Jules Massenet was a French composer who dominated the genre of French opera around the turn of the 20th century, producing more than 20 operas and many other works for the stage.
Massenet was born in 1842 in Saint-Etienne to a musical family. His mother was a pianist who also dabbled in composition; she gave Massenet his first piano lessons, in which his vast musical talent was obvious. At the age of 10, Massenet was accepted to the Paris Conservatoire to study piano and solfège. He studied with Ambroise Thomas among others, and won numerous awards including the premiere prix for piano in 1859 and the second prix for counterpoint and fugue in 1862.
His biggest accomplishment was winning the premiere grand prix, the school’s highest composition prize, with his cantata David Rizzio in 1863. During his studies he also published a fantasy on the themes of Meyerbeer (1861) for piano.