Home / Works / Bacchus (Mendès / Massenet)

Print content of page

Bacchus (Mendès / Massenet)




Opera in 4 acts premiered at the Paris Opéra on 5 May 1909.


Massenet had only just finished Thérèse when his publisher Heugel proposed a sequel to Ariane with Catulle Mendès. Taken from the Ramayana–one of the two epics of Hindu mythology–the story begins when Ariane, abandoned by Thésée, sails to the Orient with Bacchus. In Nepal, Bacchus tries to turn the populace against Queen Amahelli. However, the queen falls in love with the demi-god and urges Ariane to sacrifice herself instead of Bacchus. Intended to form a seamless whole with Ariane, this new work has a strange storyline. Massenet complained about obscurities in the poem and his correspondence reveals quite a stormy collaboration with his librettist. “My work, this time, was relentless, persistent; I fought, I rejected, I started over.” (Mes souvenirs). The composer even went so far as to rewrite part of the libretto before he began composing in 1907 in Saint-Aubin. The orchestral score was completed in May 1908, as the work was intended for the Paris Opéra under the new directorship of Messager and Broussan. Unquestionably undermined by this difficult collaboration, Bacchus entered rehearsals around the same time as the death of Catulle Mendès. Massenet realised that the fate of the opera was sealed. Despite the lavish production and excellent cast, bringing together Lucien Muratore (Bacchus), Lucienne Bréval (Ariane) and Lucy Arbell (Amahelli), Bacchus was a resounding failure at its Paris Opéra premiere. Both libretto and score were panned by the critics and the work was dropped from the bill after five performances. This unjust fate remains unaltered and the work has never been revived or recorded. 

    Images - 32
  • André Gresse dans le rôle du Révérend (Bacchus de Massenet)
  • Antoinette Laute-Brun en Kéléyi (Bacchus de Massenet)
  • Blanche Kerval en Manthara (Bacchus de Massenet)
  • Emma Sandrini en Yadma (Bacchus de Massenet)
  • Lucien Muratore dans Bacchus (Massenet)
  • Lucien Muratore dans différents rôles
  • Display more
    Persons - 2
  • MASSENET, Jules (1842-1912)
  • MENDÈS, Catulle (1841-1909)
  • Themes - 2
  • Opera – Opera in France in the nineteenth century
  • Opéra – Le grand opéra français