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Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Meyerbeer on Record 1899-1913
Full tracklist at end of review
MARSTON 53009-2 [3 CDs: 77:57 + 78:01 + 78:16]

Experience Classicsonline

Ward Marston’s rationale for this three CD set is to present at least one acoustically recorded example of every Meyerbeer aria and ensemble from his first three French operas; Robert le diable, Les Huguenots and La prophète. The priority was on French language recordings, though a number of German discs have made the cut as have a few Italian; this is where no French language examples were made or have been located.

The undertaking is divided into two. The first, larger, part is the selection of excerpts, many rare, many all but unknown, whilst the second - an appendix - contains well known recordings sung in French, German, Italian and Russian. As Marston is at pains to point out he alone has, as it were, picked the team. The recordings do not necessarily represent a ‘Best Of’ but they do contain a number of things that none but the most assiduous of specialist collectors will have heard. As such it fits into Marston’s catalogue very neatly indeed; a kind of specialised concept compilation that achieves operatic unity by virtue of its selection principles. In this respect the lack of orchestral and ballet music contained in the operas can easily be understood.

One of the virtues therefore of a 3 CD set such as this is the serendipitous juxtaposition of artists, the well-known on a familiar Victor, say, sitting next to an unfamiliar artist on an APGA or Odeon. How intriguing therefore to start with the little known and frankly a touch erratic Émile-Frantz Sardet in his 1909 side. He’s immediately followed by a marvellous example of Berthe Auguez de Montalant, as Alice, from the preceding year. She in turn prefaces the brilliant Léon Escalaïs who surmounts the divisions (of Handelian difficulty) of his aria with trumpeting high notes and still amazing accomplishment. This is a 1905 Fonotipia with piano accompaniment. The duets allow us to compare and contrast; in theirs from Act 3 of Robert le diable Jules Gautier is outclassed by Paul Aumonier but a more equal pairing immediately follows - Journet and Clément - and over two sides of their 1912 Victor they more than live up to their illustrious reputations.

I assume Juste Nivette is the splendidly self-announcing singer in the spoken introduction to his c.1908 Odeon - his speaking voice prefigures his singing one; sonorous, secure and characterful. Léonie Tanésy is an important singer but the sound quality of her c.1902 Pathé cylinder needs forbearance. Of other stellar singers in this first disc mention should certainly be made of Pol Plançon’s Nonnes qui reposez though Charlotte Agussol sounds past her best in her 1906 APGA. Lily Dupré didn’t record often so the example of her singing here is valuable. Despite her reputation Armida Parsi-Pettinella sounds effortful. Agustarello Affre’s vibrato is keen (if not insistent) and Lise Landouzy is preferable as an artist in their duet. We should also note the little known Mario Corpait and Georges Granal. The viola player in the latter’s Plus blanche seems to be anonymous.

The list of highlights really is an extensive one. Every track has something of value, sourced from collectors and presented to others less fortunate. From the second disc I would particularly note the way Marie Lafargue outclasses the rather generic singing of André Gresse in their scene from Les Huguenots. She died tragically young; a real loss. Mario Ancona, in Italian, is in redoubtable form and in superb sound for 1907 - an Edison two minute wax cylinder, which goes some way to explaining it. There’s an attractive Odeon-recorded sequence from Act 4 with Antoinette Laute-Brun and Affre - the latter sporting his characteristically intrusive vibrato. From Le Prophète we can enjoy a mini-German opening wherein Elise Elizza, Hermine Kittel and - separately - Leo Slezak star. Perhaps more important as an artefact is the 1908 Odeon that preserves the voice of Blanche Deschamps-Jehin, as Fidès. She was 51, and soon to retire, but she still sings impressively, even at the top, where one might expect strain. Albert Alvarez, with a wonkily recorded piano, is a vigorous presence in his 1903 Pathé. Marie Charbonnel is first class. Then there’s another German run including Ottilie Metzger, Erik Schmedes, Schumann-Heink and others.

