Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
La Colombe, Opéra Comique in two acts
Horace, Joseph Peyron (ten); Mazet, René Lenoty (bar); Jean, Lucien Lovano (ten); Sylvie, Janine Micheau (sop)
Orchestra Radio-lyrique. Conducted Tony Aubin
Recorded Radio Concert June 5th 1947
Janine MICHEAU (soprano) 1914-1976
singing French Operatic Arias
Georges Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Romeo et Juliette, ‘Je veux vivre’ Mireille, ‘Valse de Mireille’
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Les Pecheurs de perles, ‘Je crois entendre encore’.
Jaques OFFENBACH (1819-1875)

Les Contes d’Hoffman, ‘Les oiseaux dans la charmille’.
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
Hamlet, ‘Air de la folie’
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

Il barbiere di Siviglia, ‘Una voce poco fa’
Various orchestras and conductors. Recorded between 1943 and 1949

As is well known, after the success of the premiere of Rigoletto in March 1851 Verdi had Il Trovatore, premiered on 19th January 1853, and La Traviata, premiered six weeks later on 6th March, contemporaneously on the compositional drawing board. A few years later Gounod was to follow a similar path when, after the successful and acclaimed first night of Faust on March 19th 1859, he followed up with ‘Philémon and Baucis’ on February 18th 1860 and ‘La Colombe’ on August 3rd the same year. Performance history tells us of a very different outcome than that ultimately enjoyed by Verdi’s great middle period triumvirate. La Colombe was very different than Faust being very much in the ‘comique’ tradition of music interspersed with spoken dialogue. It was a triumph at its premiere in Baden-Baden but took six years to attain a Paris performance and was quickly withdrawn. The opera emerged again in the French capital with greater success in 1912 and in 1923 it was performed in Diagelev’s Monte-Carlo season but with scored recitatives by the then young Francis Poulenc. Again it disappeared, emerging in 1982 when it was presented at the Spoleta festival (Italy).

This recording of the sung parts of the opera gives a mere 38 minutes of pleasant light operetta type light music as support to a trite plot. Compared with the ‘zing’ that Paris was getting from Offenbach at the time of its Paris premiere it is no wonder that it had so little success. The lack of musical depth and inspiration is obvious when comparing the Juliette’s and Mireille’s waltzes, of 1867 and 1864 respectively, which are included in Janine Micheau’s arias on the second part of the disc trs.10 and 13. Gounod was fulfilling a promise with minimum effort and is said to have composed the work in two weeks! It is a musical miniature that is only interesting for its connection with the composer. That said, this is a well sung performance presented with rather recessed sound.

Janine Micheau was a light lyric coloratura who made a number of 78s for the Decca label in the late 1940s. Her coloratura is pin-point if a little breathy, whilst the middle of the voice is not distinguished by a very wide palette of colours or tonal depth. Her Mireille (tr.13) is not in the same league as Freni in the complete opera (EMI). Similar comparisons of her Juliette (tr.10) with later singers on complete recordings (Freni again and Gheorghiu, both EMI) add further confirmation. Surface noise is evident on some tracks.

The leaflet is brief to the point of paucity. There are no indications of the Act from which the items from La Colombe derive. The English translation of the brief notes is idiosyncratic. If it were not for the name of Gounod, La Colombe would be instantly forgettable, whilst Janine Micheau’s singing shows the weakness of much French singing talent at that time.

Robert J Farr


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