The virtual disappearance of Meyerbeer from the operatic repertory is one of the most puzzling enigmas of music history. In his lifetime he was ranked on a par with the greatest among the great. The new Paris Opera designed by Charles Garnier, which opened its doors ten years after Meyerbeer’s death, had his bust on its façade (as it still does) along with those of Mozart and Beethoven. Berlioz, who is rightly held as a master orchestrator himself, considered Meyerbeer a model in this respect. Verdi’s admiration, while tinged with envy, was genuine. Wagner, who benefited from Meyerbeer’s generosity before reviling him in an anti-Semitic pamphlet, was deeply influenced by him. Yet, beginning in the last decade of the nineteenth century, Meyerbeer’s operas were less frequently staged: Robert le diable, “one of the greatest operatic successes of all time” (according to Alfred Loewenberg, lexicographer, historian, and author of the Annals of Opera) was last revived at Covent Garden in 1890, at the Paris Opera in 1893, and in Vienna in 1921. Le prophète was heard in London until 1895 and at the Paris Opera until 1912. Les Huguenots and L’Africaine remained in the repertory of major opera houses through the 1930s, but after 1945 revivals of Meyerbeer’s operas were few and far between.
One should remember, as Matthias Brzoska has argued in his entry for the New Grove, that attacks on Meyerbeer began in his lifetime, and that anti-Semitism—as in the case of Schumann, sadly—often played a role in them. That was most famously the case of Wagner, who argued that Meyerbeer, being a Jew, had no national roots and could produce only an artificial, cosmopolitan, inorganic art form, which he speciously characterized as “effects without causes.” There is no doubt that the canonization of Wagner that began in the 1870s was correspondingly injurious to Meyerbeer’s reputation. To be sure, Wagner himself, who liked Boïeldieu, Auber, and Halévy, had a broader musical taste than one would assume. It was after his death that his partisans, elevating him to the status of “the god Richard Wagner” (in Stéphane Mallarmé’s famous phrase), succeeded in convincing several generations of music-lovers that musical progress went only in one direction and everything that did not conform to the model of the “music of the future” had to be despised.
Meyerbeer, of course, was not the only victim of this evolution. Grand opéra as a genre fell into oblivion, if not disrepute. Verdi’s Don Carlos had to wait until the 1950s to be rediscovered, and not even in its original form, and only recently has a masterpiece like Donizetti’s Dom Sébastien begun to attract serious interest. The French repertory in general went through a period of neglect that lasted several decades and from which it has only recently begun to emerge. Auber, Halévy, Chabrier, Lalo have not, in this respect, been much luckier than Meyerbeer.
Another possible cause for the decline of Meyerbeer’s reputation is that his operas are difficult to stage and, especially, to cast. This argument ignores the fact that, for many decades, his works were widely staged in French provincial theaters as well as all over Germany and Italy, under less than ideal artistic conditions no doubt, but being nonetheless part of the regular repertory and training of singers. Raoul in Les Huguenots, Jean de Leyde in Le prophète are arduous parts, certainly, but are Tannhaüser or Tristan kinder to the tenor voice? If singing Fidès is a challenge, so is Norma. Yet there is no question that, like Norma, Meyerbeer operas undeniably need “star” quality to fulfill their potential. If their sporadic revivals have caused such sensations, it is largely thanks to some of the finest voices of the day: Sutherland and Corelli in Les Huguenots at La Scala, Scotto and Christoff in Robert le diable in Florence, Gedda in Les Huguenots in Vienna, Domingo and Verrett in L’Africaine at San Francisco, Horne in Le prophète at the Met, Vanzo, Anderson, and Ramey in Robert le diable in Paris. It is all the more interesting, therefore, to preserve and study the recorded legacy of great singers of the past who learned to sing Meyerbeer when his works were still part of an unbroken operatic tradition.
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Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791–1864) was born Jakob Herz Beer. He later expanded his name to include his mother’s patronym. He grew up in Berlin in a prosperous family of Jewish bankers and industrialists with ties to the social and intellectual elite in the Prussian capital. He first studied with Carl Friedrich Zelter (1758–1832), the friend of Goethe, who also taught Mendelssohn and Nicolai. He subsequently moved to Darmstadt to receive instruction from the Abbé Georg Joseph Vogler (1749–1814). Vogler’s own pupils included Weber, with whom Meyerbeer developed a close artistic and intellectual friendship.
Meyerbeer’s first extended Parisian stay was in 1814–1815. He had by then two works staged in Germany, the Biblical opera Jephthas Gelübde (1812) and the Orientalist Singspiel Wirth und Gast (1813), neither with much success. His discovery of the French capital prompted him to write, already then, that it was “the principal and most important place for my education in music drama.” During the following decade, however, his career was centered in Italy, which he first visited in 1816. Romilda e Costanza (Padua, 1817), and Semiramide (Turin, 1819) were both well received, while Emma di Resburgo (Venice, 1819) established his reputation within Europe as the main rival to Rossini. Margherita d’Anjou, Meyerbeer’s Scala debut, based by his librettist Felice Romani on a French melodrama by Guilbert de Pixérécourt, was an even greater triumph in 1820. The cast included the great French bass Nicolas Levasseur (1791–1871), who later premiered two of Meyerbeer’s most important bass roles, Bertram in Robert le diable and Marcel in Les Huguenots. It was through him that initial overtures were made to Meyerbeer from the Paris Opera as early as 1823. In 1825 Rossini, by then director of the Théâtre-Italien in Paris, mounted the first French production of a Meyerbeer opera, Il crociato in Egitto. It had originally premiered in Venice with the castrato Velluti, but in view of the well-known antipathy of the French towards this type of singer, his part was recast for mezzo-soprano, and no less a one than Giuditta Pasta. A French-language staging of Margherita d’Anjou followed at the Odéon in 1826. Pixérécourt, then director of the Opéra-Comique, approached Meyerbeer with a commission to be based on a libretto by Eugène Scribe. This ultimately was to become Robert le diable. Pixérécourt left the Opéra-Comique in 1827 and the project was put aside and subsequently resumed in 1829 by the Paris Opera. The fact that Robert le diable was first planned as an opéra-comique with spoken dialogue rather than recitative no doubt explains why, in its final form, it retains a surprising proportion of buffo elements.
Meyerbeer never actually settled in Paris, partly on account of the delicate health of his wife Minna, whom he married in 1826, keeping his native Berlin as his primary residence. In Paris, he stayed in hotels or rented apartments. For the next 35 years, however, he was a major presence in the musical life of the French capital and was arguably the most important figure in contemporary French opera.
What has become known as grand opéra (the French phrase is more specific than the vague English phrase ‘grand opera’) was born in the late 1820s at a time when the traditional “tragédie lyrique,” rooted in a combination of lengthy orchestral recitatives and ballet music, and almost invariably set in classical antiquity, had largely lost its appeal with audiences fascinated by Byron and Walter Scott. By contrast, works like Rossini’s Le siège de Corinthe (his 1826 adaptation of his earlier Maometto Secondo), Auber’s La muette de Portici (1828), and Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (1829) were dramatizations of events borrowed from more recent history. They were staged lavishly, with sets and costumes painstakingly trying to reconstitute the past in its most picturesque aspects. Ballets, on the other hand, continued to remain obligatory. After Rossini retired and while Auber focused on opéra-comique or semi-serious works, it was left to Halévy and Meyerbeer to bring the genre of grand opéra to a point of perfection.
Robert le diable, premiering to enormous acclaim at the Paris Opera in November 1831, was in a sense slightly atypical, with its legendary and supernatural elements. But the setting, Sicily under the Normans, offered the requisite historical picturesque, and the work relates to other Meyerbeer grands opéras by focusing on a philosophical dilemma. Like a symbol of the human condition, Robert is torn between forces of good (embodied by his foster-sister Alice) and evil (represented by his unknown, diabolical father). The fact that opera could deal with such ambitious questions was perceived by contemporary critics as an exciting novelty. Meyerbeer’s breadth of conception and sense of orchestral color were praised as a sensational innovation, as well as his combining of Italianate vocal forms and German symphonic complexity. In addition to Levasseur, the cast of Robert le diable included the great lyric tenor Adolphe Nourrit as Robert (he had been the original Masaniello in La muette de Portici and the first Arnold in Guillaume Tell), the coloratura sopranos Julie Dorus-Gras as Alice and Laure Cinti-Damoreau as Isabelle, while the ballet of the nuns featured no less than Marie Taglioni as the prioress Helena. Robert le diable was quickly mounted in theaters all over France and Europe and, in short order around the world.
It took Meyerbeer six years to complete his next opera, Les Huguenots, drawn by Scribe from Mérimée’s 1829 novel Chronique du temps de Charles IX. Even more successful than Robert, Les Huguenots was rightly considered the unsurpassable model of the history-based grand opéra. Like Halévy’s La Juive, which preceded it by a year, it boldly confronts the issue of religious intolerance and persecution—a topic so sensitive in Catholic Vienna, the Papal States, and even in Protestant Germany that the work was staged there in highly censored forms. Meyerbeer had taken an active part in the fashioning of the libretto, which, for a while, he even took out of Scribe’s hands, paying the Paris Opera 30,000 francs for breach of contract, which he later renegotiated. He hired his former Italian librettist Rossi to rewrite portions of the text that were subsequently translated into French. For Meyerbeer—whose French prosody is not always orthodox—words per se mattered less than the power of the dramatic situation. He attached a particular importance to the character of Marcel: principled, uncompromising, and insistent on the rights and rites of a minority religion in a Catholic-dominated world. Meyerbeer obviously identified personally with Marcel and viewed him as the central character in the opera. Compared to Robert le diable, which ends well (except for the devil), Les Huguenots has a tragic and pessimistic denouement: all three principal characters are massacred, the fanatic Saint-Bris pays a price for his intolerance by losing his daughter and Marguerite de Valois, symbol of a benevolent power, is reduced to the status of a silent, impotent witness. At the February 1836 premiere, Nourrit (Raoul), Dorus-Gras (Marguerite), and Levasseur (Marcel) were joined by Cornélie Falcon (1814–1897) as Valentine. She had sung Rachel in La Juive the year before and had deeply impressed Meyerbeer as Alice in Robert le diable. Her meteoric career was over by 1838, but her name has remained attached to her demanding roles, which required both stamina and agility. If Les Huguenots, which calls for seven principals, gradually disappeared from the regular operatic repertory after 1914, it is no doubt owing to the difficulty in finding suitable singers, as well as a staging that does justice to the work.
An interval of 13 years preceded the premiere of Meyerbeer’s third French opera, Le prophète. This was due to Meyerbeer’s uncommon fastidiousness, both as dramaturge and musician, as well as to disagreements over casting. In the meantime, he wrote Ein Feldlager in Schlesien for the opening of the new Berlin Opera House. Finally, Le prophète was unveiled to enormous acclaim in April 1849. As with Les Huguenots, Scribe’s libretto was based on an historical event, the Anabaptist uprising of 1534–1535, which led to the establishment of a short-lived theocracy in the Westphalian city of Münster under a young, charismatic Dutchman named John of Leyden, after his native city. Scribe took understandable liberties with factual accuracy: his prophet—faithful lover, devoted son, driven to rebellion by a monstrous injustice—is a far cry from his model, who took advantage of the brutal theocracy he presided over to take as many wives as he could and to have one of them publicly beheaded. In the opera, guilt is largely transferred to Jean’s sinister accomplices, Jonas, Mathisen, and Zacharie, who eventually betray him. Yet Jean is an impostor—like Dmitri in Boris Godunov—and a dictator, and thus an unusually negative, or at least ambiguous figure, by traditional operatic standards. This complex and demanding role had been intended for Gilbert Duprez—the original Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor and the original Benvenuto Cellini—but by the mid-1840s Duprez was thought to be in decline; the last part he premiered was Gaston in Verdi’s Jérusalem in 1847. The title-role in Le prophète was therefore given to Gustave Roger, the Paris Opera’s leading tenor at the time, while the 28-year old Pauline Viardot starred as Fidès, Jean’s mother, a part now widely considered the most arduous in the mezzo-soprano repertory. The original staging famously made use, for the first time anywhere, of electrical lighting for the sunrise at the end of Act 3. As for the Cathedral Scene in Act 4, with its great coup de théâtre—Jean, in the middle of his coronation, is suddenly recognized by his mother—Verdi, for one, considered it nothing short of miraculous.
L’étoile du nord, Meyerbeer’s long-delayed debut in the quintessential French genre of opéra-comique, was derived, dramatically and musically, from his German opera Ein Feldlager in Schlesien, which was based on a scenario by Scribe. Its main character, though for censorship reasons he never appeared on stage, was Frederick the Great of Prussia. For the French version, Scribe transposed the action from Prussia to Russia: the hero, no longer invisible, became Peter the Great and the female role (conceived for Jenny Lind in the Berlin version, where she is a Gypsy girl named Vielka), Catherine I. The success was once again considerable at the Opéra-Comique premiere in 1854, even though the music is most famous today for having been used by Constant Lambert, together with the skating ballet from Le prophète, in his 1937 ballet Les patineurs.
While opera-goers throughout Europe were eagerly awaiting the unfinished Africaine, Meyerbeer wrote a second opéra-comique in 1859, Le pardon de Ploërmel, for which he provisionally abandoned Scribe for the team of Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, Gounod’s librettists for Faust, Roméo et Juliette, and several more of his works. With its Breton setting, small cast, and semi-serious tone, it belongs to a different vein in Meyerbeer’s production, but is by no means the least attractive of his works. The star baritone part of Hoël was written for the celebrated Jean-Baptiste Faure (1830–1914), then singing at the Opéra-Comique, while the coloratura role of Dinorah was premiered by the Belgian soprano Marie Cabel (1827–1885), who was to be the first Philine in Mignon in 1866. Meyerbeer prepared a version with sung recitatives for productions outside France, where the work was generally called Dinorah.
