Born: March 7, 1822; Lorient, Morbihan
Died: July 5, 1884; Paris, France
The numerous prizes that Victor (Felix Marie) Massé took during his studies in some ways forecasted his success as a composer; he is, however, ultimately remembered for his less-complicated pieces, not for his many complex operas, which are viewed by some as not thoroughly refined. Following his entry into the Conservatoire at the age of 12, he studied with Zimmerman, took a high prize in solfege (1837), and top prizes in piano (1839), harmonyRead more (1840), and fugue (1843). From there, he became a pupil of Halévy, gaining additional guidance that probably helped him win the Grand Prix de Rome in 1844 with his cantata Le renégat de Tanger.
Important appointments that Massé held include that of chorus master at the Opera-Comique beginning in 1860 and professor of counterpoint at the Conservatoire as of 1866. Elected to the Institut de France in 1873, he became an Officier of the Legion d'Honneur in 1877. Even with a painful disease that affected his nervous system so badly that he eventually had to withdraw from the Conservatoire (1876), Massé continued to compose until his death in the summer of 1884. His dramatic works, which were produced at prestigious locations -- including Covent Garden, the Opera National Lyrique, and the Opera-Comique -- received mixed reception. La chanteuse voilee (1850) initially drew attention to his skills, Paul et Virginie (1876) achieved only transient success, and Les noces de Jeannette (1853) is still praised for its unpretentious appeal. The latter two operas, in addition to Galathée (1852), La reine topaze (1856), and Les saisons (1855) have all been recorded from 1904 onward, and produced through Decca, Marston, Accord, and Symphonia. Read less