The final disc continues the German lineage in the Meyerbeer discography. Michael Scott’s quip that Ernistine Schumann-Heink had a voice ‘like the Flying Scotsman coming out of a tunnel’ can be tested and found supported - or not - via these sides. Of more historical importance though is Amelia Talexis who died in a freakish accident very young. Her partner Gaston Dubois is rather bleaty but stylistically good. The appendix that follows is, as noted, a roll call of the great and good. Destinn has two sides to herself. Albert Vaguet is strong in Plus blanche, a Pathé cylinder of 1903 also notable for the fact that the violist is none other than Pierre Monteux, in what’s believed to be his only recording as an instrumentalist. This recording is immediately followed another of the same aria, sung by the incisive but interpretatively neutral Dmitri Smirnov (in Russian) from a decade later; his unnamed viola player is several notches above Monteux. The earliest cut in the set is here; the 1899 Bettini cylinder of Eugenia Mantelli singing Une dame noble et sage. So too is the still contentious Mapleson cylinder of 1902, in the past often ascribed to Melba, but these days generally, but not authoritatively, to Suzanne Adams. Prominent amongst the stellar voices in the Appendix is Jean-François Delmas whose two sides are first class examples of great Meyerbeer singing on record.

The next volume will explore the other French operas, L’étoile du nord, Le pardon de Ploërmel (Dinorah) and L’Africaine.

Need I add that the transfers are magnificent and the booklet wonderful?

