French composer Jules Massenet knew what women wanted. His was not the predatory insight of a Lothario but the intuition of a refined and sensitive soul. What other male composer could get away with creating heroines happy to be shallow and frisky (Manon), who love boys half their age (Sappho) or who, like Thaïs, are shamelessly devoted to pleasure?
Massenet's career - and his infamy - began with a "sacred drama" about Mary Magdelene; and reformed bad girls like the non-virgin Mary and the Christ-like Thaïs were his stock-in-trade. Hence the title of this set: sacred and profane arias. The most ravishing love song here is Saint Thérèse Prie. The object of the intense devotion is none other than Jesus. Rosamund Illing is an inspired choice for this intoxicating set. An accomplished dramatic soprano and brilliant Mozartean singer, Illing displays a wondrous instinct for these soaring, girlish songs.