1842 - 1912
Jules Massenet was born in 1842 in Montaud, near Saint-Étienne. He first studied music with his mother, an excellent musician, before entering the Paris Conservatory, notably in Ambroise Thomas’ composition class. Winning the Prix de Rome in 1863, he befriended Liszt during his stay in the Villa Medici. Though he started his composing career in the 1860s, his first success came with the comic opera Don César de Bazan in 1872 and his sacred drama Marie-Magdeleine, first performed in 1873. Today Massenet is known above all for his operas, Manon and Werther, two repertory staples. Appointed teacher at the Paris Conservatory on 7 October 1878 (among his pupils were Pierné, Schmitt, Kœchlin, Chausson, and Hahn), he was elected on the following 30 November to the Institute, becoming its youngest member. Considered, along with Gounod, one of the inspirational guides of the French school from the last quarter of the nineteenth century to the early twentieth, Massenet left a very large output, full of charm and feeling, much of it for the voice, the resources of which he knew to perfection. Among other works, he wrote more than thirty operas (some are lost or were destroyed), four oratorios, and a considerable number of songs. He died in Paris in 1912.