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Mady Mesplé - Airs d'Operettes
Victor MASSÉ (1822–1884)
Les Noces de Jeanette:
1. Air du Rossignol: Au bord du chemin qui passe à ma porte [9:24]
André MESSAGER (1853–1929)
Madame Chrysanthème:
2. Écoutez, c’est la chant des cigales [4:19]
Oscar STRAUS (1870–1954)
Trois valses:
3. La valse interrompue (1900): Je t’aime quand meme [3:40]
4. La valse du destin (1937): Mais c’est le destin peut-être [3:29]
5. La valse du destin (1937) e ne suis pas ce que l’on pense [2:34]
Franz LEHÁR (1870–1948)
Das Land des Lächelns:
6. Entrée de Lisa: Merci pour ce charmant accueil [3:19]
Die lustige Witwe:
7. Chanson de Vilya: Là-bas dans nos rudes vallées [6:05]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819–1880)
Pomme d’Api:
8. Couplets de Catherine: Bonjour Monsieur, je suis la bonne [3:05]
Reynaldo HAHN (1875–1947)
9. Moi j’m’appelle Ciboulette [2:07]
Charles LECOCQ (1832–1918)
La petite mariée:
10. Je tenais Monsieur mon Époux [2:11]
11. Pour vous sauver, on se dévoue [2:08]
Les cent vierges:
12. O Paris, gai séjour [6:02]
Mady Mesplé (soprano)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo/Pierre Dervaux
rec. Salle Garnier, Monte-Carlo, 9-13 June 1980. ADD
EMI CLASSICS 47545 [48:57]

The last three days have been dominated by listening to Mady Mesplé recordings. First there were French Mélodies, then a programme of opera arias (see review). Together these spanned the greater part of her career. With that in the background I was eagerly looking forward to hearing this recital with operetta arias, mainly French and all of them sung in French. The recording date looked promising, since the older she got the more attractive her voice became; here she was approaching fifty. I was not disappointed; on the contrary this turned out to be one of the loveliest operetta recitals I have come across. The programme is wholly attractive, even though the general non-French listener may only recognize the Vilja Song from The Merry Widow and, possibly Lisa’s entrance song from The Land of Smiles. But this is of little importance. French operetta from the 18th century has a particular charm, melodically enticing and with an esprit sometimes missing from its Viennese counterpart. Only three of the operettas here are post-WW1: The Land of Smiles, Ciboulette and Trois valses and they are also great charmers.
Mesplé became famous first and foremost as a brilliant high coloratura soprano. In the opening number, the song of the nightingale, she displays her superb lightness and agility in a delicious dialogue with the flute, admirably played by Claude Grognet. But for the most part this is not a programme of showpieces but a number of first class arias that require beautiful singing. And that is what they get. In Madame Chrysanthème’s aria (tr. 2) there are no fireworks, just plain legato singing. Oscar Straus – no relation to the various Strausses with double Ss – also needs a warm and rounded tone, which Ms Mesplé has in abundance. It seems that when her voice matured some of the edginess was polished away in the process. The first two songs from Trois valses have a Lehár-like sweetness. I wouldn’t call it sentimentality even though others might. The third of them has a French sprightliness. The two Lehár numbers, sung in French, are among the best and the Vilja Song is adorned with some really ravishing pianissimo singing.
She is glittering and expressive in the aria from Pomme d’Api, one of three one-act operettas by Offenbach that she also recorded complete in Monte-Carlo, as here, but with Manuel Rosenthal in the pit in 1982. The other two were Monsieur Choufleur and Mesdames de la Halle. If they are still available they are definitely worth seeking out.
Hahn’s 1923 operetta Ciboulette was also recorded at Monte-Carlo with Mesplé in the title role and with José Van Dam and Nicolaï Gedda in other leading parts. The aria presented here is an appetizing taster.
Charles Lecocq, finally, is another composer whose works should be better known. The three excerpts here are lovely and it was a good idea to end the whole recital with the Grande Valse from Les cent vierges where Mady Mesplé tosses off a superb final note.
The Monte-Carlo orchestra is well versed in this music and Pierre Dervaux paces the music admirably. Since so much of the repertoire is off the beaten track – at least for non-French listeners – song texts and translations would have been a blessing but as it is Mady Mesplé’s heavenly singing takes us at least halfway to Nirvana.
Göran Forsling


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