Jonathan Woolf 

Full Tracklist
CD 1:
Act 1
1.Jadis régnait en Normandie 3:11
É mile-Frantz Sardet as Raimbaut; 11 June 1909; GRAMOPHONE (01090v) 032125
2.Va, dit-elle, va, mon enfant3:09
Berthe Auguez de Montalant as Alice; October 1908; GRAMOPHONE (6487h)
3.Au tournoi, chevaliers … Ô fortune, à ton caprice [Sicilienne]3:17
Léon Escalaïs as Robert; Milan, 1 December 1905; FONOTIPIA (XPh 498)
Act 3
4.Du rendezvous … Ah, l’honnête homme!2:49
Paul Aumonier as Bertram and Jules Gautier as Raimbaut; August 1904;
ODEON (XP 876) 33827
5.Ah, l’honnête homme! … Le bonheur est dans l’inconstance8:10
Marcel Journet as Bertram and Edmond Clément as Raimbaut; Camden, New
Jersey, 18 January 1912; VICTOR (C-11468-1 / C-11469-1) 76020/76021
6.Encore un de gagné [Valse Infernale]3:07
Juste Nivette as Bertram; ca. 1908; ODEON (XP 3885) 60652
7.Oui, j’entends les éclats de leur joie infernale … Noirs démons [Valse
Marcel Journet as Bertram and chorus; ca. 1908; Camden, New Jersey, 19
January 1912; VICTOR (C-11473-2) 74282
(Chorus sings in Italian)
8.Quand je quittai la Normandie2:26
Léonie Tanésy as Alice; ca. 1902; PATHÉ CYLINDER 361
9.Des chevaliers de ma patrie (Di mia patria ai cavalieri)1:46
Antonio Paoli as Robert (Tenor part only of Robert/Bertram duet); sung in
Italian; Milan, 15 May 1909; GRAMOPHONE (13258b) 2-52712
(No existing recording sung in French)
10.Voici donc les débris … Nonnes qui reposez [Evocation des Nonnes]3:55
Pol Plançon as Bertram; Camden, New Jersey, August 1908; VICTOR
(C-6110-1) 85125
Act 4
11.Robert, Robert, toi que j’aime4:06
Berthe Auguez de Montalant as Isabelle; October 1908; GRAMOPHONE (854i)
Act 5
12.Malheureux ou coupables [Choeur des Moines] 3:15
Gaston de Poumayrac, tenor; Louis Nansen, tenor; Henri Dangès, baritone;
and Hippolyte Belhomme, bass; 1911; PATHÉ 842
(Sung as a quartet)
Act 1
13.Sous ce beau ciel2:55
Mario Corpait as Raoul; 1909; ODEON (XPh 4610) X.97348
14.Bonheur de la table2:41
Henri Sayetta, Bernard Boussagol, Thomas Bonnemoy, Charles Millot, and
chorus; 1909; GRAMOPHONE (5544h) 34699
15.Ah, quel spectacle enchanteur … Plus blanche que la blanche hermine3:39
Georges Granal as Raoul; 30 December 1909; GRAMOPHONE (01288 1/2v) 032127
(Sung in original key of b-flat)
16.Ah! Viens, divin Luther … Seigneur, rempart et seul soutien [Choral de
Paul Aumonier as Marcel; 1910; PATHÉ-APGA P.302
17.C’était alors … Piff! Paff! … Pour les couvents, c’est fini3:55
Marcel Journet as Marcel; Camden, New Jersey, 14 January 1910; VICTOR
(C-8552-1) 74156
18.Nobles seigneurs, salut! … Une dame noble et sage 3:23
Charlotte Agussol as Urbain; 1906; APGA 1301
Act 2
19.Ô beau pays … A ce mot seul s’anime8:23
Lily Dupré as Marguerite de Valois; 20 November 1912; GRAMOPHONE (02581v/
02582v) 033158/033159
20.Non, non, non, vous n’avez jamais, je gage [No, no giammai]3:06
Armida Parsi-Pettinella as Urbain; sung in Italian; Milan, 22 April 1906;
FONOTIPIA (XPh1818-2) 39646
(No existing recording sung in French)
21.Beauté divine, enchanteresse … Ah, si j’étais coquette3:41
Agustarello Affre as Raoul and Lise Landouzy as Marguerite de Valois;
1907; ODEON (XP 3682) 56161
CD 2
Act 3
1.Rataplan [Choeur des Soldats]3:22
É mile-Frantz Sardet and chorus; 14 March 1910; GRAMOPHONE (01356v) 032136
2.Rentrez, habitants de Paris [Choeur du couvre-feu]1:39
Henri Weber as the Night Watchman and chorus; 1904; GRAMOPHONE (4172F)
3.Dans la nuit … Ah, l’ingrat d’une offense mortelle … Tu ne peux éprouver
ni comprendre8:06
André Gresse as Marcel and Marie Lafargue as Valentine; 26 November 1912;
GRAMOPHONE (02591v/02592v) 034183/034184
4.En mon bon droit j’ai confiance2:59
