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Vierge, La (Grandmougin / Massenet)

Date

1880.5.22

Description

Légende sacrée in 4 scenes premiered at the Paris Opéra.

L’Annonciation – Les Noces de Cana – Le Vendredi saint – L’Assomption.

Text

This “légende sacrée” completes the trilogy of oratorios by Massenet that centre around female figures (Mary Magdalene, Eve and the Virgin Mary). The poem by Charles Grandmougin, in four separate scenes, illustrates the central episodes in the life of the Virgin Mary through the biblical stories of the Annunciation, the Assumption, the Wedding at Cana and the Crucifixion. Premiered under the composer’s baton at the Palais Garnier as part of the Vaucorbeil historical concert series (22 May 1880), the work was intended to illustrate modern lyric art alongside masterpieces by the ancient masters (Lully, Rameau, Gluck, Grétry and Rossini). However, it was not as successful as Massenet’s first two oratorios and was only performed twice, the third performance being cancelled due to lack of public interest. This relative failure—a fate avoided by the prelude to the fourth part, the famous “Dernier sommeil de la Vierge”—seems to have deeply affected the composer, who expressed the wish that the work should be performed at his funeral (although, in the end, he had a quiet, private burial). This work contains one of Massenet’s great female figures, a true lyric heroine in her transports of joy, fits of anger, weaknesses and sorrow. The musical treatment intensifies the dramatic effects and the different moods, creating some surprising contrasts at times, as in the highly profane Galilean dance, which caused Massenet to be criticised for composing music that was too theatrical for such a mystic subject.

    Images - 2
  • Page de titre de La Vierge (Grandmougin / Massenet)
  • Page de titre du piano-chant de La Vierge (Grandmougin / Massenet)
  • Persons - 2
  • GRANDMOUGIN, Charles (1850-1930)
  • MASSENET, Jules (1842-1912)