More than 28 years in the making, and posthumously premiered, L’Africaine must hold the record for the longest delayed operatic project in history. Initially conceived with Falcon in mind shortly after the premiere of Les Huguenots, L’Africaine was put aside once she was forced to leave the stage. When Le prophète was postponed in turn owing to Meyerbeer’s opposition to Rosine Stoltz being cast in the principal role, work was resumed on L’Africaine. A first version, the long-lost manuscript of which recently surfaced in France and is now at Yale, was completed in 1843. The last three acts are similar to the final version, but the first two are completely different, and the work has a Spanish setting and a hero named Fernand. The projet was abandoned once again—some of the music finding its way into Le prophète (e.g. Fidès’s Act 5 cavatine)—and resumed in the early 1860s, when its hero and title became Vasco de Gama and the setting of the last two acts moved to India. After Scribe died in 1861, a team of librettists was appointed to help with the final stages of the revision. Meyerbeer completed the instrumentation of the provisional score in 1863 but initial rehearsals were barely underway when he was suddenly taken ill and died in Paris on 2 May 1864. The octogenarian Belgian-musicologist François-Joseph Fétis was entrusted with overseeing the preparation of the version that was ultimately premiered at the Paris Opera, to enormous fanfare, on 28 April 1865. Fétis sensibly reverted to the title under which the opera had been referred to, L’Africaine, changing Selika’s kingdom to an unspecified island in the Indian Ocean, which might be identified as Madagascar. Yet glaring inconsistencies, like the natives worshiping Shiva and Vishnu, could not be ironed out. More seriously perhaps, Fétis and his team rewrote and modified some crucial aspects of the story: thus the work’s best known number, the tenor’s aria “Ô paradis,” was not intended by Scribe and Meyerbeer as a colonialist ownership claim but as a melancholy farewell to life (on a different text) as Vasco thought he was about to be sacrificed. L’Africaine is thus one of those canonical works in the nineteenth century repertory that would benefit from a critical edition establishing a text closer to the composer’s original intentions. Such as it is, it was rightly considered from the outset one of Meyerbeer’s most beautiful scores. The opening cast included the Belgian Marie Sasse (who had premiered Elisabeth in the French Tannhaüser and would later sing the Elisabeth of Verdi’s Don Carlos) as Selika and Faure as Nelusko. Of all Meyerbeer’s works, it is the one that has been revived most often in the second half of the twentieth century, though the absence of a studio recording shows that its reputation is still vastly inferior to its merit.
©Vincent Giroud, 2009
ADAMS, SUZANNE [so] (Cambridge, MA, 1872–London, 1953) Adams studied in Paris with Jacques Bouhy and Mathilde Marchesi. She made her debut at the Paris Opera as Juliette (1895) followed by the same role at Covent Garden (1896), and the Metropolitan (4 January 1899). All three of these performances were well received, and at the Met, the audience clamored for more, resulting in a repeat of her Act 1 “Valse.” In 1905 Albert Spalding stated Adams’s voice was “waning” and that “she did not sing wisely.” Despite an auspicious beginning, by 1907 Adams was appearing in a London variety hall, and her singing career had ended and later she supposedly operated an exclusive laundry in London. Suzanne Adams recorded cylinders for Bettini, and discs for Pathé, G&T, and Columbia.
AFFRE, AGUSTARELLO [te] (Saint-Chinian, 1858–Cagnes sur Mer, 1931) A great exponent of the French tradition of grand opéra, Agustarello Affre held his own with Escalaïs, de Reszke, Scaremberg, Muratore, and Franz in a career that lasted two decades. After studying in Toulouse and at the Paris Conservatory National, Affre made his debut at the Paris Opera in 1890 as Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor with Nellie Melba. He soon claimed leading parts in Les Huguenots, Guillaume Tell, Aida, Faust, Sigurd, L’Africaine, and Roméo et Juliette. At the Paris Opera, he created Zarastra in Massenet’s Le mage and was the first Canio. Despite never singing at the Opéra-Comique, he made guest appearances in Lyons, Marseilles, Brussels, London, Havana, and San Francisco. In 1912 he appeared in New Orleans and the following year was appointed the director of the company. A prolific recording artist, Affre recorded a large and varied repertoire for Zonophone, G & T, Columbia, Pathé, and Odéon. His bright voice recorded well for the early gramophone but often the acoustic process emphasized a strained and edgy quality that may not have been so apparent in the theater.
AGUSSOL, CHARLOTTE MARIE [so] (Toulon, 1863–Paris, 1939) Though her first names included Charlotte and Marie, she was known on stage as Pauline Agussol. She graduated from the Paris Conservatory and was recruited by the Paris Opera. Her debut was as Urbain in Les Huguenots on 19 September 1888. That season also saw her as Stéphano in the first Paris Opera performance of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette (28 November) with Adelina Patti, the de Reszke brothers, Léon Melchissédec, and Jean-François Delmas. Agussol soon added Siébel in Faust and she continued to perform these roles throughout her 20-year Paris Opera career. Among other creations and first performances, Agussol sang Ascagne in the Paris Opera’s staging of Berlioz’s Prise de Troie in 1899. Her final season at the Paris Opera was 1907. She recorded for G&T, beginning in 1901. She also recorded for Zonophone, Odeon, Favorite, and APGA, of which she was one of the founding members.
ALVAREZ, ALBERT [te] (Cenon, near Bordeaux, 1861–Nice, 1923) Alvarez made his debut in Ghent, 1886, as Gounod’s Faust and subsequently appeared in Lyons and Marseilles. He was on the roster of the Paris Opera from 1892 until 1906, where he created a number of roles including Nicias in Massenet’s Thaïs. He also had great success at Covent Garden where he sang Araquil in the first performance of Massenet’s La Navarraise (1904). He appeared at Monte Carlo in 1904, and among his roles there was Paris in the premiere of Saint-Saën’s Hélène with Nellie Melba. Alvarez appeared at the Metropolitan from 1899 until 1903, singing principally heroic roles: Rodrigue in Le Cid; Raoul in Les Huguenots; Otello; Canio; Jean in Le prophète; Don Jose; Faust; Roméo; and several Wagnerian parts. During the season of 1907–1908 he toured Belgium and Germany, at which point his singing career seems to have drawn to a close. Apparently he had hoped that the Paris Opera would reengage him, but his not having an agent prevented this from happening. After 1906, he taught in Paris. Alvarez recorded cylinders and discs exclusively for Pathé between 1902 and 1905.
ANCONA, MARIO [ba] (Leghorn, 1860–Florence, 1931) Ancona first studied art and then began a career in business. His love of music, however, led to amateur study and performance. His official training began in Milan 1888 with Giuseppe Cima. Ancona was deemed ready for a debut in 1890, which took place in Trieste as Scindia in Massenet’s Roi de Lahore. His second engagement was as Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana, in which he replaced the role’s creator, Guadenzio Salassa. By the end of the year he reached La Scala, appearing in Massenet’s Le Cid. He was to have created Silvio in Pagliacci in 1892, but he withdrew from the cast shortly before the premiere. He later took on the role of Tonio in various first performances of the opera, including Covent Garden and the Metropolitan, two houses in which he was frequently heard during the 1890s. He was also successful in Warsaw, Paris, and throughout Italy. His return to America in 1906 was with Hammerstein’s Manhattan Opera. In 1913 and 1914, Ancona appeared with the Boston Opera, singing his familiar repertoire, which included Rigoletto, Barnaba, Iago, Marcello, and Tonio, and adding Rafaele in Wolf-Ferrari’s I Gioielli della Madonnna. His final operatic season was with the Chicago Opera, 1915–1916. Ancona’s earliest records were made in Milan for G&T followed by a group of two-minute cylinders recorded for Edison in 1907. His final recordings were made in the U. S. for Victor.
AUGUEZ DE MONTALANT, BERTHE [so] (Baltimore, 1865–?) After the death of her father, Berthe de Montalant left America and went to Paris, where she took music lessons with Armand Chevé. She then entered the Bordeaux Conservatory in 1885 and won several awards, including a first prize in singing. She returned to Paris where the conductor, Charles Lamoureux, heard her sing and engaged her for his concerts. Her debut with Lamoureux took place at the Paris Odéon in Mendelssohn’s Athalie (13 October 1889). One critic wrote “the beautiful voice of Mlle. de Montalant was warmly applauded.” Edouard Colonne heard her in a performance of Augusta Holmes’s Lutèce and he hired her for his concerts at Paris’s Le Théâtre Châtelet. Thus Berthe de Montalant began a long and successful career as a concert soloist in works such as Berlioz’s L’enfance du Christ, Roméo et Juliette, and La damnation de Faust. In 1892, she married Numa Augez (1847–1903), a baritone who early in his career had sung comprimario parts at the Paris Opera, but by the end of the 1880s had become a well-established concert singer, appearing regularly on the Lamoureux and Colonne programs. After their marriage, Berthe continued her career as Mme. Auguez de Montalant, and on 16 April 1899, she made her only appearance at the Opéra-Comique, substituting for Rose Caron as Fidelio. It should be mentioned here that her husband’s sister, Mathilde Auguez, was a light-soprano who had sung at the Opéra-Comique between 1887 and 1889. Some recent biographical sources have inadvertently confused and conflated the careers of these two very different sopranos. Berthe Auguez de Montalant made nearly 50 sides for French Gramophone, which display a powerful, dramatic voice that immediately commands the listener’s attention.
AUMONIER, PAUL [bs] (1872–Paris, 1944) Aumonier entered the Paris Conservatory as a pupil of Léon Melchissédec. Most of his career was spent on the stages of provincial theaters including Monte Carlo, Lausanne, Brussels, Algiers, Nice, and Rouen. He appeared with Van Dyck, Albers, Demougeot, and Caruso. Aumonier took part in the premiere of Edouard Trémisot’s Pyrame et Thisbé (Monte Carlo, 1904), Mazellier’s Graziella (Andréa, Theatre des Arts in Rouen, 1913), and Trémisot’s Stamboul (Mehmed Pacha, Algiers Opera, 1924). He also sang at the Paris Opera in Samson et Dalila, Salammbô, Aida, Roméo et Juliette, and Rigoletto. Aumonier, who recorded extensively for all of the French record labels, possessed one of the most beautiful basso profondo voices of his time.
BAKKERS, MARTHE [so] (?–?) Bakkers made her debut at the Opéra-Comique on 10 February 1907 as “the Happy Shade” in Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice. She was associated with the Opéra-Comique for many years, singing mostly minor roles but occasionally more important ones: Le Bleuet in the first performance there of Rimsky-Korsakov Snegourotchka; Ygraine in Ducas’s Ariane et Barbe Bleue; Séso in d’Erlanger’s Aphrodite; Clémence in Mireille; Ellen in Lakmé; Frasquita and Micaela in Carmen; and the title role in Massé’s Les noces de Jeanette. In 1909, Bakkers played one of the three boys in Die Zauberflöte, one of the other boys being Maggie Teyte. She recorded a large number of discs for the French Gramophone Company, and a few sides for Odeon and Opéra.
BELHOMME, HIPPOLYTE [bs] (Paris, 1854–Nice, 1923) Belhomme studied at the Paris Conservatory winning second prizes for singing and for opéra-comique. He made his debut at the Opéra-Comique on 11 November 1879 in Félicien David’s Lalla-Rouck (Baskir). At the Opéra-Comique, Belhomme sang in the world premieres of Offenbach’s Les contes d’Hofmann (Crespel) and Charpentier’s Louise (the minor role of “le vieux Bohême.”) He also participated in lesser-known world premieres by Paladilhe, Lecocq, Pierné, Rousseau, and others. In addition to being a member of the Opéra-Comique, Belhomme sang with the opera houses in Lyons, Marseilles, Brussels, Monte Carlo, and Nice. Belhomme was known to be a fine actor and was a favorite with the public. He recorded a large group of cylinders and discs for Pathé and a lesser number of sides for G&T and Odéon.
BERNARD, first name unknown [?] (?–?) We have not been able to find any information about this singer, not even his voice classification. He might have been in the chorus of either the Paris Opera or the Opéra-Comique.
BONNEMOY, THOMAS ALPHONSE [te] (Paslières [Puy de Dome] 1883–?) He was probably a chorister with the Opéra-Comique. He sang with the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire from 1914 until he took a leave of absence in 1920 to manage the theater in Besançon. He recorded one side for French Gramophone in 1908.
BOUSSAGOL, BERNARD [bs] (Toulouse, 1863–1929) Born Bernard-Jean Boussagol, he sang in the chorus of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire from 1892 until 1914. He was made an honorary member of the Société in 1919 and from 1921–1924, he appeared as a singer with the church of Saint-Thomas-d’Aquin, Paris.
