It is hard to claim that Thais is a great opera. It is, rather, an exotic, erotic antique concerning an alluring courtesan in decadent 4th century Alexandria. The opera, based upon a work by Anatole France, tells the story of a Cenobite monk, Athanaël, who is obsessed with the beautiful courtesan, Thaïs. He sublimates his longing by converting her to Christianity and delivering her to a monastery. He then realizes that he has lost her forever when she dies at the end of the opera.
Should You See it?
This is a tough question, in my opinion. Massenet wrote at least two operas that can be considered masterpieces and that remain in the standard repertory. These are Manon, a truly great opera, and Werther, a very fine opera.
Thais does not reach the heights of either of those two works. However, it does have some beautiful music, most famously the Meditation.
Seeing Thais provides you with an opportunity to experience a relatively little-known and rarely performed opera with some beautiful music.