Who doesn't know the story from Genesis (1st Book of Moses) with which all patriarchal, monotheistic believers have been influenced since time immemorial, that with Woman, doom had entered into a once immaculate creation.
Massenet's "Mystère en 3 Parties", with a text from Louis Gallet, uses all of the dramatic possibilities for dramatising the temptation to sin: a voice from heaven.
A speaker (tenor), voices of the night, spirits of hell, and the voices of nature (choir) accompany an event in which all reality is laid bare through its allegorising.
While Adam fundamentally remains a henpecked husband in paradise, Eve is perfectly aware of erotic power, which irresistibly lures her to the tree of knowledge on which the fatal apples grow.
It is unavoidable that the only thing forbidden to those in paradise must be tasted. Adam bites, lured by desire for the fateful fruit. What results is known to all: this vale of tears, the world.
We carry sin as a burden of guilt, as original sin, as cosmic bad conscious around with us.
But Massenet and his librettist, Galet, were no Frenchmen who viewed this fall from grace with a finger raised in accusation, as was undoubtedly the Germanic tendency. Adam and Eve were banished from paradise because they had given heed to the spirits of hell.
In concluding song they accept all divine punishment, but there is one thing they do not wish to relinquish: "Punish us but leave us the joy of love. Let us remain united." Thus with Massenet the power of love triumphs - and musically most vividly - over divine retribution because love is subjet only to its own law.
Jules Massenet, born in 1842 in Montaud, Loire, was the last of twenty-one children (!). He studied in Paris under Ambroise Thomas ("Mignon") and soon received the much sought after "Prix de Rome", which in France was always a springboard to success.
With the operas "Le grand´tante" (1867) and "Don César de Bazan" b(1872), Massenet quickly made an excellent name for himself in Paris, and from a motive unknown suddenly wrote an oratorio in 1873: "Marie Magdeleine." With this religious work Massenet entered a terrain that captivated him forever, and from many points of view pointed the way for the nation with three further works in this genre.
The "Mysterium" (= oratorium) Ève followed in 1875. This composition, in all of its simplicity, the well-known story of original sin in paradise, is much more full of fantasy and decidedly more intensive in its dramatic means of expression, and is in better taste than "Magdeleine."
The master of the parlante (patter song) was able to dress the opera in spiritual clothing from within the severe and basic Catholic tenet of his country.
After 1878 Massenet was a professor at the famous Conservertoire and became a musical institution in Paris - uncontested until his death in 1912. This fame was naturally supported by further operas, such as "Werther", "Thais", and "Don Quichotte". His influence on the works of Claude Debussy and Giacomo Puccini is not to be underestimated.
The CD was released by Arte Nova Classics, 1998 (DDD). Arte Nova 74321 58964 2.
Soprano: Susanne Geb
Baritone: Armin Kolarczyk
Tenor: Angelo Simos
Three Nation Choir, Euregio Symphony Orchestra, Conductor: Jeanpierre Faber
- Première Partie - 1. Prologue - La Naissance de la femme: Introduction et choeurs (05'07")
- 2. Adam et Eve: Prélude (02'36")
- Scène et duo (08'11")
- Récit (00'54")
- Choeur (03'51")
- Deuxième Partie - 3. Eve dans la solitude: Choeur - Prélude (02'57")
- Air (03'28")
- Scène et choeur (08'38")
- Troisième Partie - 4. La Faute: Prélude (02'18")
- Air (02'34")
- Duo (08'26")
- 5. Epilogue - La Malédiction: Récit (03'02")
- Choeur (05'18")