La Navarraise (Vocal score with German libretto)
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Massenet was a prolific composer who achieved considerable successful in his lifetime, not least among his achievements includes his role as professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire (1878) and his award of the Légion d’honneur (1876). But, in the last century since his death, he has received very little attention, despite his former popularity with audiences. Beyond three repertory staples, Manon (1884), Werther (1887) and Thaïs (1894), many of his works (including more than 20 operas) are now rarely performed and scores have been difficult to access. This score of La Navarraise is a gem for opera scholars, those interested in melodramatic works, short operatic scores of the ilk of Cavalleria Rusticagne (1890), or those wishing to explore Massenet’s little known works.
Massenet has often been compared to Gounod, and even labelled ‘la fille de Gounod’ in recognition of his stylistic achievements. Debussy referred to him in highly complementary terms, in particular noting that he knew ‘music should humbly seek to please’ (in Caballero, 2001, 143), which is probably a reference to his crowd pleasing works. His Werther has even been considered to be an ancestor to Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande (Longyear, 1988, 127). As the French music scholar Martin Cooper notes, Massenet was the principal French composer of opera after Bizet’s death for a decade, though despite producing a number of works only a few achieved great success and remain repertory pieces, including Werther (1892) (Cooper, 1952, 99). These accolades set Massenet within a strong historical lineage of French opera and dramatic music which is notable due to the discussion of his work by contemporaneous French composers. For Fauré the importance of Massenet was ‘his sincerity’ (Caballero, 2001, 95). Massenet’s attention to the story and its central characters allows him to offer a detailed personal perspective via original means. At the height of complement, Fauré noted that Massenet ‘never ceased to reveal “himself”’ in his operas (Ibid.). This is a complex idea as Massenet used a variety of approaches, drew from composers such as Wagner in his dramatic use of the leitmotif, but also extended the French lyrique opera. As Dahlhaus asserted, one of his prime skills was the ability ‘of assimilating techniques’ from other composers while still retaining his own voice (Dahlhaus, 1989, 279).
read preface of the full score > HERE