BROHLY, SUZANNE [ms] (Paris, 1882–1943) Brohly was one of the mezzo mainstays of the Opéra-Comique for a quarter of a century. She made her debut in 1906 in the role of La Vougne in Georges’s Miarka and was closely associated with other contemporary roles, participating in a dozen creations, the best known of which include Erlanger’s Aphrodite (Chimairis, Opéra-Comique, 1906), Dukas’s Ariane et Barbe Bleue (Sélysette, Opéra-Comique, 1907), Samuel-Rousseau’s Tarras-Boulba (Marousia, Théâtre Lyrique du Vaudeville, 1919), and in particular Lazzari’s La lépreuse (Maria, Opéra-Comique, 1912), from which she made a moving recording. She also sang in the Paris premieres of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden (Lel’, Opéra-Comique, 1908) and de Falla’s La vida breve (La Abuela, Opéra-Comique, 1913). Her visits to the recording studios were frequent: mostly for Gramophone before and after the First World War, six sides for Pathé in 1924, and finally an electric “concise” set of Carmen, one of her primary roles, for Polydor around 1930. Her discography is especially interesting because it includes much French repertoire that was otherwise not recorded by any other singers of the time.
CHARBONNEL, MARIE [con] (Lyons, 1880–19?) Marie Charbonnel studied music at the conservatory in Lyons, winning first prizes for piano, singing, and opera in 1901. That same year, she made her opera debut at the Grand Théâtre de Lyons in Samson et Dalila (Dalila) and then appeared there in Werther, Carmen, and Orphée. She subsequently sang at many of the major French provincial opera houses. She made her Paris Opera debut in Samson et Dalila (Dalila) on 2 June 1908. During that season, she also participated in the first Paris Opera performances of Götterdämmerung (First Norn) and Das Rheingold (Erda), and sang in Hamlet, Aida, and Rigoletto. The following year, she sang in Siegfried, Die Walküre, and Henry VIII. She made her debut at the Opéra-Comique on 27 October 1910 in Carmen, followed by performances in Galathée, Louise, and Der Fliegende Höllander. She appeared in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and Monaco, and gave a number of recitals, notably at the Salle Gaveau in Paris. Charbonnel was admired as an interpreter of modern dramatic opera and she created a number of roles: Amelys in Levadé’s Les hérétiques (27 August 1905, Arènes de Béziers); Vanina in Saint-Saëns’s L’ancêtre (26 February 1906, Monte Carlo Opera); a Sorcière in Bloch’s Macbeth (30 November 1910, Opéra-Comique); Lia in Magnard’s Bérénice (15 December 1911, Opéra-Comique); and Madame Roland in Madame Roland (May, 1914, Théâtre de la Gaité-Lyrique, Paris.) She recorded for Odéon, Gramophone, and Opéra-Saphir. Her resplendent voice is immediately recognizable, and her secure technique places her in the front rank of French contraltos.
CLAUDIN, EUGÈNE LOUIS [te] (Paris, 1865–?) He was a chorus member of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire from 1898 until his retirement in 1927. He was also a chorister at the Paris Opera.
CLÉMENT, EDMOND [te] (Paris, 1867–Nice, 1928) Arguably the most famous French lyric tenor of his time, Edmond Clément studied with Victor Warot at the Paris Conservatory, where he received first prize for singing in 1889. That same year he debuted at the Opéra-Comique in Mireille (Vincent) and began a remarkable career there, which lasted nearly 38 years. His repertoire was large and varied, and while at the Opéra-Comique, he also sang in England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Monaco. He sang at the Met during the 1909–1910 season in Massenent’s Manon and subsequently appeared in Fra Diavolo and Werther. He spent two years as a member of the Boston Opera, and sang in Chicago and Montreal as well. Clément created 12 roles including: Nicias in Saint-Saën’s Phryné (24 May 1893, Opéra-Comique), Sentinelle in Bruneau’s L’attaque du moulin (23 November 1893, Opéra-Comique), Loti in Hahn’s L’Ille du Rêve (23 March 1898), Christian in Erlanger’s Le Juif polonais (11 April 1900), and Armand in Massenet’s Thérèse (7 February 1907, Monte Carlo Opera.) He also participated in the important first performances at the Opéra-Comique of: Falstaff, La vivandière, Hélène, and Dupont’s La cabrera. Clément had a beautiful voice of light timbre, to which he added elegance, taste, and musicality. Clément’s first recordings were made in Paris for Fonotipia ca. 1906. During his visits to the U. S., he recorded some exquisite sides for the Victor company including three sides with Marcel Journet, and four with Geraldine Farrar. After the First World War, he recorded exclusively for Pathé and made his final four sides in 1926 at the age of 59.
CORPAIT, MARIO [te] (Lyons, 1877–Puteaux, 1955) Born Marius Cropait, his father, Sébastien Cropait was a baritone, who also sang as “Corpait.” Marius attended the Paris Conservatory as a baritone from 1903–1905, studying singing with Warot and opera with Melchissédec. There he was awarded first prizes in both categories. He made his debut at the Opéra-Comique as Ourrias in Gounod’s Mireille on 5 March 1906. He appeared in other minor baritone roles: Jean in Dupont’s La cabrera; Commissaire in Madame Butterfly; and Brétigny in Manon. Corpait also appeared as a Disciple in the first stage performance there of Massenet’s Marie-Magdeleine. Following the advice of conductor Alexandre Luigini, he studied as a tenor with Jules Juliani. Corpait made his tenor debut at the Paris Opera on 13 May 1908 singing one of the Fates in Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie. The following year, he sang the title role in Samson et Dalila (27 January 1909). During the 1910–1911 season, he sang at Bordeaux’s Grand-Théâtre in productions of Les Huguenots, L’Africaine, Faust, Monna Vanna, Quo vadis?, and Raoul Laparra’s La habanera. Corpait also appeared at the Grand-Théâtre in Lyons singing the major tenor parts in Samson et Dalila, Carmen, Werther, and d’Erlanger’s Aphrodite. Returning to Paris, he sang the role of Jean in Massenet’s Hérodiade at the Gaîté-Lyrique. His later career has not been documented, but on his retirement from the stage he took over from his former teacher, Jules Juliani. Mario Corpait made records both as a baritone and a tenor for Odeon and Pathé.
DANGÈS, HENRI [ba] (Lyons, ca. 1872–?) Dangès studied music at the Lyons and Paris conservatories. He made his debut at the Opéra-Comique on 11 November 1898 in Le maître de chapelle (Barnabé). There, he created the role of the Premier Philosophe in Charpentier’s Louise on 2 February 1900. During his tenure at the Opéra-Comique, he added many other roles including Brétigny, Escamillo, and Alcindoro. He was then engaged by the Théâtre de la Gaité-Lyrique where he took part in the revivals of Hérold’s Zampa and Thomas’s Le songe d’une nuit d’eté. Dengès made his Paris Opera debut on 27 January 1908 as Valentin in Faust and added Nevers (Les Huguenots) to his repertoire. He performed many other roles at the Paris Opera through 1912. He sang at many other major French houses, as well as Monte Carlo, Cairo, Amsterdam, and Boston, where he was briefly a member of that company. Dangès’s colorful and powerful voice, with his impeccable diction, sometimes brings to mind the voice of the great Maurice Renaud. He recorded principally for French Gramophone and Pathé.
D’ASSY, PIERRE [bs] (Liege, 1867–Lyons, 1911) D’Assy studied singing with Jacques Bouhy and made his debut at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin in Paris. He was engaged as the first bass at the Lyons Opera during the 1897–1898 season singing in La Juive, Die Zauberflöte, and La Reine de Saba. D’Assy was a member of the Théâtre de La Monnaie in Brussels from 1899–1907 where he created the role of Morik in Jean Blockx’s La fiancée de la mer and sang in Charpentier’s Louise and Albeniz’s Pepita Jimenez. He married Jeanne Paquot, a Belgian singer (1868–1959). They both were engaged by the Paris Opera in 1907, where he made his debut on 9 August as Hunding in Die Walküre. That same year he appeared as Marcel in Les Huguenots. Just four years later, D’Assy died suddenly at the height of his career at the age of 43. (Some sources state that D’Assy was born in 1872 and died at age 39.)
DELMAS, JEAN-FRANÇOIS [bs/ba] (Lyons, 1861–St. Alban de Monthel, 1933) Delmas studied singing and opera at the Paris Conservatory and in 1886 was unanimously awarded two first prizes for his performances of excerpts from Robert le diable, Les Huguenots, and Œdipe à Colonne. Delmas made his debut at the Paris Opera on 28 September 1886 as Saint-Bris (Les Huguenots), which began a long association with that house, leaving him little time to sing outside of France. The notable exceptions were the Mariinsky in Saint Petersburg, the San Carlo in Lisbon, and the Monte Carlo Opera House in Monaco. Delmas was particularly successful in the major Wagnerian roles including Hans Sachs, Wotan, and Hagen. He was also a well-known interpreter of the standard French repertoire including Faust, Sigurd, Guillaume Tell, and Samson et Dalila. Delmas holds the record of taking part in more creator-roles than any other singer in the Paris Opera’s history: Twenty-one, including Massenet’s Le mage (Amour, 16 March 1891), Thaïs (Athanaël, 16 March 1894), and Ariane (Périthous, 28 October 1906). Delmas had an incredible range, “ … which was equally powerful in bottom F of the bass register as it was at the top of G of the tenor’s … ” (Georges Pioch, Musica, November 1905) and his voice possessed warmth and authority. He recorded for G&T, Pathé, Zonophone, Fonotipia, Odéon, and Opéra-Saphir. All of Delmas’s records are highly sought by collectors worldwide even though he tended to repeat much of the same material for each record company.
DE POUMAYRAC, GASTON [te] (Toulouse, 1877–?) Born Gaston de Poumayrac de Masredon, he attended the Toulouse Conservatory between 1897 and 1899, winning first prizes in singing, opera, and opéra-comique. From 1900–1904, he continued his studies at the Paris Conservatory, under Paul Lhérie, Numa Auguez, and then Théophile-Adolphe Manoury. De Poumayrac made his debut at Paris’s Opéra-Comique on 9 October 1904 as Vincent in Gounod’s Mireille. He remained there until 1912, appearing primarily in minor roles. During the 1908 season, he was on loan from the Opéra-Comique to the Gaîté Lyrique, singing in productions of La fille du régiment and Les dragons de Villars. After leaving the Opéra-Comique in 1912, he sang 100 performances of Adelmar Sablon’s La ribaude, opposite Anna Tariol-Baugé, at Paris’s Folies-Dramatiques. Later stage appearances have not yet been traced. De Poumayrac recorded ensemble discs for Pathé. N. B. Several reference sources give his first name in error as Georges.
DESCHAMPS-JEHIN, BLANCHE [con] (Lyons, 1857–Paris, 1923) The leading French mezzo of her generation, Blanche Deschamps studied at the Conservatories in Paris and Brussels. In 1879, she made her debut in Brussels singing in the operetta Giroflé-Girofla, soon followed by her operatic debut at the Monnaie as Mignon. There, she was associated with two important creations: Herodias in Massenet’s Hérodiade (1881) and Uta in Reyer’s Sigurd (1884). Her creator parts at the Paris Opéra-Comique, where she sang beginning in 1885, included principal mezzo/contralto roles in Lalo’s Le Roi d’Ys (1888), Massenet’s Cendrillon (1899) and Charpentier’s Louise (1900). As a member of the Paris Opera beginning in 1891, she appeared in many major roles: Azucena, Amneris, Fricka, and Brangäne, and most notably, the Paris Opera’s first Dalila in Samson et Dalila (1892), a role she sang on many other stages. That same year, she appeared as Fidès in the Paris Opera’s revival of Le prophète, and the following year, sang at the Meyerbeer centenary concert. Much of her career was centered in Monte Carlo where her husband, Léon Jehin, was for many years the house conductor. Her first role there was Maddelena in Rigoletto in 1889. Soon thereafter, she took on more important roles, such as Carmen (which was to be one of her London successes), Léonore in La favorite, Margared in Le Roi d’Ys, and the Queen in Hamlet, opposite Nellie Melba in 1890. Also at Monte Carlo, Deschamps-Jehin was the first woman to sing the trousers role of Pygmalion in Victor Massé’s Galathée, as the composer had originally intended it. She continued singing there, after retiring from the Opéra-Comique in 1902. In 1909, she sang Erda in Das Rheingold and Marthe in Mefistofele. This was to be her final role, which she last interpreted in 1913. Deschamps-Jehin recorded five Edison cylinders in 1906 and four sides for Odeon in 1908, which are highly prized by record collectors.
DESTINN, EMMY (KITTL, EMILIE PAULINE) [so] (Prague, 1878–Ceské Budejovice, Czechoslovakia, 1930) Destinn showed promise as a violinist at a very young age. At 14, she began her singing studies with Marie von Dreger Loewe-Destinn, whose name she adopted. Despite a brief engagement with the Dresden Opera in 1897, Destinn made her official debut as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana in August of 1898 at the Kroll Opera in Berlin and she sang Elisabeth in the 400th performance of Tannhäuser there. Soon after, she became a member of the Berlin Hofoper, making her debut as Santuzza, and remained there until 1908. Her international career was launched in Bayreuth, singing the role of Senta in 1901. At the Berlin Hofopera, Destinn premiered in Leoncavallo’s Roland von Berlin. (Elsbeth, 13 December 1904.) On 5 December 1906, she sang the title role in the German premiere of Strauss’s Salome under the composer’s baton. She appeared in the London premiere of Madama Butterfly at Covent Garden opposite Enrico Caruso in 1906. She was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera in 1908, and on 10 December 1910 she created the role of Minnie in the world premiere of Puccini’s La fanciulla del West. In 1916, Destinn left $100,000 in concert bookings behind when she impulsively returned to Bohemia to join her lover, the baritone Dinh Gilly who had been interned as an alien. Following the First World War, she continued to perform in opera and concert. She gave her final concert on 16 October 1928 in London. Her roles spanned a wide range, from Wagner’s Eva, Elsa, and Senta to Mozart’s Pamina and Donna Anna; Verdi’s Aida; Gounod’s Marguerite; Strauss’s Salome; Puccini’s Butterfly; and even Charpentier’s Louise. Destinn’s discography numbers over 200 recordings primarily for the Gramophone Company, Fonotipia/Odéon, and the Victor Talking Machine Company. She also recorded four sides for German Columbia, 12 sides for American Columbia, and three Edison diamond discs.
