman announcer who is the voice of the Metropolitan Opera broadcast, is also agraduate.
The Manhattan School ofMusic Opera Theater has issued a vast discography including Lee Hoiby’s Summer and Smoke (recorded at MSM in December 2010) as well as Ned Rorem’s Miss Julie,Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring, Gaetano Donizetti’s Il campanello di notte, Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, Gustav Holst’s Savitri, Nicolas Flagello’s The Piper, Ludwig Spohr’s Beauty and the Beast, the world premiere recordings of Daniel Catan’s Rappaccini’s Daughter, William Mayer’s A Death in the Family, Scott Eyerly’s The House of Seven Gables, Robert Ward’s Roman Fever, Thomas Pasatieri’s The Seagull, Lee Hoiby’s A Month in the Country, and John Musto’s Laterthe Same Evening.