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Post by Marlowe » Sat Dec 23, 2017 4:34 pm

This stage production is done for the season. I attended its closing night Dec 2. Among my six Thais productions (3 each live and DVD) this was easily the standout for its combination of fine acting, singing and music. I expected Finley to be the best ever Athanael. What surprised me was the ethereal conducting of Villaume and opulent singing and phrasing of Perez.

Stunning music drama. Nuanced leitmotif use. The source literature is a bitter, suffocating diatribe against religion by atheist Anatole France. Kudos to Massenet and the librettist for masterfully twisting the Tannhauser arc into this breathtaking nightmare. In Thais the saintly male redeems the sinning woman, delivers her to heavenly peace but condemns himself to stormy torment, regret and ungodly zehnen - yearning without peace, without end.

..Massenet’s opera is often overlooked in favor of other masterworks that paint with far broader strokes. In many ways, this opera is his most intimate, the cast minimal and the composer’s predilection for investigating quotidian lifestyles essentially non-existent. The razor sharp focus on the two leads places great demands on the interpreters, making it a challenge for any opera house to mount. But in the case of this Met production, the two lead singers are at their absolute finest led by a conductor that was born to conduct this music. Safe to say that you don’t want to miss experiencing this masterpiece. ... sterpiece/

This reviewer (and I) could not disagree more with the snippy, dismissive review of this Massenet opera in the NYT review of the 78-79 Met season revival of Thais. If anyone attended that (pre Met titles) production with Sills and Milnes please comment. The radio broadcast of the current Thais is January 20. Holiday and New Years cheers.

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Re: Thais

Post by lennygoran » Sun Dec 24, 2017 7:44 am

We saw this production Jan 5, 2009. We had mixed feelings about it--we like the opera but found the set a little too cartoonish-while we like Hampson in general we thought he wasn't having his best night. Regards, Len

[Met Performance] CID:352800
Thaïs {72} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/05/2009.

Metropolitan Opera House
January 5, 2009

THAÏS {72}

Thaïs...................Renée Fleming
Athanaël................Thomas Hampson
Nicias..................Michael Schade
Palémon.................Alain Vernhes
Crobyle.................Alyson Cambridge
Myrtale.................Ginger Costa-Jackson
Charmeuse...............Leah Partridge
Albine..................Maria Zifchak
Guard...................Trevor Scheunemann
Solo Dancer.............Zahra Hashemian
Cenobite Monks: Daniel Clark Smith, Roger Andrews,
Kurt Phinney, Richard Pearson, Craig Montgomery

Violin solo: David Chan

Conductor...............Jesús López-Cobos

Production..............John Cox
Renée Flemings costumes.Christian Lacroix
Lighting designer.......Duane Schuler
Choreographer...........Sara Jo Slate

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Re: Thais

Post by Marlowe » Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:16 pm

Indeed the Chicago/Met production was quirky. Most directors cannot resist blemishing the Meditation with visuals. Kudos to Cox for resisting. In Opera New (February 2018, page 44) the reviewer was one of few I have read ever read who dinged the jarring elements of the last scene:

"The Cox production is tasteful, streamlined and conventional until the final scene, which suddenly takes an Expressionist turn. Rather than a dying heroine, we're shown a statue
brought to life: this Thais is literally a saint, a graven image in gold, enthroned on an altar.
Is this meant to be a hallucination on the part of Brother Athanael? A miraculous
resurrection? Garish or not, the device has the virtue of making the monk's torment
palpable and emphasizing the dramatic symmetry (she goes high, he goes low) in the
hourglass plot.

Speculation: this scene became a bizarre blend of the vanity preferences of the original
soprano and an attempt to allude to the Bride of Christ element of the death of a nun. For me the sumptuous beauty of the composing, orchestration, conducting, voices and
"dramatic symmetry" of the final scene wholly overpowered the visual distractions. The
scene in the Met house left me as drained and speechless as few operas do. I am eager to hear Finley, Perez (and perhaps Villaume?) in their intermission interviews in Saturday's
radio broadcast tomorrow.

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