One morning she visited him in a dream
“She had awakened desire in him, and he had once approached the house of Thais. But he stopped on the threshold of the courtesan’s house, partly restrained by the natural timidity of extreme youth– he was then but fifteen years old– and partly by the fear of being refused on account of his want of money, for his parents took care that he should commit no great extravagances. God, in His mercy, had used these two means to prevent him from committing a great sin.”
That’s Anatole France’s take on the story, but this week on Unnatural Acts of Opera we’ll hear a different account, Jules Massenet’s opera Thais. It’s the classic 1959 Radio France version, starring Andree Esposito and Robert Massard. For those of you who have the desire (and spare time) to compare the two treatments of the story, the text of France’s novel is online. (Though just between you and La Cieca, it’s so much prettier in French! “Elle avait allumé le désir dans ses veines et il s’était une fois approché de la maison de Thaïs. Mais il avait été arrêté au seuil de la courtisane par la timidité naturelle à l’extrême jeunesse (il avait alors quinze ans), et par la peur de se voir repoussé, faute d’argent, car ses parents veillaient à ce qu’il ne pût faire de grandes dépenses. Dieu, dans sa miséricorde, avait pris ces deux moyens pour le sauver d’un grand crime.”)
Oh, and wait until you hear what Mary Garden did to a diva who dared poach her roles! Unnatural Acts of Opera.