Jules Massenet (1842-1912) was one of the most popular opera composers of his age. He was also influential beyond the French boundaries, primarily to Italian opera composers like Puccini and Mascagni. This popularity was not valued by many critics. They accuse him of just wanting to please the audience; he would have unabashedly indulged in exoticism and would only owe his success to his gift to compose beautiful melodies. This not very flattering image has since been outdated. Massenet, composer of such diverse opera’s as Manon, Werther and Thaïs, did not indulge in blind formula work. He learned the libretto by heart before he started and he composed the music in his mind, as a result of which only few composers could surpass him in the clarity and subtlety of his orchestrations and in the nuances of his text settings. Not just his aria’s, but also his recitatives and arioso passages are enchanting. He was a master in the evocation of the couleur locale and is the composer of immortal melodies like the Méditation from Thaïs for violin and orchestra and the Élégie for cello and orchestra.