Agustarello Affre as Raoul, with Eugène Fréville, Eugène Claudin, Lucien
Rigaux, Henri-Alexandre Lequien, M. Bernard, and Armand Narçon; 1908;
ODEON (xP 4452) 97142
5.Noble dame (Nobil dama)2:06
Mario Ancona as Nevers; sung in Italian; New York, February 1907; EDISON: 
(No existing recording sung in French)
Act 4
6.Des troubles renaissants … Pour cette cause sainte [Conjuration] 4:05
Pierre d’Assy as Saint-Bris, Bernard Boussagol as Nevers, and Marthe
Bakkers as Valentine; 1908; GRAMOPHONE (885i) 034032
7.Gloire au grand Dieu vengeur … Dieu le veut! [Bénédiction des
Pierre d’Assy as Saint-Bris with chorus; 2 December 1908; GRAMOPHONE
(0865v) 032108
8.Ô ciel! Où courez-vous … Le danger presse et le temps vole3:30
Antoinette Laute-Brun as Valentine and Agustarello Affre as Raoul; 1909;
ODEON (xP 4889) 97512
9.Tu m’aimes? … Tu l’as dit3:47
Antoinette Laute-Brun as Valentine and Agustarello Affre as Raoul; 1909;
ODEON (xP 4890) 97513
10.Plus d’amour, plus d’ivresse3:23
Antoinette Laute-Brun as Valentine and Agustarello Affre as Raoul; 1909;
ODEON (xP 4891) 97514
Act 5
11.Savez-vous qu’en joignant vos mains [L’interrogatoire]2:59
Jean Vallier as Marcel; 1907; GRAMOPHONE (5069h) 3-32722
Act 1
12.Un jour dans les flots de la Meuse (Einst in dieses Stromes Wellen Fiel
Elise Elizza as Berthe and Hermine Kittel as Fidès; sung in German;
Vienna, 1905; GRAMOPHONE (686r) 2-44037
(No existing recording sung in French)
Act 2
13.Sous les vastes arceaux d’un temple magnifique (In eines Domes
Wunderbau, von Säulen getragen) [Le Rêve]3:56
Leo Slezak as Jean; sung in German; 2 June 1910; GRAMOPHONE (01514v)
(No existing recording sung in French)
14.Pour Berthe moi, je soupired3:32
Agustarello Affre as Jean; 1906; ODEON (xP 2455) 36534
15.Ah, mon fils, sois béni3:28
Blanche Deschamps-Jehin as Fidès; 1908; ODEON (Xp 4299-2) 97041
Act 3
16.Aussi nombreux que les étoiles2:57
Juste Nivette as Zacharie; October 1906; APGA 1239
17.Roi du ciel et des anges2:16
Albert Alvarez as Jean; 1903; PATHÉ 1653
Act 4
18.Donnez, donnez! 3:36
Marie Charbonnel as Fidès; 29 December 1913; GRAMOPHONE (18591u) 33879
19.Un pauvre pélerin! (Ein armer Pilger naht!)3:18
Margarethe Matzenauer as Fidès and Melanie Kurt as Berthe; sung in
German; Berlin, 7 December 1910; GRAMOPHONE (2118c) 044175
(No existing recording sung in French)
20.Dernier espoir, lueur dernière (Nein! So sank der Hoffnung letzte
Ottilie Metzger as Fidès and Melanie Kurt as Berthe; sung in German;
Berlin, 20 January 1911; GRAMOPHONE (2168c) 044176
(No existing recording sung in French)
21.Grand Dieu, exaucez ma prière (Grosser Gott, in den himmlischen Höhen)
[Air de l’imprécation]3:07
Margarethe Ober as Fidès; sung in German; Berlin, 1911; PATHÉ 54533
(No existing recording sung in French)
22.Qui je suis? … Je suis, hélas! La pauvre femme (Wer ich bin? … Ich bin,
weh’ mir, die tief Beklagenswerte) [Scène de l’Église]2:12
Hermine Kittel as Fidès, sung in German; Vienna, 1906; GRAMOPHONE (9941u)
(No existing recording sung in French)
23.Tu chérissais ce fils? (Liebtest du diesen Sohn?) [L’exorcisme]2:31
Erik Schmedes as Jean and Hermine Kittel as Fidès; sung in German;
Vienna, 1906; GRAMOPHONE (9958u) 2-44186
(No existing recording sung in French)
CD 3
Act 5
1.Ô prêtres de Baal … Ô toi qui m’abandonnes [Scène de la Prison]3:50
Ernistine Schumann-Heink as Fidès; Camden, New Jersey, 26 September 1907;
VICTOR (C-4838-2) 88094
2.Il va venir … Comme un éclair précipité [Scène de la Prison] 2:52
Ernistine Schumann-Heink as Fidès; Camden, New Jersey, 26 September 1907;
VICTOR (C-4839-1) 88095
3.Mon fils? … Je n’en ai plus2:49
