On Monday, November 28, the ornate Second Empire Palais Gamier in Paris, home of the Paris Opéra, was the scene of an unusual event: the world premiere of an opera by the elder statesman of French composers, Olivier Messiaen, entitled Saint François d’Assise. The opera, the 75-year-old Messiaen’s first (and almost certainly last) such work, was presented before an audience of the composer’s partisans and friends, critics from Europe and the United States, and the usual sprinkling of official figures, not least among them the Cardinal-Archbishop of Paris, Jean-Marie Lustiger, who professed afterward not to have been an instant bored by the almost five hours of music. On Thursday, there followed the inaugural gala of the opera before le tout Paris, tenue de soirée obligée (in black or white tie). The opening was followed by six further performances, most of the tickets for which had been...


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