Massenet is one composer who has definitely gained ground in recent years with reassessments of many of his more obscure operas, once condemned for simply possessing unconventional plots. Fine stagings and recordings on CD and DVD have given new life to works like Thérèse , Don Quichotte , Le Mage and Cendrillon , but it’s Thaïs that suddenly, it seems, we can’t get enough of.

Beverly Sills, Leontyne Price and Renée Fleming gave it the push it needed, and in recent years both Opera Australia and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra have presented it in concert performances. This new Chandos recording replicates the MSO performance as far as conductor (Sir Andrew Davis) and diva (Erin Wall) go, but the orchestra and chorus come from one of Davis’s “other” outfits, the Toronto Symphony.

The opera’s idiosyncratic plot concerns Athanaël, a young man raised in the libidinous city of Alexandria, who has chosen to become a chaste Cenobite monk. A restless spirit, he decides it is his mission to return to the city of sin and convert its greatest malefactor, the courtesan Thaïs. Against all odds he...

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