The Met's new production of Thais comes to Fairfield University's Quick Center for the Arts Dec 20 plus an encore performance


 

"Thaïs," Jules Massenet's rarely done gem, has been mounted in a spectacular new Metropolitan Opera production by director John Cox and, stars the glorious soprano Renée Fleming in the multi-layered title role with the extraordinary Thomas Hampson in the challenging role of Athanaël. This production comes to Fairfield University's Quick Center for the Arts live in HD Saturday, Dec. 20 at 12 Noon with an encore performance Monday, Dec. 22 at 6:00 p.m.

This sensual opera was last seen at the Met in 1978 starring Beverly Sills and according to Fleming, "It's rarely performed because it's impossible to cast ... If my role is difficult, Athanaël's is twice as hard ... And then there's the legend going back to the original Thaïs ... when her top fell off."

Fleming welcomes this iconic role, which, as she reveals, "is the most musically glamorous role I sing. This opera uses every single vocal mechanism in the entire soprano lexicon, from full-bodied lyricism to high pianissimo singing ... terrifying and risky and difficult. Thaïs is one of perhaps four roles in my entire repertoire that could have been written for me."

Although "Thaïs" premiered in 1894, the eponymous character, as Fleming reflects, " is such a modern figure." A great beauty, Thaïs is a courtesan with star quality and an outward confidence that emboldens her to use her seductive gifts to rule her world - Alexandria in fourth century Egypt. Athanaël, a well meaning but naïve monk, has made it his mission to convert Thaïs to a life of devotion and thus rid the city of the sin to disastrous results.

Fleming's assessment of the courtesans of that time paints a familiar picture, "Each of these women, if they were lucky and financially savvy and healthy, then they had fascinating lives. They were completely independent, unlike married women, and could surround themselves with the greatest artists and minds of the day ... But (Thaïs) is also incredibly lonely. She sees very much in her future that once her beauty fades, she will have no value anymore in society, and she's desperately looking for more. That quest for a spiritual life beyond passing physical beauty relates to us today."

"Thaïs" has an approximate running time of 3 hours 21 minutes with two intermissions.

Tickets are $22 general, $20 seniors and $15 students and children and can be purchased online at quickcenter.com or by calling the Box Office at (203) 254-4010. The toll free number is 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit the website at quickcenter.com.

Coming next on Saturday, January 10, with an encore performance on Sunday, January 11, is the Met's new production of Puccini's "La Rondine." Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna provide the star power to deliver this ravishing romance from the world's most popular opera composer.

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Media Contact: Joan Grant, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2950, jgrant@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 4, 2008

Vol. 41, No. 156