DUBOIS, GASTON [te] (ca. 1876–?) Dubois studied at the Paris Conservatory and graduated in 1901. He made his debut at the Paris Opera on 3 March 1902 as Vasco de Gama in L’Africaine. His career centered around the Paris Opera in relatively minor roles from his debut there until 1930. Dubois also sang at the Théâtre de la Gaité-Lyrique (Bruneau’s L’attaque du moulin, 1907), the opera house in Nice, the Monte Carlo Opera, and the Opéra-Comique (debuting on 1 September 1911 as Des Grieux in Massenet’s Manon, adding six more roles there). Dubois created six roles at the Paris Opera and participated in ten important first performances there including minor roles in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Fauré’s Prométhée, Strauss’s Salome, Giordano’s Siberia, Ravel’s L’heure Espagnole, Verdi’s Falstaff, Moussorgsky’s Khovantchina, and Massenet’s Esclarmonde. Gaston Dubois recorded several cylinders for Edison, and discs for Odéon, Gramophone, Homophone, Le Merveilleux, Le Supr-Disque, Néron, Apollon, Eden, and Opéra.
DUPRÉ, LILY [so] (?–?) Lily Dupré is thought to have been born in Geneva. She began her career at the Théâtre Royal in Antwerp, where she debuted as Cendrillon on 6 December 1906 in the local premiere of Massenet’s opera. She was the première chanteuse légère there during the seasons of 1906–1908. During her second season, she sang another local premiere, Manon in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. Dupré sang at the Monnaie from 1908–1911, occasionally returning to Antwerp, such as her appearance in a gala performance of Barbier de Séville with Léon David. At the Monnaie, Dupré created the Princess in the first performance of Léon Moreau’s Myrialde (March 1908), and in 1909, she took part in the creation of Pierre de Bréville’s Eros vainqueur. Her postcard photos from this period often show her as Mireille. In 1914 she sang in Marseilles as a flower maiden in Parsifal. There, she also participated in the local creation of Mathé’s L’eau enchantée,, in which she sang the leading role of Colombine (three performances). During the First World War, Dupré is said to have sung at her native Geneva’s Grand-Théâtre. From 1916 through 1928 she was on the roster of the opera at Lyons, singing leading lyric and coloratura parts such as Juliette, Lakmé, Manon, Violetta, Gilda, and Marguerite de Valois. Her only known recordings are nine sides for French Gramophone including five sides with baritone, Daniel Vigneau.
ELIZZA, ELISE [so] (Vienna, 1870–Vienna, 1926) Eilzza was born Elisabeth Letztergroschen and married her first singing teacher, Adolf Limley, explaining why Elizza appeared under the name of Elise Limley early in her career. After three years as a soubrette, Elizza furthered her studies with Amalie Materna and made her Vienna Hofoper debut in 1895 (Ines, L’Africaine). She remained with the company until 1919 but returned as occasional guest until 1923. A most versatile artist, she sang an enormous variety of roles including the Queen of the Night (Die Zauberflöte), Venus (Tannhäuser), and Brünnhilde (Siegfried). Apart from smaller Wagner roles, she was most often heard as Marguerite de Valois (Les Huguenots) and Philine (Mignon). In many works she sang more than one role, e.g. Adele and Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, Adalgisa and Norma in Norma, and four roles in Hänsel und Gretel. She recorded for various labels, including G&T, Gramophone, Columbia, Favorite, and Pathé.
ESCALAÏS, LÉON [te] (Cuxac d’Aude, 1859–Cuxac d’Aude, 1942) Escalaïs began his musical studies at the Toulouse Conservatory winning first prizes in singing, opera, and music theory. He continued his training at the Paris Conservatory and while a student, he sang the title role in a production of Act 3 of Tannhäuser at the Théâtre del Cirque d’Hiver (11 December 1881). Some sources credit Escalaïs’s official debut as taking place while nearing the end of his studies at the Conservatory on 3 December 1882 at the Théâtre du Château-d’Eau in Alfonse Duvernoy’s new opera Sardanapale. His Paris Opera debut was in Guillaume Tell (Arnold) on 12 October 1883, just three months after graduating from the Conservatory, where he had won first prize in song and second prize in opera. Also in 1883 at the Paris Opera, he sang Eléazar in La Juive, and in 1884 he sang the title role in Robert le diable (opposite his soon-to be-wife and fellow-Conservatory graduate, Marie-Antoinette Lureau, who sang Alice), and Raoul in Les Huguenots. Escalaïs made his La Scala debut in La Juive (Eléazar) on 31 January 1881 to poor reviews; created the role of Lusignan in Paul Vérange’s Zaïre (28 May 1890, Paris Opera); and also at the Paris Opera on 16 March 1891, he sang in Massenet’s Le Mage (Zarastra.) After 1892, he left the Paris Opera following a falling out with the management. He then sang at a number of the major French provincial houses, Marseilles being chief among them. He made an important debut at the Teatro de São Carlos in December 1905, again singing Eléazar in La Juive. He returned to the Paris Opera during the 1907–1908 season, where he sang in Guillaume Tell (Arnold) and in Aida (Radames.) For the 1909–1910 season, Escalaïs performed numerous roles at the French Opera House at New Orleans to ecstatic acclaim; this marked the opera house’s 50th anniversary as well as his own. Escalaïs retired from the stage in 1912, devoting his time to teaching in Paris. During the Second World War he returned to Cuxac d’Aude. He was a well-liked figure in the opera world whose voice will be remembered for its trumpet-like brilliance. His stunning high notes are unique on records. He recorded exclusively for Fonotipia.
FRÉVILLE, CHRISTOPH EUGÈNE [te] (Bassing Meurthe, 1864–?) Born Christoph Eugène Filocque, he was a chorus member of the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire from 1902 until his retirement in 1914. He was also a chorister at the Paris Opera.
GAUTIER, JULES [te] [Marseilles, 1866–1951) For a number of years, there has been a misunderstanding about this tenor, Gautier. Some reference sources have given Gautier’s first name as Franz. Others state that there were two tenors named Gautier, Jules and Franz. In fact, there was only one and his name was definitely Jules. He consistently appears as Jules in all contemporary sources, most prominently the Annuaire des Artistes et de l’Enseignement Musical. Only in much later literature about recordings does one find his first name listed as Franz. Perhaps the confusion over names was caused by the fact that the great dramatic tenor Paul Franz’s real name was Franz Gautier. Since singers’s first names were almost never used in France, Franz Gautier had to take a pseudonym to avoid confusion with the older tenor, Jules Gautier. Jules Gautier studied at the Conservatories in Marseilles and Paris, winning first prizes from both institutions. He made his Paris Opera debut as Sigurd on 3 July 1896, followed in September by Laërte in Hamlet. In 1898, he sang Manrique in Le trouvère during the summer season at the Paris Renaissance, and the following year sang at the Paris Opera in Nice. Gautier made his Opéra-Comique debut on 10 January 1901 as Gerald in Lakmé. He remained there for two seasons, singing in productions of Carmen, Mireille, Cavalleria rusticana, Louise, Grisélidis, and La bohème. From 1903–1905, Gautier sang in Lyons and Nice; between 1905–1907, he sang in Bordeaux, where he appeared in no fewer than 17 major roles. In 1908–1909, he returned to the Paris Opera singing in Les Huguenots, Samson et Dalila, Faust, Aida, Rigoletto, Salammbô, Guillaume Tell, and Roméo et Juliette. Later in life, he is known to have resided in Marseilles and Nice, but no stage appearances have been traced from this period. Gautier recorded prolifically for almost all of the major and minor French record companies.
GILION, MARIO [te] (1870–Marseilles, 1914) Gilion supposedly began his career as a baritone, then made his tenor debut in 1901 at the Teatro Sociale in Monza as Vasco in L’Africaine. That same year, Gilion appeared in Modena singing Raoul in Les Huguenots and Arnold in William Tell, his two most prominent roles. He also sang in Budapest, Warsaw, Venice, and Buenos Aires. Gilion appeared at the Paris Opera in 1910 as Arnold, and the next year as Radames. He recorded exclusively for Fonotipia singing primarily in Italian. His sides sung in French are unquestionably his rarest records.
GRANAL, GEORGES [te] (?–?) Very little information is currently available on this dramatic tenor. He made his Paris Opera debut on 19 August 1910 as Sigurd. He made further appearances there during the 1912–1914 seasons, singing Raoul in Les Huguenots, Radames in Aida, Samson in Samson et Dalila, and the Duke in Rigoletto. During the summer of 1923, he sang the part of Cavaradossi at the Uriage Casino. Granal returned to the Paris Opera for the 1924–1925 season singing Gounod’s and Berlioz’s Faust, Lohengrin, and Le faux Dmitri in Boris Godounov. He is said to have been on the roster of the Toulouse Opera but no details have been traced. Granal recorded 20 sides for French Gramophone, including duets with Suzanne Brohly, Julia Lindsay, and Odette Carlyle.
GRESSE, ANDRÉ [bs] (Lyons, 1868–Paris, 1934) André Gresse was the son of the famous basso profondo Léon Gresse (1845–1900). The younger Gresse attended the Paris Conservatory, where he studied opéra-comique with Taskin, opera with Melchissédec, and singing with Duvernoy. Gresse graduated in 1896 and made his debut at the Opéra-Comique as the Commandeur in Mozart’s Don Juan on 17 November 1896. He remained at the Opéra-Comique for several seasons, creating roles in Massenet’s Sapho (Césaire, 27 November 1897) and Erlanger’s Juif polonais (Président, 11 April 1900.) Gresse debuted at the Paris Opera on 7 January 1901 as Saint-Bris in Les Huguenots. He enjoyed a very long career there until the late 1920s and appeared in about 60 important roles and sang the repertoire of the day. Although Gresse is usually associated with the great Wagnerian roles and the Mefistos of Gounod and Boïto, he was also heard in lighter operas especially at the beginning of his career, singing such roles as Gaveston in La dame blanche and Max in Le chalet, both sung at the Opéra-Comique at the end of the nineteenth century. At the Palais Garnier he interpreted the first Osmin in Mozart’s Un enlèvement au Sérail. He has also gone down in history as the creator of of Sancho Pança in Massenet’s Don Quichotte, which he interpreted alongside Chaliapin at Monte Carlo in 1910 and with Vanni Marcoux in Paris the following year.
HEMPEL, FRIEDA [so] (Leipzig, 1885–Berlin, 1955) Hempel began her musical studies in piano at the Leipzig Conservatory and in 1902 she studied singing with Mme. Kicklass-Kempner at the Stern Conservatory. She made her professional debut in Breslau, and her Berlin debut in 1905 at the Hofopera in Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor. From 1905–1907 she sang at the Hofopera in Schwerin, and from 1907–1912 she was a member of the Hofopera in Berlin. Hempel was first heard at Covent Garden in 1907 in a double bill as Mozart’s Bastienne and Humperdinck’s Gretel, then as Eva and Mistress Ford (Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor.) In 1911, Richard Strauss gave Hempel the choice of the three feminine roles in Rosenkavalier for the Berlin premiere and she chose the Marschallin. From 1912–1919 she was on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera, making her debut on 27 December 1912 as Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots. Just under a year later on 9 December 1913, Hempel appeared as the Marschallin in the American premiere of Der Rosenkavalier. Her important London success came during Thomas Beecham’s Drury Lane season of 1914, when she sang the Queen of the Night, perhaps her most famous role. In 1919 she left the Metropolitan Opera and on 6 October 1920, the centenary of Jenny Lind’s birth, Hempel began giving a series of recitals in which she impersonated the “Swedish nightingale” performing repertoire made famous by Jenny Lind, and wearing period costumes. These concerts were so successful that she continued giving them as well as other standard recitals until her retirement in 1951. Hempel made records for Odeon, HMV, Victor, Polydor, and Edison (both discs and cylinders).
JADLOWKER, HERMANN [te] (Riga, 1877–Tel Aviv, 1953) At his father’s urging, Jadlowker was to become a cantor, but his passion was opera. He trained at the Vienna Conservatory and made his operatic debut at the Municipal Theatre in Cologne in 1899, most probably in Das Nachtlager von Granada. Beginning in 1900, he spent a season, possibly two, in Stettin, and then secured an engagement in his native Riga, debuting on 3 September 1902, as Léopold in La Juive. During the next four years, he remained there singing mostly secondary lyric roles. In 1906 Jadlowker joined the opera company in Karlsruhe, and remained there until 1909, performing 50 roles in nearly that many works. He sang at the Metropolitan from 1910 until 1912 also touring many U.S. cities with the company. During his tenure at the Met, Jadlowker sang the role of the King’s Son in the world premiere of Humperdinck’s Die Königskinder opposite Geraldine Farrar and participated in three American premieres: Thuille’s Lobetanz, Wolf-Ferrari’s Le donne curiose, and Belch’s Versiegelt. In April of 1912, Jadlowker returned to Karslruhe for more guest appearances, and later that year began taking leading tenor roles at the Berlin Hofopera (later to become the Staatsoper), an association that lasted nearly six years. While at the Hofopera, Jadlowker also sang in the world premiere of Richard Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos (Bacchus) in Stuttgart on 25 October 1912, with Strauss conducting. Following his tenure at the Hofopera (1918) Jadlowker remained in Berlin for a few more years singing primarily operetta and concerts. In 1929 he accepted the appointment as chief cantor at the main synagogue in Riga and at the same time taught at the conservatory there. He moved to Tel Aviv in 1938 and remained there until his death.
