Massenet wrote a bunch of operas, and he liked leitmotifs a lot, so much so that his fans say he out-Wagnered Wagner. Despite all this hard work in long forms, his most famous (and beloved) composition is this pretty intermezzo from Thaïs:
There’s a melodic moment at about 0:45 in that video, and I recommend you try it for yourself:
- Establish the tonic major chord.
- Let the melody footle about a bit, in a rising fashion, until it hits the fifth degree of the scale.
- Drop an octave. You’re still on the fifth degree, but an octave lower.
- Go up a tone, to the sixth degree of the scale, and shift the chord underneath to the subdominant.
In Massenet’s case (D major, two sharps), it looks like this:
If I’m right to recommend this little melodic trick, there should be other examples from other composers who have tugged the heartstrings by this method, and raked in the cash. Ladies and gentlemen, Roger Whittaker’s The Last Farewell (1971, although it didn’t chart until 1975). Whittaker does it around the 0:32 mark, and even more clearly at 0:53
Furthermore, Stephen Sondheim’s only bona fide chart hit, as performed by Judy Collins, also happened in the Spring of 1975. The two composers composed independently, but the hits occurred at the same time. Mere coincidence? The instrumental intro does the trick at 0:26, and the vocal version is at 0:54
Now that I see the timings on these videos, I have one more recommendation:
5. Do it early in the tune. The end of bar 3 seems to be the sweet spot.