Our Video of the Week features Heifetz alumnus and HeifetzPEG instructor Thomas Mesa performing his own arrangement for cello of the beautiful Méditation from Jules Massenet’s opera Thaïs. Tommy is joined virtually by Heifetz faculty pianist Yoon Lee in New York.
This opera, written in 1894 with a libretto by Louis Gallet, tells the story of the Cenobite monk Athanaël, who lived in Egypt during the rule of the Roman Empire. The monk tries to convert the titular Thaïs, a beautiful Alexandrian devotee of Venus, to Christianity. While Athanaël’s own resolve is shaken by his desire for her, Thaïs too struggles with the decision between her nihilistic worldview and the promise of everlasting life if she converts and enters the convent.
The Méditation is performed as an interlude while those decisions and themes are pondered, and the delicate melody and lush piano harmonies have been described as conveying the religious eroticism inherent in these characters and their choices. This interlude has outlived the popularity of the opera itself, and has been performed a show piece on many instruments by a myriad of performers.
Thomas and Yoon do a remarkable job capturing the intimacy of the piece even in this remote setting. Find out more about the emerging Cuban-American cellist at http://thomasmesacello.com/