JOURNET, MARCEL [bs/ba] (Grasse, 1867–Vittel, 1933) Journet’s operatic beginnings are obscure. It is said that he attended the Paris Conservatory studying with “Seghettini,” yet there is no record of his graduating and no record of a teacher named “Seghettini.” According to some sources, he made his debut in Béziers in 1891, according to other sources, in Montpellier in 1893, yet there has not been resolution. We do have evidence that Journet sang at the Monnaie in 1894 remaining until 1899. While there, he appeared as Fasolt in the Monnaie premiere of Das Rheingold. Journet next made appearances at Covent Garden after which he began a successful career at the Metropolitan (1900–1908). Yet, in competition with Edouard de Reszke, Pol Plançon, and later Feodor Chaliapin, Journet was often relegated to secondary roles at the Met. His debut at the Paris Opera took place on 2 October 1908 as the King in Lohengrin, and he appeared there during every season until 1914. There also, Journet had to compete with two other formidable rivals, Jean-François Delmas and André Gresse both of whom sang the important bass and bass-baritone roles at the Paris Opera. After World War I, Journet returned to the Paris Opera and was finally given the opportunity of singing major parts. He continued to sing there during a number of subsequent seasons: 1919, 1921–1923, and 1926–1930. By this time, the careers of Delmas and Gresse were on the decline and Journet became the Paris Opera’s principal bass-baritone. At Monte Carlo, Journet reigned supreme, from 1914 to 1920, debuting as Gurnemanz in the Monte Carlo premiere of Parsifal (20 January 1914). Thereafter, he sang a wide range of roles and participated in the world premiere of Dupuis’s La Passion. It was, however, at La Scala that Journet was unconditionally accepted as first bass. He made his debut there on 22 February 1917 in Lucrezia Borgia. In 1922, he sang Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger, with revivals in 1925 and 1928. He also created the role of Simon Mago in the 1924 posthumous world premiere of Boito’s Nerone. Journet’s final engagements were once again at the Paris Opera. In 1928, he sang Wotan in Siegfried, and Hagen in Die Götterdämmerung. He participated in the Paris Opera debut of Rabaud’s Mârouf, and the world premieres of Lazzari’s Le tour de feu and Brunel’s La tentation de St. Antoine. After 1930, Journet’s career seems to have wound down and he may actually have gone into retirement. He did however continue to make occasional visits to the Gramophone studios where he recorded three sides in 1931 and two sides in 1933. His discography includes five sides for U.S. Columbia and a large number for Victor and HMV. In 1912, he sang Friar Laurence in the complete Pathé recording of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette with Agustarello Affre and Yvonne Gall. Perhaps Journet is best known for his rendering of Mephistopheles in the 1931 recording of Gounod’s Faust opposite César Vezzani and Mireille Berthon.
KITTEL, HERMINE [con] (Vienna, 1879–Vienna, 1948) Originally an actress, Kittel studied singing with the great Wagnerian soprano, Amelie Materna. She first performed in operetta, then in 1899, she made her operatic debut in Graz as Magdelena in Kienzl’s Der Evangelimann. Gustav Mahler engaged her for the Vienna Hofoper in 1900 where she sang a variety of small and leading roles for more than 30 years. She appeared at Bayreuth from 1902–1908 in roles such as Erda and the First Norn. In 1910 she made her first appearance at the Salzburg Festival, returning in 1922 and 1925 as Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro. She was also admired on the concert stage. Her husband was baritone Alexander Haydter (1872–1919). Kittel made records for the Gramophone Company, Pathé, and Odeon.
KURT, MELANIE [so] (Vienna, 1880–New York, 1941) After studying the piano with the great Theodor Leschetitsky and concertizing as a pianist, Kurt studied singing with Marie Lehmann and Fanny Muller. She debuted at the Lübeck opera in 1902 as Elisabeth in Tannhäuser. She sang in Leipzig in 1903–1904, and in Braunschweig from 1905–1908. Kurt joined the Berlin Hofopera in 1908, singing such roles as Aida, Donna Anna, Amelia, Leonore in Fidelio, and Sieglinde. She first appeared at the Salzburg Festival in 1910, and sang with the Berlin-Chalottenberg Opera from 1912–1915. Kurt made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1914 as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre. During the following two seasons, she sang other Wagnerian roles as well as Santuzza, Amelia in Un ballo in maschera, and Valentine in Les Huguenots. She returned to Europe in 1916 because of the War and resumed her career in Berlin. She retired from the stage in 1919 but continued to teach in Berlin and Vienna, finally emigrating in 1938 to the U. S. She recorded for the Gramophone Company.
LAFARGUE, MARIE [so] (Bayonne, 1871–1913) Marie Lafargue studied at the Paris Conservatory and made her debut in Otello (Desdemona) on 19 April 1895 at the Paris Opera. She remained at the Paris Opera until 1899 and sang Aida, Donna Anna, and Valentine. In 1903 she sang in Faust (Marguerite) at the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt. She made her Opéra-Comique debut in the title role in Carmen (4 June 1905) and remained at the Opéra-Comique until 1912, singing in Werther, Cavalleria rusticana, Les contes d’Hoffman, La Navarraise, and Tosca. In addition to her Paris performances, Lafargue sang in many of the major French provincial houses as well as in Brussels, Buenos Aires, and Cairo. She died at the height of her career, leaving an important, though not tremendously large, discography. She recorded for Fonotipia, Odeon, Pathé, and the Gramophone Company.
LANDOUZY, LISE [so] (Le Cateau, 1861–Aix-les-Bains, 1942) Landouzy was a stalwart of the Opéra-Comique where she made her debut as Rosina in Il barbière di Siviglia (11 November 1889). She also appeared in various French provincial houses, notably Royan, Nice, and Aix-les-Bains. Outside France, she frequently appeared at the Monnaie and Monte Carlo. Landouzy created the role of Marie d’Angleterre in Messager’s La Basoche (30 May 1890, Opéra-Comique) and Clorinde in Pierné’s La fille de Tabarin. She also participated in the French premiere of Verdi’s Falstaff (Nanette) in the presence of the composer at the Opéra-Comique on 18 April 1894. Her recording legacy is particularly important—over 160 sides recorded for Odéon between 1906 and 1911. In Landouzy’s case, there is no difficulty in reconciling her recorded voice with her solid reputation.
LAUTE-BRUN, ANTOINETTE [so/ms] (Nîmes, 1875–?) Antoinette Laute studied with Duvernoy and Melchissèdec at the Paris Conservatory. Her debut was at the Paris Opera, 1903, as the Page in Tannhäuser. The Paris Opera remained her artistic home for over two decades. In 1907, she married composer Georges Brun. Laute-Brun had a huge repertoire, including a number of creations, primarily of smaller roles, although she occasionally sang principal parts as well in both the soprano and mezzo ranges. As an example, she was heard at the Paris Opera as both Marguerite and Siebel in Faust and in the roles of Helmwige and Frika in Die Walküre. Laute-Brun made a number of records for the French Gramophone Company, as well as Odéon and several other smaller French labels. She also recorded a group of cylinders for Edison around 1911.
LEHMANN, LILLI [so] (Würzburg, 1848–Berlin, 1929) Lehmann studied with her mother, the singer Marie Loewe, and made her debut in Prague in 1865 in Die Zauberflöte as the Erster Knabe. Her formidable star began its ascent with her engagement in Berlin at the Hofopera where she sang in 1869 and 1870–1885. She appeared in the first Ring performances at Bayreuth in 1876 as Woglinde, Helmwiege, and the Forest Bird. London first saw her at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1880 and 1882, and then at Covent Garden in 1884 and 1899. She appeared at New York’s Metropolitan Opera from 1885–1892 and 1898–1899. In addition, she made many guest appearances in Paris, Vienna, and Salzburg, where she was one of the founders of the Mozart Festival. Her repertoire included a staggering 170 roles, which ran the gamut from Lucia, Philine, Violetta, and Norma to Fidelio, the three Brünnhildes, and Isolde. Her much sought-after records were made for Odeon in 1905 and 1907. It was a performance of Tristan und Isolde conducted by Mahler that became the occasion of Lehmann’s final appearance as Isolde. She was in the Director’s box conversing with Mahler’s wife and sister during the interval following the second act when word was received that Anna von Mildenburg had become hoarse and couldn’t continue. Mme. Lehmann offered to sing the final act in place of her ailing colleague, was rushed backstage, and after changing into her costume and quickly going over the mis-en-scène with Mahler and Schmedes, the evening’s performance was completed.
LEQUIEN, HENRI [bs] (Paris, 1865–?) Lequien attended the Paris Conservatory between 1888 and 1890, achieving second prizes in singing, opera, and opéra-comique. He first sang at Rouen’s Le Théâtre des Arts in productions of Velléda, Les Huguenots, Faust, Mignon, and Salammbô. He appeared at the Monnaie during the season of 1893–1894 as the drum major in L’attaque du moulin, and King Mark in Tristan und Isolde. During the following decade, Lequien sang in Lyons, Bordeaux, and Nice. He also was the première basse d’opéra-comique at the Royal Theater in Antwerp for four seasons from 1898–1902. The Monte Carlo opera saw him (1905–1907) in productions of L’Africaine, Massenet’s Chérubin, Hamlet, Mascagni’s Amica, I Puritani, Tannhäuser, Le Roi de Lahore, Rubinstein’s Demon, and Rigoletto. He finally debuted at the Paris Opera as Wagner in Faust (27 January 1908) and sang minor and major bass roles there until 1911. After leaving the Paris Opera, he made appearances at Paris’s Gaîté-Lyrique and Champs-Elysées theaters. Lequien’s last traced engagement was as première basse in Dijon during the 1922–1923 season. He made ensemble recordings for French Odeon.
MANTELLI, EUGENIA [con] (Florence (?), 1860–Lisbon, 1926) Mantelli studied at the Conservatory of Milan and made her debut at the São Carlos, Lisbon, on 20 November 1883, as Urbain in Les Huguenots. During the next decade she travelled extensively throughout Italy, Spain, Germany, South America, and Russia. In 1889 she joined the company that inaugurated the Teatro de la Opera in Buenos Aires. On 23 November 1894, Mantelli made her Metropolitan debut as Amneris and remained for six seasons, singing a variety of roles. While still on the roster of the Met, Mantelli made her Covent Garden debut as Leonora in La favorita (13 May 1896) again, to less than stellar reviews. In 1899 she reprised her role as Urbain in the Met’s all-star cast of Les Huguenots. Although she concluded her contract with the Met in 1900 and announced to the press in March of that year, that she would not return to the U.S, she was back in New York in September, to marry her second husband Fernando Ernest de Angelis. After her departure from the Metropolitan, she sang in vaudeville, and on 27 November 1902, Mantelli was rushed to the Met for part of one performance, to fill in for an ailing Carrie Bridewell who had already replaced Louise Homer as Amneris. In 1902, Mantelli joined Mascagni’s opera company and in 1905 she created her own opera company, both touring the U.S. Her life ended sadly in Lisbon. She was separated from her husband, cared for a mentally disabled son and grieved for the loss of another, while teaching an unmanageably large number of singing students to make ends meet. Mantelli made cylinders for Bettini at the end of the nineteenth century, two of which have recently come to light in Russia. She later made discs for American Zonophone.
MATZENAUER, MARGARETHE [so/ms] (Temesvár, Hungary, 1881–Van Nuys, California, 1969) Matzenauer’s father was a conductor and her mother was an opera singer. Margarethe Matzenauer studied opera in Graz and Berlin, making her debut in 1901 as Puck in Weber’s Oberon at the Strassburg Stadttheater. From 1904 to 1911 she was a member of the Munich Hofoper, appearing in both dramatic soprano and contralto roles. She sang at Bayreuth in 1911, appearing as Waltraute, Flosshilde, and the Second Norn. She made her U.S. debut at the Metropolitan Opera on 13 November 1911 singing Amneris on opening night with Emmy Destinn as Aida, Enrico Caruso as Radames, and Pasquale Amato as Amonasro, with Arturo Toscanini on the podium. A few days later she sang Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde with Olive Fremstad as Isolde, and Carl Burrian as Tristan, again with Toscanini conducting. Matzenauer sang 14 roles during her first season at the Met, among which was her first appearance as Kundry, on 1 January 1912, substituting for Olive Fremstad at a purported hour’s notice. She continued to perform at the Met for an additional 18 seasons until 1930 (17 February as Amneris), and was untouched by the Met’s boycott against German artists during the First World War despite her parents being Austrian. During her tenure at the Met, she took part in many new productions and revivals, notably Fidelio, Samson et Dalila, Le prophète, and Janacek’s Jenufa. Matzenhauer had a photographic memory, and her musical knowledge and ability were outstanding. she recorded for HMV, Columbia, Pathé, Victor, and Edison.
