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Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Meyerbeer on Record - Volume 2, 1899-1925
Full track-listing below
No texts
MARSTON 53012-2 [3 CDs: 78:29 + 70:58 + 79:46]

This is the second volume in Marston’s survey of Meyerbeer’s music on recordings made up to the end of the first quarter of the twentieth century; that is to say during the acoustic era (see review of Volume 1). Thus we hear music on disc and cylinder made between 1899 and 1925, though the majority date from before 1913. The focus in this box is on the last three operas, ones that have fallen decisively out of the repertoire, namely L’Étoile du Nord, Le Pardon de Ploërmel - perhaps better known as Dinorah - and L’africaine, which is maybe the best-known of the three these days.

The amount of Meyerbeer on disc attests to his remarkable popularity even as late as the First World War, though it was not to last and, in fact, had already begun to wane. These three discs however are solidly full of surviving popularity, and some of the world’s elite singers are represented.

L’Étoile du Nord opens the set with five extracts; there is no known surviving music from this period from the second act. What we have is brief, with two extracts from Act I and three from the final act. Ye in compensation we hear the splendidly sonorous Hector Dufranne, whose well-focused voice is impressive despite an inability to sustain low notes. It’s always a pleasure to hear the facile technique and vocal purity of Lise Landouzy. With Paul Payan we meet a characterful operator, with a wobbly vibrato and a sketchy approach. With no French-language version of La, la, la, air chéri! we have instead Tetrazzini’s 1913 version on HMV, happily pirouetting with the utmost in bravura. We also have the cadenza from the above in Ellen Beach Yaw’s 1899 Berliner, more of a stunt than real music-making.

On to Le Pardon de Ploërmel. Giuseppina Huguet’s voice tends to be ‘breaky’ but whilst Gaetano Pini-Corsi was past her best in 1906 her aria has abundant brio and wit. One of those off-centre Paris pianos wobbles away for Gabriel Soulacroix – it could have done with some pitch correction - but the baritone is his usual stylish self, and the lightness of the voice is perfectly judged. Henri Albers, on the other hand, has an intrinsically decent voice that he pushes too hard in his 1912 extract from Act I. This already points to the variety of nationalities, accompaniments, languages and recording dates that you will encounter in this customarily excellently produced set. It also indicates how personalised were the various national schools at this time, how varied in timbre and approach, and also how a number of the singers sound prematurely old – some in their early 40s have frayed voices way beyond that which is to be found today.

It’s always nice to hear a self-announced disc, as we do in the case of Jane Mérey’s Valse de l’ombre from Act II, recorded for Pathé in 1904. She has a light, bright voice and has a few difficulties with the runs. The same piece is reprised by both Cécile Merguillier and Gabrielle Ritter-Ciampi, again for the same company. César Vezzani makes a fine impression in his Act III aria; a well-focused and expressive artist. Max Bouvet, by contrast, and less well-known, is inclined to be stolid, outclassed in the same aria by Daniel Vigneau, an altogether more imaginative singer.

The remainder of the first disc, the whole of the second and one aria of the third is given over to L’africaine. From the first act we hear the excellent Berthe Auguez de Montalant and an ultra-rare J’ai vu, nobles seigneurs – many of these recordings are rare but this one is a real rarity – from Antonio Aramburo. This 1901 cylinder, on his own label, was apparently recorded in Montevideo. It has a jangling piano accompaniment and the voice is distant. You have to work hard listening to it, but it’s an important artefact. Félia Litvinne is, as often, fine on disc but a little wanting in characterisation, whilst Sabine Kalter doesn’t have an especially attractive voice but uses it effectively and in a musical way. We hear from the promising but short-lived Louis Lestelly on a 1914 HMV. There are duets scattered amongst the discs and also things such as the Act II Septet with some fine singers including Landouzy and Talexis. Of the other singers it’s a treat to hear Pierre Gailhard making a real meal out of Hola, matelots from Act III whilst Leon Melchissédec, then in his early 60s, comes under real pressure but has personality to assist. Singing of a wholly different order comes in Ô paradis! where the trumpeting brilliance of Léon Escalaïs is a triumph of technical accomplishment. Then there is Agustarello Affre, bluff and butch as Vasco in his 1906 Odeon extract. The final example from the opera opens disc three. Odette Carlyle, reasonable but not special, is shackled over two sides – eight minutes plus – to a truly horrible band. Maybe this was a post-lunch session.

The appendix includes Meyerbeer recordings ‘of particular interest’. Some of these could quite happily have slotted into the proper place in the earlier discs and there seems to be an inconsistent approach as to what is core and what supplementary. No one would seriously wish not to hear the great Pol Plançon or an important but somewhat overlooked singer like Rosalia Chalia. The Jean de Reszke cylinders are here - those legendary Mapleson cylinders recorded live at the Met in 1901. They were first released on IRCC-183B and listeners who know them will agree that whilst they are primitive they are also the only known examples of de Reszke’s voice.

It hardly needs reiterating by now that the booklet is sumptuously produced with first-class photographic reproduction. The fine transfers keep the voices forward. Everything, in fact, is pretty near immaculately done and this is yet another vocal cornerstone for the collector.

