Doubter's Prayer Book: Méditation from Thaïs
Every Sunday, we will look at a poem, painting, comic, song, short video, performance piece, dance, or other art form that in some way wrestles with the divine in an honest and heartfelt way. This is an exercise in contemplation and a celebration of the beauty that comes from struggle. As such, the art will be left to speak for itself. If you have an original piece that you would like to share or would like to suggest someone else's art, please let me know at email@example.com
This Week's Artist: Jules Massenet
Context: Thaïs is a 1894 Opera about a celibate and ascetic Christian monk who tries to convert a beautiful and hedonistic courtesan, but realizes too late that his obsession with her is actually rooted in lust.
Méditation is an instrumental piece that takes places between scenes in Act II. The monk has just been trying to persuade the courtesan Thaïs to leave behind her life of pleasure and luxury and find salvation through God.
This song reflects her contemplation as she tries to decide between sexual pleasure or holiness.
Without a background of the situation, I'd say this performance sucks. A beautiful and dramatically textured melody like this, and above such gentle harmony, ought to be much more prolonged and legato, with lavish rubato. Twenty extra beats per minute and a more or less defined tempo says the character is more about immediate gratification. Brief, thrusting jolts of chromaticism and metered portamento scream whimsy and casual sex. There may be tenderness, but no patience for the divine here.ReplyDelete
That's a really interpretation of the piece. I know very little about music, so it's great to hear your perspective.ReplyDelete
How much do you think that is a reflection of this particular performance and how much do you think is the actual composition of the piece? In the opera, this song shows her making the decision (albeit briefly) to forsake her life for God. Do you think that tension and decision is reflected at all in the music?