METZGER, OTTILIE [con] (Frankfurt, 1878–Auschwitz, 1943?) After studying with Selma Nicklass-Kempner in Berlin, Metzger made her debut in 1898 at Halle. She then sang from 1900–1903 in Cologne, and from 1903–1915 in Hamburg, also making guest appearances in Berlin, Vienna, Munich, St. Petersburg, and Brussels. She appeared at Bayreuth in 1901, 1902, 1904, and 1912, singing such roles as Erda and Waltraute. In 1910 she sang Herodias and Klytaemnestra in the Covent Garden premieres of Strauss’s Salome and Elektra. During the season of 1914–1915, Metzger made an extensive concert tour of the United States. From 1916–1921, she was the leading contralto in Dresden, while continuing her international career in opera and concert. She returned to the U. S., touring with the German Opera Company between 1922 and 1924. Tragically, Metzger was killed by the Nazis at Auschwitz circa 1943. Her records were made between 1904 and 1910 for the Gramophone Company, Odeon, Parlophon, and Edison.
MILLOT, CHARLES ÉDOUARD [te] (Paris, 1871–1914) All we presently know about this tenor is that he began singing as a chorister with the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire in 1900. He may also have sung in the chorus of the Paris Opera or the Opéra-Comique. He appears on only a few ensemble recordings made for the French Gramophone Company.
MONTEUX, PIERRE [conductor] (Paris, 1875–Maine, USA 1964) This internationally acclaimed conductor studied the violin at the Paris Conservatory sharing a first prize in 1896 with Jacques Thibaud. Monteux switched to the viola and as a member of the Geloso Quartet, played in a private performance for Johannes Brahms. He became the principal violist with the Paris Opéra-Comique orchestra and played in the premiere of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in 1902. It was around this time that he recorded the Pathé cylinder heard in this compilation. It is perhaps the only recording of Monteux as a violist.
NANSEN, LOUIS [te] (?–?) Born Georges-Louis Noël, Nansen attended the Paris Conservatory between 1905 and 1906 winning several prizes. His Paris Opera debut was on 5 June 1907 as Gaspard in Fernand Le Borne’s La Catalane. He remained there until 1920, singing minor roles: Paris and later Tybald in Roméo et Juliette; Melot in Tristan und Isolde; Moine and later Tavannes, in Les Huguenots; and Jonas in Le prophète. Nansen created roles in several first Paris Opera performances: Vedio in Monna Vanna; Froh in Das Rheingold; 2nd Jew in Salome; and Ilbert in d’Indy’s Fervaal. He made ensemble recordings for Pathé.
NARÇON, ARMAND [bs] (?–?) This now forgotten bass had a 47-year career at the Paris Opera, singing a variety of minor and occasionally major roles. He attended the Paris Conservatory from 1888 to 1891. He made his Paris Opera debut in 1893 and continued to sing there until 1940. His wife, Mme Narçon, joined the Paris Opera’s roster in 1895 and remained until 1918. Armand Narçon recorded for French Odeon, primarily in ensemble selections.
NIVETTE, JUSTE [bs] (Paris, 1865–?) Having studied at the Paris Conservatory, Nivette made his debut in 1892 at the Opéra-Comique as Sarastro in La flûte enchantée, a role that would be closely associated with him throughout his career. He had great success there as well as in the French provinces and Monte Carlo, where he took part in the creation of Le jongleur de Notre Dame in 1902 as the painter monk. That same year, he appeared as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette, with Jean de Reszke in the title role. Nivette was a leading bass at the Paris Opera between 1899 and 1908. His Meyerbeer roles there were Marcel in Les Huguenots in 1902 and Zacharie in Le prophète, which he took over from Marius Chambon in the 1903 Paris Opera revival. Nivette was invited to La Scala in 1907 where he sang Hagen in Die Götterdämmerung with Toscanini conducting. In 1909 Nivette traveled to Boston for the inaugural season with that opera company, making his debut on opening night as Alvise in La Gioconda, a role that he had sung the previous year at Monte Carlo. Quaintance Eaton, in her history of the Boston Opera, states, “His elegant stage presence and rich and sonorous voice, with a Parisian feeling for emotional characterization, all guided by a sure stylistic sense, ensured his Boston success.” The other operas in which he sang that season were Les Huguenots (likely in Italian), Faust, and Lakmé. His stint there ended with a Sunday night concert on 6 March 1910. The remainder of Nivette’s career and life have not been documented. Nivette’s first recordings were a group of 24 sides made for G&T in 1903–1904, many of which have never been seen. He recorded prolifically for APGA and Odeon beginning in 1906, and ended his recording career with a small number of sides for Idéal. All of his records display a sonorous voice, with a rich timbre and even scale.
OBER, MARGARETHE [ms] (Berlin, 1885–Bad Sachsa, 1971) Ober studied in Berlin with Benno Stolzenberg and Arthur Arndt who eventually became her husband in 1910. Ober made her debut in Frankfurt, 1906, as Azucena in Trovatore. After a successful season at the Stettin Stadt Theater, Ober was engaged by the Hofoper and remained on its roster through 1945. She sang the title role in Massenet’s Thérèse in 1908 and Nenahu in Nevin’s Poia in 1910. Ober was engaged by the Metropolitan Opera and debuted there as Ortrud on 21 November 1913. She remained at the Met until 1916, returning to Germany each summer. While in New York, she sang Octavian in the American premiere of Strauss’s Rosenkavalier (9 December 1913). She also appeared as Brangäne, Ortrud, Fricka, Waltraute, Amneris, Fidés, Dalila, Octavian, and a number of other parts. Despite her great New York success, Ober’s forced departure was a result of wartime politics. Ober recorded for the Gramophone Company, Odeon, Parlophon, Victor, Pathé, and Deutsche Grammophon.
PAOLI, ANTONIO [te] (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1870–San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1946) Paoli studied singing in Spain and in 1895 went to Italy to study as a protégé of Queen Maria Cristina. Paoli made his operatic debut in Bari in 1895 and his first major appearance was at the Paris Opera on 1899 as Arnold in Guillaume Tell. The following year he performed in Parma and made a great effect with his brilliant high C in Trovatore. In 1902–1903 Paoli sang with Mascagni’s opera company that toured the USA and Canada. He was also admired in South and Central America where he sang Samson, Canio, Raoul, Vasco, Andrea Chenier, and Otello. In 1908 he sang as guest at the Teatro Colón the roles of Manrico (Trovatore) and Otello. In 1910 he appeared at La Scala as Vasco and Samson, and in 1920 spent a season in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. Paoli recorded exclusively for Italian HMV beginning in 1907. His recorded voice is remarkably brilliant and powerful but sometimes lacks subtlety. Paoli eventually returned to Puerto Rico to teach.
PARSI-PETTINELLA, ARMIDA [con] (Rome, 1868–Milan, 1949) Parsi-Pettinella’s career centered around Italy though she made appearances in South America, as well as in Venice, Lisbon, Trieste, Odessa, and Madrid. She made her debut as Azucena in Trovatore at the Teatro Costanzi (Rome, 1892) and within a few years she performed in Ravenna, Brescia, Piacenza, and Florence. In 1895, she took part in the word premiere of Mascagni’s “English” opera Guglielmo Ratcliff at La Scala. The following season she sang Anne Boleyn in Saint-Saëns’s Enrico VIII, then Dalila in Sansone (a role in which she was much admired and identified), and finally Gertrude in Amleto. In 1903 she returned to La Scala as Loretta in Franchetti’s Asrael and Ulrica in Ballo with Zenatello under Toscanini’s direction. In 1908 she returned to the Costanzi (Azucena), in 1910 she made her final appearance at La Scala (Dalila), and bid farewell to opera at the Reggio in Turin (Dame Quickly, Falstaff). All of Parsi-Pettinella’s recordings were made for Fonotipia.
PAYAN, PAUL [bs] (1878–Juan-les-Pins, 1929) He studied with Jacques Isnardon at the Paris Conservatory. His first engagement was with the Paris Opéra-Comique in 1906 as the Philosopher in Louise. His lengthy career there, encompassed dozens of principal and secondary roles, such as Sarastro, the Commendatore, Zuniga, and Lothario. He created a number of parts as well. His work outside of France included the Chicago Opera (1921), the Colón in Buenos Aires (1924), and Covent Garden (1928). His extensive discography includes recordings for French HMV, Aerophone, acoustic and electric Odeon, and ten four-minute Edison cylinders.
PLANÇON, POL-HENRI [ba] (Fumay, 1851–Paris, 1914) At the end of the nineteenth century, two singers vied for the title of greatest French bass, Edouard de Reszké and Pol Plançon. Each had certain qualities the other didn’t possess and it was Plançon who was the more skillful, the more finished, and the one associated with bel canto. Plançon made his debut as St. Bris in Les Huguenots at Lyons (1877) and sang there for two seasons. His Paris debut took place at the Théâtre de la Gâieté (11 February 1880) and after a season in Monte Carlo, Plançon took his rightful place as a star of the Paris Opera, beginning with Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust (23 June 1883). On 3 June 1891, Plançon created the role of Don Gormas in Massenet’s Le Cid at the Paris Opera. Plançon made his Covent Garden debut on 3 June 1891 as Méphistophélès, returning each summer for the next 13 years. There, he participated in the following world premieres: Massenet’s La Navarraise (2 June 1894); Stanford’s Much ado about nothing (30 May 1901); and Bunning’s Princess Osra (July 1902). Plançon also sang in the premiere (concert version) of Mancinelli’s Ero e Leandro in the role of Ariofarno at the Norwich Festival, 1896. Plançon’s U.S. debut was as Jupiter in Gounod’s Philémon et Baucis at the Metropolitan (29 November 1893) and he established a successful relationship with yet another important opera house, singing not only French roles but also a wide variety of parts in German and Italian. In 1908 he gave his farewell performance (Metropolitan, Plunkett, in Flotow’s Martha) and he retired to Paris. His voice, though a true bass, had an exceptionally high range and unprecedented agility. Plançon made more than 60 recordings between 1902 and 1908, first for G&T, then Zonophone, and finally for Victor. His records all confirm his stellar reputation among his contemporaries.
RIGAUX, LUCIEN [ba] (Saint-Mandé, 1878–?) He attended the Paris Conservatory around the turn of the last century and in 1901, he took first prizes in singing and opera and a second in opéra-comique. His Paris Opera debut was as Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger on 16 April 1902. The following season, he made his debut at the Opéra-Comique as Pelléas, and also sang the role of Clément Marot in Messager’s La Basoche. In 1909–1911, Rigaux returned to the Paris Opera, singing Valentin in Faust, and reprising Beckmesser. He was married to operetta singer, Valentine Petit. Rigaux recorded for Odeon, primarily in ensemble selections.
SARDET, ÉMILE-FRANTZ [te] (Oran, 1882–Monte Carlo, 1913) Little is known of Frantz Sardet, who had a very brief career. Prior to his compulsory military service, he was described as a “shop assistant” and probably started studying music while in the army between 1903 and 1906. By 1907 he had settled in Paris, where his debut seems to have taken place at the Gaîte-Lyrique. Between 1908 and 1913 at the Lyrique, he sang such roles as Lord Arthur in Lucie de Lammermoor (1908) and Lydon in Nouguès’s Quo vadis? (1910) and took part in some Parisian premieres such as Gunsbourg’s Ivan le Terrible (the Priest, 31 October 1911) and Le Borne’s Les girondins (Camille Desmoulins, 12 January 1912). In 1912, he personified Ange Pitou in La fille de Mme. Angot, the only part he got to sing at the Paris Opera, when the Gaîte cast (including Edmée Favart and Germaine Gallois) performed Act II of Lecocq’s operetta there, on the occasion of a gala given by the French Aviation in April 1912; it was not unusual then to have Pitou sung by a tenor—at the Opéra-Comique for instance, it was successively assigned to Fernand Francell and to Edmond Tirmont. Sardet was engaged by Raoul Gunsbourg for the summer of 1913 in Monte Carlo; he, as well as his wife, died there of food poisoning. Sardet made recordings for several companies including Pathé, Idéal, and, under the revealing pseudonym of M. d’Oran, the Compagnie Française du Gramophone.
SAYETTA, HENRI [te] (?–?) He was a chorister with the church of La Madeleine in Paris circa 1902, and he also sang as a soloist with the Société des Concerts du Conservatoire and Concerts Colonne. He recorded five sides for French Gramophone in 1908 and three additional sides for the company in 1925.
SCHMEDES, ERIK [te] (Gyentofte, Denmark, 1868–Vienna, 1931) Schmedes began his career as a baritone. Born into a Danish family of musicians, Schmedes studied in Berlin (pupil of Rothmühl) and Paris (pupil of Artôt de Padilla). He made his debut at Wiesbaden in 1891 and remained there until 1894. After further study in Vienna, he came to Dresden where his tenor range was discovered. Gustav Mahler himself secured Schmedes for the Vienna Hofoper and he made his debut there as young Siegfried in 1898 – his first tenor role! He spent the rest of his career there performing mostly Wagnerian roles but also others including Canio, Florestan, and Pollione in Norma. He made numerous guest appearances in other Austrian and German cities, as well as London, Paris, Copenhagen, and Warsaw. He sang at Bayreuth (Siegfried and Parsifal, 1899) and sang there with frequency through 1906. He also performed at the Metropolitan during the 1908–1909 season, where he debuted as Siegmund. In all, Schmedes sang some 1130 performances of 42 roles. He retired in 1924. Mahler said of Schmedes, “He is the most musical singer that we now have,” although many felt he was a finer actor than singer, even appearing in Paul Czinner’s important 1919 silent film Inferno. Schmedes recorded prolifically for G&T, Gramophone, Pathé, Favorite, and Lyrophon.
