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Thais review at Grange Hampshire

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Massenet’s opera was formerly a great favourite but disappeared when his music fell out of fashion. David Fielding’s production, to his own designs, restores it to the UK stage repertory for the first time in decades and shows that there is far more too it than the famous violin solo known as the Meditation.

In the opera this represents the moment of the heroine’s conversion. Thais is a courtesan in fourth-century Egypt, visited at the height of her success by Athanael, a Christian monk who promises her eternal life. Susceptible to his persuasive powers, she turns to Christ and a monastic life. But he, meanwhile, having fallen in love with her, loses his faith and begs her to love him as she lies dying with a vision of heaven before her eyes.

It is a deeply ironic tale that Massenet clothes in a score full of variety and passion. Fielding brings it up to date with a staging in which Anne-Sophie Duprels’s Thais is a rock star, with Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts’s Nicias the leader of her entourage. It works surprisingly well. Though Duprels is clearly not at her happiest as the sex icon of the first half and Ashley Holland rather tame as the religious fanatic Athanael, both rise to the challenge of the final duet in which their surprising personal destinies are revealed.

Martin Andre conducts an accomplished reading of the score that certainly reclaims as a fascinating work.

Production Information

Grange, Hampshire, June 2-30

Composer
Massenet
Director
David Fielding
Producer
Grange Park Opera
Cast includes
Anne-Sophie Duprels, Ashley Holland, Jeffrey Lloyd-Davies
Running time
4hrs

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