He gained some work as a piano accompanist, in the course of which he met Wagner who, along with Berlioz , was one of his two musical heroes. The first two of these were on the judging panel for the competition. He recalled: Ambroise Thomas, my beloved master, came towards me and said, "Embrace Berlioz, you owe him a great deal for your prize. Monsieur Auber comforted me. Did I need comforting? Massenet and Ninon fell in love, but marriage was out of the question while he was a student with modest means.
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The son of an ironmaster, Massenet entered the Paris Conservatoire at age 11, subsequently studying composition under the noted opera composer Ambroise Thomas. In he won the Prix de Rome with his cantata David Rizzio. His 24 operas are characterized by a graceful, thoroughly French melodic style. The opera, marked by sensuous melody and skilled personification, uses leitmotifs to identify and characterize the protagonists and their emotions.
In the recitatives dialogue it employs the unusual device of spoken words over a light orchestral accompaniment. Thus, Le Cid has the characteristics of French grand opera ; Le Roi de Lahore ; The King of Lahore reflects the Orientalism —a fascination with Asian exotica—that was also prevalent in the 19th-century European and American art market; Esclarmonde shows the influence of Richard Wagner ; and La Navarraise ; The Woman of Navarre is influenced by the end-of-the-century style of verismo , or realism.
Massenet also composed more than songs, a piano concerto , and several orchestral suites. Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription. Subscribe today As a teacher of composition at the Paris Conservatoire from , Massenet was highly influential. His autobiography was entitled Mes Souvenirs ; My Recollections. This article was most recently revised and updated by Virginia Gorlinski , Associate Editor.
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