SCHUMANN-HEINK, ERNESTINE [con] (Lieben, 1861–Hollywood, 1936) Ernestine Schumann-Heink was arguably the greatest contralto of her day. She was born Tini Rössler to a German-speaking family in a town near Prague, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1877 she sang in her first professional performance: soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Graz. She made her operatic debut at Dresden’s Hofopera House on 15 October 1878 as Azucena in Il trovatore, and remained there for four years. In 1882, Rössler replaced an ailing Marie Goetze at the Hamburg Municipal Opera. So great was her success that she received a contract that lasted until 1898. While still under contract with Hamburg, she made her Berlin debut at Kroll’s Theatre in 1887 and her London debut as Erda at Covent Garden in June, 1892, appearing with the Hamburg company. She sang regularly at Covent Garden (1897–1900) and at Bayreuth (1896–1906, excluding 1904). Schumann-Heink’s first U.S, engagement was in Chicago (Ortrud, 1898), followed by the Metropolitan (Ortrud, January, 1899), which began a relationship with that house that lasted for the next three seasons. On 25 January 1909, she created the role of Clytemnestra in the world premiere of Richard Strauss’s Elektra at the Dresden Hofopera. She returned to the U.S. making several guest appearances with the Met, her last being in 1932 when she was over 70. While in the U.S. she began extending her activities from the opera house to popular concert and recital halls, as well as trying her hand at musical comedy (Love’s Lottery, by Julian Edwards) and later, film and radio. Her marriages were far less successful than her career. In 1882 she married Ernest Heink, secretary of the Dresden Opera, with whom she had four children; in 1893 she married actor Paul Schumann, with whom she had three more children. The second marriage lasted until Paul Schumann’s death in 1904. In 1905 she married William Rapp, Jr., her manager but they divorced in 1915. Ernestine Schumann-Heink died of leukemia. Her earliest recordings were made for American Zonophone in 1900. In 1903, she recorded five titles for the Columbia Grand Opera series, and from 1905 until 1931, she recorded exclusively for the Victor Company.
SIEMS, MARGARETHE [so] (Breslau, 1879–Dresden, 1952) Siems was a pupil of Aglaia von Orgeni, who in turn had been a pupil of Pauline Viardot. Siems made her debut at the German Theatre in Prague as Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots (1902), remaining there until 1908. Later that year, she was engaged by the Dresden Hofopera as the successor to Irene Abendroth. Siems was on the roster there until 1922. She took part in the world premieres of three important Richard Strauss operas: Chrysothemis in Elektra (25 January 1909, Dresden Hofopera); the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier (26 January 1911, also at Dresden); and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos (25 October 1912, Stuttgart Hoftheater). On 29 January 1913, Siems made her Covent Garden debut as the Marschallin in the London premiere of Der Rosenkavalier under Sir Thomas Beecham. In 1920, she took a teaching position at Berlin’s Stern Conservatory, while continuing to make concert appearances. She returned to Dresden and continued to teach there and in Warsaw until 1940. Siems’s first recordings were made for G&T in Prague in 1903, followed by a second group of discs in 1906. Outstanding among these are her duets with tenor, Desider Aranyi, which are certainly her rarest records. A few years later, she recorded for HMV, Parlophone, Odeon, and Pathé.
SLEZAK, LEO [te] (Schönberg, Moravia, 1873–Egern, 1946) Slezak was one of the greatest singer-personalities of the period with a sense of humor as large as his striking physique. He made his debut in Brünn (Lohengrin) in 1896. After a season in Berlin (1898–1899) and Breslau (1899–1900), he was invited to Covent Garden in 1900. He sang the title-roles in Siegfried and Lohengrin. The following year he was engaged by Mahler for the Vienna Hofoper, where he reigned as the supreme tenor of his day, his position equal to that of Caruso at the Metropolitan. Except for a hiatus from 1912–1917, Slezak remained on the Vienna roster until 1926, assuming a wide range of important roles: Belmonte, Des Grieux, Tannhäuser, Rodolfo, and Otello. During this time, Slezak made triumphant guest appearances in Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, and Russia, and in 1905 he sang Tannhaüser at La Scala. His Met debut took place in 1909, as Otello. He remained at the Met for four seasons garnering glowing reviews. He bade farewell to the operatic stage at the age of 60 with a performance of Pagliacci at the Vienna Staatsoper in 1933. Slezak also made a name for himself with his humorous autobiographies and as a comic-film star. He made many records, the earliest for Berliner in 1901, followed by G&T, Zonophone, and Odeon. He also recorded for Gramophone, Anker, Columbia, Edison, Favorite, Pathé, Parlophon, and Polydor. After the introduction of the electrical recording process, Slezak continued with Polydor and made a substantial group of electric discs.
SMIRNOV, DMITRI [te] (Moscow, 1882–Riga, 1944) Educated at the Imperial School of Commerce, Smirnov’s ambition was originally to become a skater, but music intervened. His vocal career began in the chorus of Savva Mamontov’s operetta company. He quickly moved to small roles and then, with the same company, made his leading part debut at the Hermitage Theater, Moscow, in 1903 as Gigi in the premiere of Esposito’s comic opera, Camorra. It was his success there that led to short but serious vocal study with Emiliya Pavlovskaya. From 1904–1910 he was with the Bolshoi, his debut having been as Bayan in Glinka’s Russlan and Ludmilla, conducted by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Smirnov’s first appearance outside of Russia was most likely a Paris concert in 1906, and on 19 May 1908, he sang in a performance of Boris Godunov at the Paris Opera with Feodor Chaliapin in the title role. Smirnov was first heard at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theater as Lenski in Eugen Onegin and then from 1910 to 1917, he was also a leading artist with the St. Petersburg Imperial Opera. During off seasons, he appeared with the Metropolitan Opera (1910–1912) where he made his debut as the Duke in Rigoletto. His roles there included Alfredo, Rodolfo, Romeo, and the Duke, but he wasn’t given an opportunity to be heard in any of his Russian repertoire. Having to share tenor honors and roles with Caruso, Clément, McCormack, Jadlowker, Jörn, Slezak, Martin, and Constantino led to friction with the management and he departed after his second season. He was frequently heard in London, Paris, Brussels, and Monte Carlo. After the 1917 Russian Revolution, he emigrated to Paris, continuing his career, making frequent appearances throughout Europe. In 1928, Smirnov played Peter the Great in a silent film made in Berlin. During the 1930s, he concentrated on teaching but was heard singing over the BBC as late as 1937. He retired to Latvia and died in Riga in 1944.
TALEXIS, AMÉLIE [so] (Toulouse, 1875–Calais, 1911) At an early age, Talexis began studying piano and cello at the Toulouse Conservatory, and then studied singing under Jacques Roudil who had previously sung at the Paris Opera and then taught at the Toulouse Conservatory. One source claims that Talexis studied with Paul Lhérie who taught at the Paris Conservatory. Talexis might have studied privately with Lhérie, but there is no evidence that she attended the Conservatory or that she ever sang on any of the Paris stages. Her earliest engagement was most likely at the French Opera in New Orleans during the 1897–1898 season. It was there that Talexis probably met her future husband, Henri Berriel, who was the director and first baritone of the New Orleans company. During the 1898–1899 season, Talexis was the forte chanteuse falcon at Antwerp’s Théâtre Royal. Berriel was also engaged there as premiere baritone but was found unsatisfactory and his contract was cancelled. Talexis and Berriel both sang in Montreal during the 1899–1900 season and in the spring of 1900, Talexis sang 11 performances at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux: Salomé in Herodiade; Bertha in Le prophète; both Eudoxie and Rachel in La Juive; Chimène in Le Cid. Talexis returned to New Orleans for the 1900–1901 season, where Berriel was again doubling as director and first baritone. On the New Orleans roster for that season, she was unaccountably listed as “Mme Talexis de l’Opéra-Comique de Paris”. At this point in her career, we seem to lose track of her, though she is said to have sung Aida in Barcelona, as well as Donna Anna at La Scala, the Colón, and the Havana Opera. As evidenced by her recordings, her voice was powerful with a wide range and a secure technique, equally comfortable in French and Italian. She recorded for Fonotipia and Odeon including the Act 4 duet from Les Huguenots with Léon Escalaïs, which unfortunately was never released. We can only hope that someday, it will surface. Talexis died tragically in a freak accident in the bathroom of a hotel in Calais on her way to London at 36 years of age.
TANÉSY, ANNA LÉONIE JEANNE [so] (1860–1940) Tanésy was a genuine Meyerbeer singer from a period in which Meyerbeer was still an integral part of the repertoire. Much research remains to be done on her career, but we do know that she was a member of the Grand-Théâtre de Marseilles during the 1889–1892 and 1895–1897 seasons. There, she was referred to as “première forte chanteuse falcon” and as such was the major soprano for dramatic roles. In 1889 she sang Valentine in Les Huguenots, a role she was closely associated with in subsequent years. In 1890 she appeared as Alice in Robert le diable, and sang Brunehild in Sigurd, another role she was to repeat throughout her career. She also participated in the local premiere of Paladilhe’s Patrie. In 1892 and 1895, Tanésy sang Elsa in Lohengrin and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser. She again appeared as Alice in Robert le diable in 1896, and sang Sieglinde in La Walkyrie the following year. She appeared at the Paris Opera in 1892, and sang at Bordeaux in 1900; Brunehild in Sigurd; Salomé in Hérodiade; and Rachel in La Juive. Tanésy must have still been singing professionally in the early years of the twentieth century, as she was actively making recordings at this time. She married the well-known bass, Marius Chambon in 1900, although they had been singing together in Marseilles for more than ten years. Tanésy was a pioneer recorder, making some 60 cylinders for Pathé around the turn of the century, including two duets with her husband. She also recorded a small number of cylinders for Dutreih and discs for the Homophone label.
NB The history of the Grand-Théâtre de Marseilles sometimes gives Tanésy’s first name as Anna and sometimes as Léonie. She is also referred to both as Mme. and Mlle. Tanésy.
TIRMONT, EDMOND [te] (Abbeville, 1884–Paris, 1985) Tirmont was a pupil of Rose Caron and Léon Melchissédec at the Paris Conservatory, where he won first prizes for solfeggio, singing, and opéra-comique. On 24 November 1910, he made his official debut at the Opéra-Comique in the title role in Méhul’s Joseph adding Gérald (Lakmé), Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Wilhelm Meister (Mignon), Le Noctambule (Louise), and other roles. Yet, his success at the Opéra-Comique was somewhat overshadowed by other members of the Opéra-Comique’s tenor-roster: Edmond Clémont, Léon David, and Fernand Francell. Tirmont’s career centered in Paris where he sang at the Théâtre de la Scala where he created the leading tenor-part in the Paris premiere of Leo Fall’s Die Dollar Prinzessin (1911). He also sang at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, and the Théâtre de la Gâité-Lyrique, and was part of the success of the operetta La chaste Suzanne by Jean Gilbert, a pseudonym for the Berlin composer Max Winterfeld. Tirmont’s operetta career continued with performances of the French version of Monckton’s The Quaker Girl, and the French premiere in 1914 of Kalman’s Manœuvre d’automne. Tirmont also sang in the provinces, as well as in Amsterdam. His recorded legacy is impressive, leaving posterity with magnificent documents of a beautiful, passionate, and patrician voice. He recorded for Gramophone, Odéon, Discolux, and Pathé. Among his recordings for Pathé are the first complete version of Roméo et Juliette (Tybalt) and the exceedingly rare Les Frères Danilo, re-released by Marston.
VAGUET, ALBERT [te] (Elbeuf, Normandy, 1865–1943) Vaguet was a pupil of Barbot and Obin (the teacher of Escalaïs and Delmas) at the Paris Conservatory. He graduated in 1890 and on 29 October of the same year, he made his debut at the Paris Opera as Faust, followed by La Trémoille in Patrie! and Fernand in La favorite. Over the next 12 years he alternated comprimario and leading roles, both dramatic and lyric. His major roles included Lohengrin, Don Ottavio, and the Duke in Rigoletto. In a concert performance of Das Rheingold in 1893, Vaguet took the parts of Loge, Froh, and Mime, the accompaniment provided by the titan-piano duo of Raoul Pugno and Claude Debussy. In 1897 he was chosen to interpret Faust in the Paris Opera’s first performance of Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust, and in 1899 took on the title role in a noted revival of Méhul’s Joseph. He was also associated with several creations, including Samuel Rousseau’s La Cloche du Rhin, from which he later recorded an extract; Briséis by Emmanuel Chabrier (he had been in the cast of the first Paris performance of the same composer’s more successful Gwendoline in 1893); Le roi de Paris by Georges Huë; and a small role in Saint-Saën’s Les Barbares. Vaguet retired from the stage in 1903 at the early age of 38, the cause of which has always been a mystery. Sources such as Kutsch and Riemens mention the amputation of a leg in 1903. Musical America published an article on Vaguet in 1913, and here, no mention is made of an amputation. In this article, Vaguet himself cites a tonsillectomy as the cause of his abrupt retirement. Apparently, the operation affected his vocal cords to the extent that he could sing only for short periods. He had begun recording for Pathé in 1902 and subsequent to his retirement, he embarked upon a “second career,” making huge numbers of records for Pathé, becoming the most recorded tenor in France. Vaguet’s recorded legacy reflects his stage career, though it ranges far beyond this. It spans the styles of the two major Parisian houses, encompassing many of the lighter operas associated with the Opéra-Comique, even including a few operetta extracts, most remarkably John Styx’s aria from Orphée aux enfers, suitably transposed for tenor voice. Vaguet also sang the part of Ganymède in Pathé’s complete recording of Victor Massé’s Galathée. Sadly, little of his vast recorded output has been reissued.
