Thaïs (includes Meditation)
Jules Massenet

103

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Massenet's sumptuous opera climbs an impressive 39 places

Even among a group of classical music experts, you'd be hard pushed to find anyone who could instantly tell you the plot of French composer Jules Massenet's relatively unknown opera Thaïs. Instead, the work's popularity, longevity and wide appeal are down not to anything particularly operatic, but to a six-minute instrumental section that is heard during a scene change. in that sense, the beautiful Meditation for solo violin and orchestra is officially an intermezzo in opera-speak; but far from being filler music, it's a captivating and pure performance piece in its own right.