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Massenet: Thaïs / Sills, Milnes, Gedda; Maazel
Jules Massenet, Lorin Maazel, Beverly Sills
Massenet: Tha´s / Sills, Milnes, Gedda; Maazel
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (24) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (23) - Disc #2

This set is primarily for devoted fans of Beverly Sills, for fans of Sherrill Milnes in his prime, and for those who must have the uncut version where it's available. The estimable Ms. Sills was in less than ideal voice fo...  more »


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All Artists: Jules Massenet, Lorin Maazel, Beverly Sills, Nicolai Gedda, New Philharmonia Orchestra, John Alldis Choir, Sherrill Milnes, Norma Burrowes
Title: Massenet: Tha´s / Sills, Milnes, Gedda; Maazel
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: EMI Classics
Release Date: 9/26/1995
Genre: Classical
Style: Opera & Classical Vocal
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaCD Credits: 2
UPC: 724356547926

This set is primarily for devoted fans of Beverly Sills, for fans of Sherrill Milnes in his prime, and for those who must have the uncut version where it's available. The estimable Ms. Sills was in less than ideal voice for the making of this recording, which is unfortunate, but the artistry still shines through. Mr. Milnes sings with rich tone. But Lorin Maazel's conducting is leaden and out of empathy with the score. --Sarah Bryan Miller

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CD Reviews

The desert island opera recording
bob turnley | birmingham,al,usa | 07/08/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"After having heard hundreds of opera recordings. After having heard every opera in the standard repertoire and more. This recording of this opera stands above all others. Forget overblown reputations of other operas and opera stars. Massanet was never the darling of the critics and Thais places the tenor in a supporting role. Thus Thais is not recognized for the absolute masterpiece it is.
The extreme demands of the title role also have worked against most recordings. But not this one. Sills is ideal in every way. Her voice has the size and the range and her singing has the commitment to bring Thais to heartrending life. With singing such as this, it is no surprise that Milnes' equally splendid Athanel is willing to forsake all for her love. Renee Fleming and Thomas Hampson's new recording takes a distant back seat to this, the crown jewel of French opera recordings. It deserves a place among the best of the best."
Steven Muni | Sutter Creek, CA USA | 12/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Late 19th-century French opera is often disparaged these days, which isn't really fair. Delibes had some beautiful melodies, and Massenet was a much better composer than many give him credit for. And although "Manon" and "Werther" may be more famous, to me, his late opera "Thais" is his masterpiece. There are three major recordings of this opera, one with Anna Moffo, Gabriel Bacquier and Jose Carreras, a recent one with Renee Fleming, Thomas Hampson and Giuseppe Sabattini, and this 1976 recording with Beverly Sills, Sherill Milnes, and Nicolai Gedda. All three versions have their strengths and weaknesses. The Moffo/Bacquier vesion, although excellent and showing Carreras in his prime, is unavailable. (I'm not sure it was ever issued in CD.) The Fleming/Hampson recording is also excellent--Fleming has a gorgeous and luscious voice, and Hampson a silky smooth baritone--but I find myself reaching for the Sills/Milnes version most often.
Sills was past her prime when she recorded this, and her high notes are a little thin and sometimes wobbly. Nevertheless, her artistry is so great that she infuses the role of the courtesan with the tremendous drama the role requires. Thais' radical change of character, from the insouciant hedonist to the redeemed penitent, is gloriously demonstrated in Sills' portrayal.
And this opera is as much about Athanael as it is Thais. Milnes, at the height of his career when he recorded this in 1976, brings tremendous power and vitality to the role of the priest, whose reverse progression from moralistic religious surety to tortured doubt parallels that of Thais, the object of his forbidden love. Nicolai Gedda's singing is, as always, stylish and graceful, and Loren Maazel's reading of the score is well paced and forceful. This recording belongs in all opera collections."
An Excellent Presentation
Gapare Pacchierrotti | 08/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I found this recording to be the most wonderful version of this opera for a long time. There were other recordings, but they were heavily cut. This one is more complete. To some, having the complete version of an opera may not seem too important, but it is if you wish to really know what the composer was trying to achieve, and not what the managements were doing so things fit into a certain amount of time. Now with the advent of CD, we can have very long operas recorded complete, and have them available for a acceptable price (and we can skip over those dull parts that often longer operas have). Thais has never really captured the public by storm, as really none of Massenet's operas have. Yes, we hear Manon occasionally, but it is not that commonly performed. Interestingly, Manon, Thais, and Esclarmonde were all written for the same soprano -- Sible Sanderson. For those who think that this role is very dramatic and requires the weight of a Rene Flemming (who is wonderful in the role, in my view), you are historically wrong. Sanderson was a very bright high-pitched coloratura. In fact, she auditioned for Massenet while quite young, and sang all the arias for the Queen of the Night. The easy part of her range was that part where most sopranos die. Casting Beverly Sills in this role (one which she excelled in on stage), is not a mistake. Her voice is probably closer to Sible Sanderson's than Sutherland would have been. The lower alternatives in all the above mentioned scored were written after her death (Sanderson died tragically quite young of a horrible disease that turned her entire body to leather, almost petrifying it -- Mary Garden was a close friend of hers, and talks about the entire affair in her own life story). There are many high E's written in Thais, and they all have a dramatic purpose, or represent her laughing at the morality she later would adopt. Sanderson was the toast of Paris, especially during the world's fair when Esclarmonde was premiered. Her voice was described as balls of light. Whether Sills sings quite that way is a matter of taste. It is true, she is not at the beginning of her career when recording this work, but closer to the end of it. That, however, doesn't detract from the insight she brings to the role. One thing she brings, which is so often lacking in French opera, is the command of the language. Sills is fluent in French (and Italian), so it is completely natural for her to sing it in a way that gives depth to the language as well as the notes. She would actually, in her younger days, have been a great choice for Esclarmonde, which if song as Massenet wrote it for Sanderson, would contain a whole plither of high G's above the Queen of the Night's high F. Sutherland sings none of those notes, but and only a couple of times the high D lower alternative (still her performance is riviting). This recording is not perfect. The singers, though wonderful, are a little past the youthfulness that the score implies (except maybe Milnes, one never sees his character as young), but each brings depth and polish to their very difficult music. One thing about Massenet, he seems so easy to sing, the melodies are not overrun with coloratura, or anything like that, so we often think it takes very little to just sing beautifully. He is horribly difficult to sing, for he requires a perfect legato, but in the French manner, not the Italian. It is smooth, but not portamento based. Diction is a must in French opera, even more important than it often is in Italian opera. Poise and retraint are the hallmarks of French opera, never hotheaded emotionalism. One thing that must be said is all the singers in this recording understand the French style. The conductor understands the style as well, but he is a bit drab at times, a bit leaden in his tempi. He does conduct the orchestra with a clean, clear, balanced sound, which is wonderful. He just is slightly "self-conscious" when it comes to the tempi to achieve that clarity. This recording is excellent, and I would still recommend it first, before any other. The Flemming recording is wonderful, but the French style is not understood well by all the cast, and not by the conductor. The French diction is wanting most of the time. The voices in the Flemming recording are fresher, more as we would think these characters would be. Still, even with that, this recording with Sills, Gedda, and Milnes is still the best of this opera, and well worth the money."