Massenet, born in Montaud in 1842, was one of the most respected French composers of his day, a member of the Academy and a professor of composition at the Paris Conservatoire. In addition to his own music, he had a monumental impact on his contemporaries in France and, through his teaching, the generation that followed him.

He entered the Paris Conservatoire at 11, and later studied in Rome, where he gained the Prix de Rome in 1863. On his return from Rome in 1866 he married one of his pianoforte pupils, and in the following year his first opera, La Grand'tante, was produced. He went on to write around 40 more operas (of which the most famous are probably Manon and Thaïs), three ballets, four oratorios and many other works. He died in Paris in 1912.

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