Piety and sensuality in Massenet's operas Manon and Thaïs
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This study explores the manifestation of piety and sensuality in the operas Manon and Thaïs by Jules Massenet. These two themes are prevalent in Massenet’s operas as well as his oratorios, although it is not clear why this is so. His admiration and love for the human voice and his ability to compose beautiful melodies are reflected in the fact that he composed primarily for the lyric theatre. Piety and sensuality in Manon and Thaïs are articulated predominantly by the eponymous female characters. In order to understand the characters and the motivations that steer their lives, it was necessary to gain an understanding of the socio-historical context of piety and sensuality. This understanding was reached through means of a traditional literature review, which also shed light on the nineteenth-century Zeitgeist and its influence on Massenet and his work. This is a hermeneutic study conducted in light of an interpretive paradigm. The libretti of Manon and Thaïs were explored by means of a close reading to identify sections dominated by piety and sensuality. Following the example of Lawrence Kramer, a combination of close reading and analysis was used to look at the ways in which piety and sensuality are articulated in the music. It became clear that Massenet used various compositional techniques to differentiate between piety and sensuality in his music scores. These techniques were applied with such skill that a listener can identify these two themes through close listening.
- Humanities