Le Mage

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Le Mage
Opera by Jules Massenet
Alfredo Edel - Jules Massenet - Le mage.jpg
Poster by Alfredo Edel, 1891.
Librettist Jean Richepin
16 March 1891 (1891-03-16)

Le Mage ("the Magus") is an opera in five acts by Jules Massenet to a French libretto by Jean Richepin. It was first performed at the Paris Opéra in Paris on 16 March 1891 in costumes by Charles Bianchini and sets by Auguste Alfred Rubé, Philippe Chaperon and Marcel Jambon (Act I), Amable and Eugène Gardy (Act II), Alfred Lemeunier (Act III), and Jean-Baptiste Lavastre and Eugène Carpezat (Acts IV and V).


Since its premiere run of 31 performances Le Mage has been rarely performed (it was seen in The Hague in 1896), and it is one of Massenet's least known operas. [1] However, it falls squarely in the middle of his most productive period. A rare complete concert performance took place in Saint-Étienne in 2012. [2]


RoleVoice typePremiere cast, [3] 16 March 1891
(Conductor: Auguste Vianesi)
Anahita soprano Maria Lureau-Escalaïs
Varedha mezzo-soprano Caroline Fiérens-Peters
Zarastra tenor Edmond Vergnet
Amrou baritone Jean-François Delmas
Le roi d'Iran bass Jean Martapoura
Touranien prisonertenor Agustarello Affre
Iranian chief bass Voulet
Heraldbass Charles Douaillier
Touranien chiefbassRagneau
A ballerinamute Rosita Mauri


Act 1

At dawn in the camp of the Persian general Zarastra

Zarastra has just defeated the Turanians. Amrou, Persian high priest to the Daevas (the supposed gods of pre-Zoroastrian Persia), enters with his daughter, Varedha, priestess of Djahi, goddess of love. Varedha declares her love for Zarastra. He however loves the captive Turanian queen, Anahita; she is in love with him but rejects him rather than betray her countrymen.

Act 2

Scene 1: In a subterranean chamber in the Djahi temple

Amrou enters looking for Varedha, and promises vengeance on Zarastra for spurning his daughter.

Scene 2: In the square of Balzhdi

Zarastra, hailed by the courtiers and priests, presents before the Persian king the treasures and captives he has taken. As the prize of his victory he requests to take as wife Anahita. Amrou objects to the union – Zarastra promised to marry Varedha. Although the general denies this, Amrou convinces everyone that he has broken his word, and Zarastra is banished.

Act 3

On a holy mountain – sacred to the god of fire

Zarastra is worshiped now as a magus, and prays. His meditation is broken by Varedha who has pursued him to the mountain and swears her love for him. She finally says that Anahita is about to marry the king.

Act 4

The temple of Djahi

There are dances in preparation for the wedding. But Anahita refuses to marry the king, who nonetheless tries to proceed with the ceremony. Anahita threatens an uprising, and Touranian soldiers burst in and overrun the city.

Act 5

The ruins of Balzdhi

Zarastra is devastated and walks in the ruins. He finds the bodies of the king and the high priest. He does not find the body of his beloved. At a fanfare and Anahita enters and repeats her love for Zarastra. Varedha comes to and, seeing the couple, curses them. Flames re-ignite, but a prayer by Zarastra moves the god Ahura Mazda to stop the flames so that the lovers may leave the temple. Varedha expires.



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  1. Irvine D. Massenet: a chronicle of his life and times. Amadeus Press, Portland, 1997.
  2. La résurrection du Mage à Saint-Etienne, review from Massenet Festival, retrieved 21 July 2013.
  3. Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Le mage, 16 March 1891" . L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  4. This is not a 'creator recording' as Affré appeared as The Touranien Prisoner in the opera's premiere; the aria is sung by Zarastra.