Jules Massenet (1842-1912) is the author of twenty-five operas, oratorios, over two hundred eighty songs, and numerous instrumental works. When his descendant Anne Massenet was entrusted with the family archives, she discovered more than a thousand letters exchanged with his family, students, colleagues, friends, and even a few competitors! Anne Massenet’s new biography, published in France in 2001, is now translated into English by Mary Dibbern. It reveals unknown aspects of Massenet’s personality as documented by letters to his son-in-law Léon Alloend-Bessand who, even after his divorce from Juliette, the composer’s only child, was his father-in-law’s confident. Equally revealing are hundreds of other previously unpublished letters, mostly to his spouse Louise-Constance, nicknamed Ninon, whose long and frequent spa cures forced him to experience unbearable solitude. This is an intimate portrait of Massenet, seen through a unique collection of primary source documents.
Anne Massenet: Anne Massenet is the great-granddaughter of Camille Massenet, one of the older brothers of Jules Massenet. She was born in July 1939, just prior to the outbreak of war in France. Her
father, Jacques Massenet, was an officer in the military and was killed during a battle in 1940.
Trained as a research librarian, she quickly branched out into the field of iconography, where she undertook a career as a specialist for the production of books in scientific subjects.
Pierre Bessand-Massenet, the composer’s grandson, was also a publisher and historian. He was a childless widower and adopted Anne when she reached adulthood. He understood her passion for the world of music and trained her for many years so that she could continue his work as Jules Massenet’s descendant. This was important because Pierre’s own nephews had shown no interest in music.
After the death of Pierre Bessand-Massenet in 1985, Anne Bessand-Massenet assumed his duties and still continues them. In 1990, she created the Association Massenet Internationale which began work on the General Catalogue of Works and a Catalogue of Operas. She also wrote a biography of Massenet, Massenet en toutes lettres, published in 2001 in Paris by Fallois. Her book has been published in its English translation in 2014 by Pendragon Press.
The General Catalogue will also be published by Pendragon.
Mary Dibbern, Translator:
Joined The Dallas Opera as Music Director for Education and Family
Programming in June 2012. She is an internationally known
specialist in the field of vocal coaching and recital accompaniment, with appearances in
Europe, the United States and Asia. Dibbern was graduated summa cum laude from
SMU with a Master of Music in accompaniment under the direction of Maestro Paul
Vellucci. She resided in France from 1978 to 2009, where she studied with Nadia
Boulanger and Pierre Bernac and was guest coach for the Opéra National de Paris, and
all of the major French opera companies. She also worked in Switzerland, Portugal,
Lithuania, Latvia, and in Shanghai where she was in charge of musical and language
preparation for the first French-language productions. In the US, she was guest coach at
Seattle Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera Memphis
and Hawai'i Opera Theatre. She was Head of Music at Minnesota Opera for three
seasons, where she collaborated closely with composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark
Campbell on their world premiere "Silent Night" which subsequently won the Pulitzer
Price for Music 2012. Mary Dibbern is the author of seven books on French music
published by Pendragon Press and is the Editorial Consultant for Musik Fabrik's
publications of works by French composer Jacques Leguerney She is a recording artist
for Harmonia Mundi France, Claves and Maguelone.
March 19, 2015
Jules Emile Frederic Massenet (12 May 1842 - 13 August 1912) was a
, French composer best known for his operas, of which he wrote more than thirty. The two most frequently staged areo,Manon (1884) and Werther (1892). He also composed oratorios, ballets, orchestral works, incidental music, pian o pieces, songs and other music. In "Massenet and His Letters: A New Biography", biographer Anne Massenet draws upon previously unpublished family archives, letters, and photos to present a 250 page biography of Jules Massenet, enhanced with reproductions of
his letters and other images. The result is an impressively researched and detailed biography that should be considered a critically important addition to academic library 19th Century European Music and Biography collections -- as well as a mandatory addition to Massenet studies supplemental reading lists.