Home / Musical scholarship on line / Articles / Jardin, Étienne – Thérèse, from the Couvent des Carmes to the Opéra-Comique

Print content of page

Jardin, Étienne – Thérèse, from the Couvent des Carmes to the Opéra-Comique




In his memoirs, Mes souvenirs, Jules Massenet relates the sequence of events, from the summer of 1905 onwards, that led to the composition of Thérèse: a visit to the Couvent des Carmes (a Carmelite convent in the rue de Vaugirard in Paris) during which the singer Lucy Arbell was moved to tears by the fate of Lucile Desmoulins (guillotined at the age of twentyfour, shortly after her husband, a French revolutionary and journalist); the touching story, told a few days later by Countess Tornielli over dinner at the Italian Embassy, of the faithful servant who prevented the spoliation of the Gallifet family home and later returned it to its owners; then a walk in the Bois de la Cambre (Brussels) in November of the same year, when the music first came to him. While the subject was forming in his mind, the composer, fascinated by ‘the horrible times of the Terror’, eagerly sought out documents that would provide him with information on that period, before setting to work on the score. His ‘drame musical’ in two acts, completed in summer 1906, was written with the librettist Jules Claretie. The fact that the exchanges between Massenet and his librettist took place mainly by telephone (an instrument that was still relatively rare in France at that time) was used in reviews of the première of Thérèse to show just how modern the composer was.

From the CD-Book Thérèse de Massenet (Palazzetto Bru Zane, collection Opéra français, 2013). Translation: Mary Pardoe.

    Person - 1
  • MASSENET, Jules (1842-1912)
  • Work - 1
  • Thérèse (Claretie / Massenet)