Massenet's "Meditation"

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A new opera by Jules Massenet had its premiere at the Paris Opera on today's date in 1894. It was titled "Thais" and was based on a rather spicy novel of the same name by the popular French author of the day, Anatole France. The novel and the opera are based on an old seventh-century manuscript, which mentions a fabulously beautiful Egyptian courtesan named Thais who converted to Christianity and spent the rest of her life meditating in seclusion on matters spiritual. In Massenet's opera, the conversion from strip-tease artiste to nun is depicted by an instrumental interlude, the famous "Meditation" from "Thais," which has become a favorite showpiece for solo violinists. To add a dash of the piquant to the tale, in both the novel by Anatole France and in the opera by Massenet, the young monk who diligently convinces Thais to change her wicked ways suddenly falls madly in love with her himself, and just as diligently tries to persuade her to add just one more name—his—to her list of satisfied customers. As they used to say in ancient Egypt: "Ooh-la-la!"

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