Jules Massenet, Quotes

Prolific French composer Jules Massenet wrote operas, songs, oratorios, cantatas, ballets, orchestral works, and incidental music. His commercial success, judged as pandering to female singers and women-dominated audiences, beguiles his continuing musical admiration in our time.

“It is pretty sure that if Massenet had not lived just when he did, when the world was thirsting for a little melody, and when few composers were attempting to write melody, combined with a little modernism and just a touch of Wagnerism, at a time when most composers were trying to get beyond the old school. Therefore Massenet was appreciated. We welcome his poor melodies because we have no others.”

-The Musical Courier

“I would give the whole of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos for Massenet’s Manon, and would think I had vastly profited by the exchange.”

-Sir Thomas Beecham

“Massenet seems to have been the victim of the fluttering fans of his fair hearers, who flirted them so long to his glory; he yearned to reserve for himself the beating of those perfumed wings; unfortunately, he might as well have tried to tame a cloud of butterflies.”

-Claude Debussy

 “He could make women so happy with his adroit verbal petting that one could listen to him forever. He had a pretty trick of telling his fair companions that she suggested a melody, and he would go to the piano and improvise some honey-sweet strain that really did suit the personality of the one so highly complimented.”

-Bessie Abbott, (an opera singer)

“From the opening scene… the story is a succession of ambiguous erotic situations… One may find this ceaseless harping on the erotic interest tedious and cloying, but it is admirably suited to Massenet’s talent, and it called out the very best of which he was capable.”

-Marin Cooper

“The whole of Prevost’s story is set in an atmosphere of coquetry and amorous intrigue which cries aloud for the accompaniment of music such as Massenet’s… ‘melodies which are delicate and caressing rather than deeply felt, and orchestration rich in pretty and clever filigree worked but without any depth.'”

-Martin Cooper

“Dusquesnel placed forty musicians at my disposal, which, under the circumstances, was a considerable expense and a great favor. Instead of writing a score for the regular orchestra—which would have produced only a paltry effect—, I had the idea of having a quartet of thirty-six stringed instruments corresponding to a large orchestra. Then I added three trombones to represent the three Erinyes: Tisiphone, Alecto, and Megere, and a pair of kettledrums. So I had my forty.”

-Jules Massenet

“If my entrance into this world was loudly escorted by the hammers of a factory, my first try in the career I would choose was not more musical!”

-Jules Massenet

“Ambroise Thomas, my beloved master, came towards me and said, ‘Embrace Berlioz, you owe him a great deal for your prize.’ ‘The prize,’ I cried, bewildered, my face shining with joy. ‘I have the prize!!!’ I was deeply moved and embraced Berlioz, then my master, and finally, monsieur Auber. Monsieur Auber comforted me. Did I need comforting? Then he said to Berlioz, pointing to me, ‘He’ll go far, the young rascal when he’s had less experience!'”

Jules Massenet

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Richard J. Chandler, BA, MA Bachelor of Arts-Music & Master of Arts-Psychology