Gaston Dubois as Jean and Amelia Talexis as Fidès; ca.1907; ODEON (xp
3802) 60561
4.A la voix de ta mère3:00
Gaston Dubois as Jean and Amelia Talexis as Fidès; ca. 1907; ODEON (xp
3803) 60586
5.Versez! Que tout respire (Beviam! Che tutto spiri) [Chanson
Mario Gilion as Jean; sung in Italian; Milan, 15 October 1910; FONOTIPIA
(XPh 4382) 92659
(No existing recording sung in French)
Act 1
6.Va, dit-elle, va, mon enfant (Geh’! sprach sie zu mir)3:11
Emmy Destinn as Alice; March 1908; ODEON (xB 3612) 64855
Act 3
7.Ah, l’honnête homme! … Le bonheur est dans l’inconstance8:00
Paul Payan as Bertram and Edmond Tirmont as Raimbaut; 3 May 1912/22 May
1912; GRAMOPHONE (02385v/02443v) 034130/034138
8.Quand je quittai la Normandie (Eh’ ich die Normandie verlassen)3:39
Emmy Destinn as Alice; sung in German; Berlin, March 1908; ODEON (xB
3613) 64837
Act 4
9.Robert, Robert, toi que j’aime (Robert! Robert, mein Geliebter)4:30
Lilli Lehman as Isabelle; sung in German; Berlin, 5 July 1907; ODEON (xxB
3148) IRCC 80009
Act 1
10.Plus blanche que la blanche hermine2:18
Albert Vaguet as Raoul and Pierre Monteux, viola; 1903; PATHÉ CYLINDER
(Sung in original key of b-flat)
11.Ah, quel spectacle enchanteur … Plus blanche que la blanche hermine
(Vse prelest v ney)4:15
Dmitri Smirnov as Raoul; sung in Russian; St. Petersburg, 15 October
1913; GRAMOPHONE (2857 C) 022338 (Transposed down to A)
12.Pour les couvents c’est fini2:52
Pol Plançon as Marcel; London, 30 May 1902; GRAMOPHONE (1936G) 2-2661
13.Une dame noble et sage (Vaga donna, illustre e cara)2:24
Eugenia Mantelli as Urbain; sung in Italian; New York, 1899; BETTINI
Act 2
14.Ô beau pays … A ce mot seul s’anime (O glücklich Land … Dies einz’ge
Wörtlein “Liebe”)7:21
Margarethe Siems as Marguerite de Valois; sung in German; Berlin,
February 1911; PARLOPHON (574/575) P-574/P-575
15.A ce mot seul s’anime [Fragment from Queen’s cabaletta]2:07
Attributed to Suzanne Adams as Marguerite de Valois; Metropolitan Opera
House, New York, 1 March 1902; MAPLESON CYLINDER originally issued on IRCC
(Previously thought to be sung by Nellie Melba. John Stratton’s article
in Recorded Sound, July 1968 gives strong evidence for Suzanne Adams)
16.Beauté divine, enchanteresse … Ah, si j’étais coquette (Wer uns
Vertrauen gab … Ach, wär’ ich so wie and’re Frauen) 8:10
Frieda Hempel as Marguerite de Valois and Hermann Jadlowker as Raoul;
sung in German; Berlin, September 1911; ODEON (xxb5185-2/xxB5184-1)
(This version contains more music than any recording sung in French)
17.Des troubles renaissants … Pour cette cause sainte [Conjuration] 3:03
Jean-François Delmas as Saint-Bris (sung as a solo); December 1904;
FONOTIPIA (XPh 512) 39027
18.Dieu le veut! [Bénédiction des Poignards]3:24
Jean-François Delmas as Saint-Bris with chorus; 1907; ODEON (XP 4338)
19.Le danger presse … Tu l’as dit2:16
Léonie Tanésy as Valentine and M. Vallade as Raoul; 1902; PATHÉ CYLINDER
Act 2
20.Ah, mon fils, sois béni3:13
Suzanne Brohly as Fidès; 1908; GRAMOPHONE (6246h) 33712
Act 3
21.Roi du ciel et des anges2:53
Léon Escalaïs as Jean; Milan; 29 November 1905; FONOTIPIA (XPh 495) 39429
All selections recorded in Paris unless otherwise noted.
All selections sung in French unless otherwise noted.
CD 1: Accompaniment: Tracks [1-2, 5-7,10-19, 21] accompanied by orchestra;
Tracks [3-4, 8-9, 20] accompanied by piano
CD 2: Accompaniment: All tracks accompanied by orchestra, except Track 17,
which is accompanied by piano
CD 3: Accompaniment: Tracks [1-9, 11, 14-21] accompanied by orchestra;
Tracks [10, 12-13] accompanied by piano 



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