Although Jules Massenet (1842-1912) is best known for his operas, Thaïs is not one that immediately comes to mind. That must now change.
The concert performance conducted by Sir Andrew Davis with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Christopher Bell’s Edinburgh Festival Chorus was outstanding. The star of the night was Canadian soprano, Erin Wall, who, as Thaïs was simply breathtaking. Just as appropriate and exciting were baritone Quinn Kelsey as Athanaël and the other six soloists.
The opera is set in Alexandria and the Egyptian desert in the 4th century. Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire and Athanaël, a monk, whom his colleagues believe is spoken to by God in his dreams, has a dream in which Thaïs is mimicking the sexual advances of Venus in front of an audience. He sets about trying to convert her to Christianity.
At this point we heard the five minute Méditation, the well known violin solo played by James Clark, Leader of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The opera continues with Thaïs telling Athanaël that she will turn to Christianity, and to the hermitage of Albine where she must live in penance and chastity.
Event: Thursday 18 August 2011 at 7pm