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Louis Richard (baritone) – Songs and Arias
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust – Avant de quitter (Cavatina) [3.03]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

The Pearl Fishers – Enfant du Temple saint [4.11]
With Louis Dister (tenor)
Carmen – Votre toast [3.34]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Mignon – De son Coeur (Berceuse) [3.16]
Hamlet – O vin dissipe la tristesse [3.20]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Le Roi de Lahore – Aux troupes du Sultan [3.37]
Herodiade – Ce breuvage…vision fugitive [4.11]
Thais – Ah! Que mon Coeur est plein d’amertume [3.17]
Thais – Baigne d’eau mes mains [3.11
With Annette Talifert (soprano)
Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)

Lakme – Lakme, ton doux regard se voile [3.48]
Eugene DIAZ (1847-1901)

Benvenuto Cellini – Combien de pas [4.06]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)

Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Allez! Pour te livrer combat [4.06]
Theodore DUBOIS (1837-1924)

Aben-Hamet – Me voici donc [2.46]
Emile PALADILHE (1844-1926)

Patrie – C’est ici le berceau [3.14]
Camille SAINT-SAENS (1835-1921)

Henry VIII – Qui donc commande [3.16]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Rigoletto – Courtisans, race vile [4.07]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Tannhauser – Mortel presage..O Douce etoile [3.54]
Lohengrin – Prince, merci [4.15]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)

Paillasse – Bonjour, c’est moi [3.41]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

Tosca – Trois sbires, une chaise de poste [4.10]
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)

Cantique de Noel – Minuit chretien [3.31]
Jean-Baptiste FAURE (1830-1914)

Le Crucifix [3.15]
With Louis Dister (tenor)
La Charite [4.03]
Robert GUILLEMYN

Bonsoir [2.59]
Georges MARIETTI (1852-1902)

Si j’etais Dieu [3.03]
Jean VAN DEN EEDEN (1842-1917)

Toast [3.02]
Daniel-Francois-Esprit AUBER (1782-1871)

La Muette de Portici – Amour sacre [2.29]
With Louis Dister (tenor) and Fernand Goeyens (piano)
Francois-Auguste GEVAERT (1828-1908)

Vers l’Avenir [2.30]
Francois van CAMPENHOUT (1779-1848)

La Brabanconne [2.48]
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1797-1868)

Barber of Seville – C’est d’abord rumeur legere [3.40]
Adolphe ADAM (1803-1856)

Le Chalet – Arretons-nous ici [3.53]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1797-1864)

Robert la Diable – Voici donc les debris [2.50]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Faust – Mais ce dieu … [7.01]
With Emile Blaimont (tenor)
Faust – Le Veau d’or [1.57]
Faust – Vous qui faites l’endormie [2.49]
Faust – Trio Alerte! Alerte!
With Emile Blaimont (tenor) and Marguerite Thys (soprano)
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Mignon – Legeres hirondelles [2.56]
With Marguerite Thys (soprano)
Mignon – De son Coeur [3.27]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)

Les Contes d’Hoffmann – Scintille diamante [2.36]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)

La Boheme – O defroque si chere [2.12]
Jean-Baptiste FAURE (1830-1914)

Le Crucifix – trio
With Marguerite Thys (soprano) and Maurice Weynandt (tenor)
Louis Richard (baritone)
Orchestre Symphonique de la Monnaie/Maurice Bastin and Sylvain Dupuis
Orchestra/Desire Defauw
Orchestra/Elie Cohen
Recorded between 1922 and 1936
MUSIQUE EN WALLONIE MEW 0526-0527 [2 CDs 73.36 + 68.06]

 

Louis Richard (1889-1977) began working life as a postal employee in his native Belgium. A chance meeting led to a relatively late change of direction and in 1915 he entered the conservatoire in Mons. Clearly his talent was latent – and the circumstances of the time may equally have been propitious, because towards the end of the First World War he’d made his stage debut singing as a lyric bass. He joined a series of provincial companies and then gradually ascended the ladder of local success: Mons, Strasbourg – where Ropartz heard and admired him in Fauré’s Penelope –Biarritz and Ostend. By 1923 he was singing in Brussels at La Monnaie as a lyric bass and low baritone and three years later he ascended to the position of principal baritone. He retained the position for fully a quarter of a century.

Richard sang all the expected French roles and some unexpected ones too. He sang a lot of the Italian roles and a significant amount of Wagner – ninety-seven roles all told in three thousand operatic performances. Throughout his career he shared the stage with Mary Garden, Fanny Heldy and Supervia, as well as a host of lesser-known singers. He continued singing in concert until 1958 and then retired; teaching never tempted him.

In this two CD set we have a run of acoustic Chantals, made in London in 1922, and a longer series of electric Columbias recorded between 1928 and 1936. The discs tend to focus on the French repertoire though we do have examples of his Puccini and Wagner and Rossini amongst others. What all the records show is that the early training as a bass left a pervasive though not unattractive heaviness in the voice – questions that relate also to matters of colour and weight. Limitations can clearly be heard in the Chantals, recorded shortly after his debut. He’s rather weak and unsupported in the lower registers and one can see why it was prudent to move up. His colleague Marguerite Thys is rather shrill and intermittently unpleasant to listen to. With the brass band and small complement of strings accompanying, these sides reflect a transitional early point in Richard’s career.

Much better are the Columbias by which time Richard’s voice had settled on his lyric baritone. His Gounod Faust sounds remarkably Italianate for a French speaking Belgian artist but his Bizet is not at all distinctive. That said it’s rather fascinating to hear him in something as unusual as the aria from Eugene Diaz’s Benvenuto Cellini because, whilst the voice itself lacks colour and mobility, it reminds one of the excellent work Richard did in propagating new Franco-Belgian work in Brussels and elsewhere. Throughout in fact we find straightforward, masculine singing, effectively extroverted if not always especially subtle. Perhaps the pick is the Saint-Saëns Henry VIII aria – splendidly done - in which he lightens and inflects the voice with great assurance.

Small deficiencies tend to limit ultimate appreciation though. His Adam is stirring with a good florid upper extension but the runs are untidy. Where we might expect some character – as in the Thomas, say, or Massenet - we get instead a pleasant, if strenuous musicality but a rather nasal uniformity of approach. It seems not unreasonable to note that on the evidence of these discs he comes across as a highly effective though ultimately limited singer.

The transfers have obviously been derived from good quality shellacs; even the Chantals sound good with one exception (disc two, track thirteen). There are full discographical details and very thorough trilingual notes with excellent photographic reproductions. So this is altogether a very worthy and worthwhile tribute to one of Belgium’s leading baritones.

Jonathan Woolf


 



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