VALLADE, ? [te] (?–?) Currently, no information has come to light concerning this tenor. It is said that he may have sung with the Concerts Lamoureux. He recorded 57 cylinders for Pathé around the turn of the last century, 13 for Columbia, and one for Dutreih.
VALLIER, JEAN [bs] (Sète, 1863–Paris, 1952) Jean “Vaillier” had aHe was engaged at the Grand-Théâtre in Marseilles (1895–1896) as “première basse noble” singing Hermann in Tannhäuser. He returned in 1898–1899 singing Don Diègue in Massenet’s Le Cid. He was on the Bordeaux roster for the 1899–1900 season, singing roles such as Marcel in Les Huguenots, Bertram in Robert le diable, Zacharie in Le prophète, and Don Pedro in L’Africaine. In 1902, he sang Hagen in the French premiere of Götterdämmerung at the Théâtre du Château d’Eau in Paris, directed by Alfred Cortot. Vallier was on the roster of the Monnaie (1903–1907) singing such roles as Die Zauberflöte, King Henry in Lohengrin, appeared at the Monte Carlo Opera first in 1903 and again in the 1908–1910 season. There in 1908, he sang Fafner in Das Rheingold to Nivette’s Wotan, and in 1909, he sang Hunding in Die Walküre and Hagen in Götterdämmerung to Delmas’s Wotan. Vallier was praised for his singing of Sparafucile in Monte Carlo’s 1909 Rigoletto, replacing Nivette from the previous year, as he also did as Alvise in La Gioconda. During the season of 1909–1910, Vallier joined the Manhattan Opera Company, singing Phanuel in Massenet’s Hérodiade on opening night. Returning to the Paris Opera in 1910, Vallier sang Hunding in Die Walküre (21 December) and two roles in Rigoletto: Sparafucile and Monterone. He again sang in Marseilles during the 1913–1914 season as Hagen in both Sigurd and Götterdämmerung, as well as Gurnemanz in Parsifal. Vallier’s last traced appearance was in 1922 at Monte Carlo where he sang Mephistophélé in Gounod’s Faust and Frère Laurent in Roméo, both opposite the Belgian soprano, Fanny Heldy. Vallier’s first recordings were a group of two-minute Edison cylinders (1906). He also recorded a few discs for French Gramophone (1908) and English Columbia (1915).
WEBER, HENRI (Haller, Luxembourg, 1875–Marseilles, 1940) Little is known of Weber’s life or career. He made his debut on 21 October 1903 at the Gaîté-Lyrique in Paris as Vitellius in Massenet’s Hérodiade with Emma Calvé and Maurice Renaud. He also sang Ruggiero in La Juive (21 November 1903), with Felia Litvinne, and Gallus in Messaline (24 December 1903), again with Calvé. Weber’s name has also been found among those singing at the Théâtre Royal in Liège. His records were all made for the French Gramophone Company.
Act 1. On the Sicilian shore near Palermo, a troubadour named Raimbaut (tenor) tells assembled Norman knights the legend of Robert, born of the union between the daughter of the Duke of Normandy and a devil (Ballade: Jadis régnait en Normandie). Robert (tenor), who is present, indignantly orders Raimbaut to be hanged but relents when he recognizes in Raimbaut’s fiancée Alice (soprano) his foster-sister. She tells Robert the death of his mother and her last words (Va, dit-elle, va, mon enfant). Despite her innate apprehension of Robert’s inseparable companion Bertram (bass), she promises to intercede on Robert’s behalf with Isabelle, the Sicilian princess he loves. Taunted by Bertram, Robert gambles (Sicilienne: Ô fortune, à ton caprice) and loses all his possessions, even his armor.
Act 2. In the palace, Isabelle (soprano), who has been waiting in vain for Robert, is delighted when she receives news from Alice that Robert is approaching. She forgives the repentant Robert, giving him a new suit of armor for an upcoming tournament. But Bertram lures Robert away from the contest by having the Prince of Granada, Robert’s rival for Isabelle’s hand, challenge him to a duel in a nearby forest. When the tournament begins, the Prince of Granada appears but Robert does not.
Act 3. In a mountainous countryside, Bertram corrupts the gullible Raimbaut by offering him gold (Duo bouffe: Ah, l’honnête homme … Le bonheur est dans l’inconstance). After the troubadour departs, Bertram and his fellow demons are heard in a nearby cave. Bertram sings of his love for his son, Robert (Valse infernale: Encore un de gagné … Noirs démons). Alice arrives, hoping to find Raimbaut, and sings of her native Normandy (Quand je quittai la Normandie). She overhears Bertram’s conversation with his fellow demons, and after being threatened by Bertram, Alice flees. Bertram, who has been given until midnight to secure Robert’s soul, challenges the latter to meet him at the tomb of St. Rosalie, where a golden bough will charm Isabelle to be his (Duo: Des chevaliers de ma patrie). In the ruined cloisters, Bertram summons up the ghosts of the damned nuns (Invocation: Voici donc les débris … Nonnes qui reposez). In the ensuing ballet, the nuns seduce Robert to seize the magical branch.
Act 4. In Isabelle’s palace, Robert, brandishing the bough, puts a stop to the preparations of her wedding to the Prince of Granada by putting everyone to sleep. He awakens Isabelle and threatens to abduct her, but she successfully pleads with him (Cavatine: Robert, toi que j’aime) and Robert relents.
Act 5. In front of the Palermo Cathedral, monks sing of the healing power of the Church (Malheureux ou coupables). Bertram finally reveals his identity to Robert, but Alice appears and, by reading the last letter Robert’s mother wrote to her son, prevents him from yielding to his father. Bertram vanishes as the midnight bells sound and the gates of the cathedral open, revealing Isabelle standing at the altar, ready to wed the Norman prince.
Act 1. In late August 1572, at his Touraine château, the Count of Nevers (baritone) is entertaining some young Catholic noblemen. A new guest, the Protestant Raoul de Nangis (tenor) joins them (Sous ce beau ciel). He tells them about falling in love with an unknown young woman (Romance: Ah, quel spectacle enchanteur … Plus blanche que la blanche hermine). Raoul’s manservant Marcel (bass), horrified to see him breaking bread with infidels, reminds him of his duties by singing Luther’s chorale “Ein feste Burg” (Choral de Luther: Seigneur, rempart et seul soutien). Taunted by the Catholic noblemen, Marcel responds by singing a Huguenot military song (Piff! Paff! … Pour les couvents c’est fini). A woman asks to speak to Nevers in private, but an indignant Raoul recognizes her as her his unknown beloved. The page Urbain (soprano or mezzo-soprano) enters, bringing an invitation to one of the knights (Nobles seigneurs, salut! … Une dame noble et sage), who turns out to be Raoul.
Act 2. At Chenonceaux, Marguerite de Valois (soprano), the sister of King Charles IX, sings of the lush beauty of the landscape (Grand air: Ô beau pays). The blindfolded Raoul is led before her and, overwhelmed by her beauty, pledges allegiance to her (Beauté divine enchanteresse … Ah, si j’étais coquette). Marguerite then summons Catholic noblemen, including Nevers, and, as a symbol of reconciliation between the two factions, proposes to Raoul the hand of her lady-in-waiting Valentine (soprano). Raoul recognizes his unknown beloved but, still believing she is Nevers’s mistress, refuses to marry her, to the shock and indignation of all, especially Valentine’s father Saint-Bris (baritone).
Act 3. At the Pré-aux-Clercs, Parisians enjoy their Sunday evening stroll. A dispute occurs between Catholics and a group of Protestant soldiers (Rataplan). The night watchman enters and announces the curfew (Rentrez, habitants de Paris). Valentine reveals to Marcel a plot to ambush Raoul, who has been summoned to a duel (Dans la nuit, tout seul … Ah, l’ingrat d’une offense mortelle … Tu ne peux éprouver ni comprendre). Raoul and his dueling adversaries meet (Septet: En mon bon droit j’ai confiance). Marcel, to forestall the ambush, calls Huguenot soldiers to the rescue and Marguerite herself appears, explaining to Raoul that he wrongly suspected Valentine’s intentions when she visited Nevers to break off their engagement. But Valentine and Nevers are now married and the act ends with the wedding procession (Noble dame), witnessed by the despairing Raoul and the angry Protestants (Final: Plus de paix, plus de trêve).
Act 4. In Nevers’s Parisian mansion, Saint-Bris, on the Queen’s orders, reveals to the assembled Catholic noblemen that all the Huguenots are to be murdered that evening. Valentine and Raoul (hiding behind a tapestry) overhear the plot. Nevers indignantly refuses to join the movement and is arrested. Two monks appear and bless the daggers (Bénédiction des poignards: Des troubles renaissants … Pour cette cause sainte … Et vous qui répondez … Dieu le veut). Raoul, before rushing out to join his dying brothers, declares his love to Valentine (Grand duo: Ô ciel! Où courez-vous? … Tu l’as dit … Plus d’amour, plus d’ivresse).
Act 5. A wounded Raoul bursts into the wedding celebration of Marguerite and Henry of Navarre. In the final scene, Raoul, Valentine, and Marcel are reunited in a Protestant cemetery. Valentine brings news of Nevers’s assassination. Marcel receives her into the Protestant communion and blesses her union with Raoul (L’interrogatoire). The three of them are executed by a group of Catholics led by Saint-Bris, who recognizes with horror his dying daughter.
Act 1. Outside the castle of Count Oberthal in Dortrecht in Holland, ca. 1530, Berthe (soprano) sings of her happiness at her forthcoming marriage to Jean. She and Jean’s mother Fidès (mezzo-soprano) witness the preaching of three sinister members of the Anabaptist sect, Jonas (tenor), Mathisen (baritone), and Zacharie (bass), who incite the peasants to revolt. When Berthe and Fidès ask Oberthal (bass) to allow the wedding, he refuses, claiming Berthe for himself instead.
Act 2. At his inn in Leyden, Jean (tenor) tells the Anabaptists a dream he had in which he was being crowned king (Sous les vastes arceaux). The three Anabaptists try to convince Jean to join them, but the innkeeper tells them he can’t leave because of Berthe, his beloved (Pour Bertha, moi je soupire). Berthe herself rushes in, pursued by Oberthal, who threatens to have Fidès killed on the spot unless the young woman is delivered to him. Jean removes Berthe from her hiding place and hands her over to Oberthal. Fidès thanks him for his sacrifice (Arioso: Ah, mon fils). When the Anabaptists return and promise him vengeance against Oberthal, Jean agrees to follow them.
Act 3. At the Anabaptists’ encampment outside Münster in Westphalia, Zacharie boasts of the size and power of the sect (Aussi nombreux que les étoiles). After a ballet depicting skating on the frozen lake, the captured Oberthal, after trying to ingratiate himself with Jonas and Zacharie, tells Jean, who has become the Anabaptists’ leader, about Berthe having been spotted in Münster. Jean, faced with a revolt of his troops, subdues them and, as the sunrise reveals Münster in the distance, leads them towards their conquest of the city (Hymne triomphal: Roi du ciel et des anges).
Act 4. In Münster, while plans are being made for the coronation of the prophet-king, Fidès appears, now reduced to begging (Complainte de la mendiante: Donnez, donnez!). Encountering Berthe, she informs her of the death of her son. Berthe, attributing Jean’s demise to the prophet, swears to avenge him. A coronation march precedes the following tableau, set in the cathedral. As Jean is about to be crowned, recalling his prophetic dream, Fidès recognizes her son. Threatened by his associates, Jean forces Fidès to retract herself publicly and the ceremony resumes (L’exorcisme).
Act 5. In a vaulted cellar of the prophet’s palace, where Jean’s accomplices are making plans to betray him, Fidès waits for her son (Ô prêtres de Baal … Ô toi qui m’abandonnes … Il va venir … Comme un éclair). When Jean arrives, she forces him to kneel before her and convinces him that he must renounce his throne (Mon fils? … je n’en ai plus … À la voix de ta mère). When Berthe arrives, the three enjoy a brief moment of happiness, but on realizing Jean is none other than the prophet, Berthe stabs herself. The final scene is a banquet in the great hall of the palace. Jean sings a drinking song (Versez! Que tout respire). When the Anabaptists and Oberthal burst in with the imperial troops, an explosion, detonated at Jean’s command, destroys the palace; the music of the drinking song returns, sung in duet by Jean and his mother, this time to welcome the divine, purifying flames.
©Vincent Giroud, 2009
Meyerbeer on Record
Giacomo Meyerbeer was one of the most important composers in Paris during the mid-1800s. He is considered the founder of the French Grand Opera and his works dominated the French stage. Meyerbeer changed the face of opera in Paris, and yet, much criticism is directed toward him and much of his music is seldom heard today. This 3-CD set is the first of two volumes, which together will honor Meyerbeer and reacquaint the listener with his marvelous music and some very interesting singing. These two volumes will contain at least one version of every recorded Meyerbeer excerpt sung by French singers. They include cylinders and discs from the earliest days of recorded sound and continue through the 1930s. This compilation is not only an interesting way of organizing important and lovely French singing but gives a rare and extensive look into this style of singing. Volume one will feature recordings from Meyerbeer's first three operas written for Paris: Robert Le Diable, Les Huguenots, and Le Prophète.