He was one of the most successful composers of his age. Jules Massenet gave his adoring audiences just what they wanted: beautiful melody, rich sentimentality, romance, fantasy and an unmistakably French sense of elegance. It was a formulae that served him well into the twentieth century, over a prolific output of twenty-five opera productions. His accomplishments were the product of a rigid personal regime, often starting work at four o'clock in the morning, and continuing for sixteen hours a day. When he wasn't composing, Massenet could often be found supervising his current stage production, or coaching the latest in a long line of brilliant leading ladies. Whether the whiff of scandal that followed him throughout his career had any basis in fact is still a subject for debate. What is unarguable is that he provided some of the best female voices of the age with music that tested their talents to the very limit.In this programme, Donald Macleod explores some of the varied narrative sources that caught Massenet's dramatic eye, including the oft re-told legend of El Cid and Goethe's autobiographical novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther", whose tragic ending so captivated the composer.
(BBC 3 copyright)