Jonathan Woolf
Full track-listing

CD 1 [78:29]

Act 1
1. Enfants de l’Ukraine 2:01
Hector Dufranne as Gritzenko; 1907; G&T (6569o) 3-32688
2. Veille sur eux toujours [Prière et barcarolle] 3:26
Lise Landouzy as Catherine; 1911; ODEON (Xp 5531-2) 56230
Act 2
(No recordings from this act exist)
Act 3
3. Pour fuir son souvenir … Ô jours heureux 4:45
Paul Payan as Pierre; ca. 1910; EDISON FOUR-MINUTE CYLINDER (17083) 17083
4. La, la, la, air chéri! (La, la, la, aria cara!) 4:16
No extant recording of the aria sung in French.Luisa Tetrazzini as Catherine; 26 September 1913; HMV (Ho522af) 2-053094
5. La, la, la, air chéri! [Cadenza only] 2:08
Ellen Beach Yaw as Catherine; 18 March 1899; BERLINER (1657) 33105

Act 1
6. Bellah! ma chèvre chérie! ... Dors, petite, dors tranquille (Bellah, capretta adorata … Sì carina, caprettina) 3:35
No extant recording sung in French.Giuseppina Huguet as Dinorah; 1906; G&T (627c) 053082
7. Je suis chez moi … Dieu nous donne à chacun en partage (Sto in casa alfin … Dava il cielo a ciascuno in retaggio) 5:43
No extant recording sung in French.Gaetano Pini-Corsi as Corentin (Corentino);1906; ODEON (Xm 744/5) 37407/8
8. Ô puissante magie 2:53
Gabriel Soulacroix as Hoël; July 1900; G&T (1097G) 32674
9. Ô puissante magie … Enfin l’heure est venue … De l’or, de l’or 6:01
Henri Albers as Hoël; mid-1912; PATHÉ (0792/0792 bis) 29 cm paper label disc 022
Act 2
10. Dites-moi, dites vite … Depuis lors, quand la nuit gagne (Ditemi, buona gente ... Da quel di che a lei narrata) 4:15
No extant recording sung in French.Carolina Lazzari as the Goatherd; 1917; EDISON DIAMOND DISC (6646-B) 82567
11. Ombre légère qui suis mes pas [Valse de l’ombre] 4:34
Jane Mérey as Dinorah; December 1904; PATHÉ (2002/2002 bis, transfer number 22841R and 19121BC) 29 cm etched label disc 2002/2002 bis
12. Ombre légère qui suis mes pas [Valse de l’ombre] 2:04
Cécile Merguillier as Dinorah; early 1905; PATHÉ (3640, transfer number 16577BC) 29 cm etched label disc 3640
13. Ombre légère qui suis mes pas [Valse de l’ombre] 3:33
Gabrielle Ritter-Ciampi as Dinorah; late 1924; PATHÉ (0077) 29 cm paper label disc 0453
14. Ah! que j’ai froid! Ah! que j’ai peur! (Ah! che tremor! Ah! che terror!) 2:27
No extant recording sung in French.Gaetano Pini-Corsi as Corentin (Corentino); 1906; ODEON (Xm740) 37401
Act 3
15. En chasse, en chasse, piqueurs adroits! [Chant du chasseur] 3:07
Hippolyte Belhomme as Le chasseur; early 1908; PATHÉ (0383, transfer number 28109G) 29 cm etched label disc 0383
16. Les blés sont bons à faucher [Chant du faucheur] 2:54
César Vezzani as Le faucheur; ca. 1912-1913; ODEON (XP 5971) X.111482
17. Ah! mon remords te venge 2:12
Max Bouvet as Hoël; March 1903; PATHÉ (2593, transfer number 10534) black wax cylinder 2593
18. Ah! mon remords te venge 3:15
Daniel Vigneau as Hoël; 1907; G&T (7281o) 2-32707

Act 1
19. Adieu, mon doux rivage 3:51
Berthe Auguez de Montalant as Inès; 24 March 1909; GRAMOPHONE (0930v) 033105
20. Dieu, que le monde révère 3:18
Paul Payan as Don Pédro, Eugène Fréville as Don Diégo, Bernard Boussagol as the Grand Inquisitor, and chorus as Évêques; 23 December 1910; GRAMOPHONE (16193u) 34707
21. J’ai vu, nobles seigneurs (Ho veduto, o signori) 2:48
No extant recording sung in French.Antonio Aramburo as Vasco; 1901; ARAMBURO CONCERT CYLINDER 1
22. Oui, fallût-il perdre la vie … D’impie et de rebelle [Act 1 Finale] 5:24
Agustarello Affre as Vasco, Eugène Fréville as Don Alvar, Lucien Rigaux as Don Pédro, Henri Lequien as Don Diégo, and Armand Narçon as the Grand Inquisitor; 1908; ODEON (xP 4355/4455) 97061/97141

CD 2 [70:58]

L’AFRICAINE (continued)
Act 2
1. Sur mes genoux [Air du sommeil] 2:42
Félia Litvinne as Sélika; 1912; ODEON (XP5161) X.56226
2. Sur mes genoux … Ah! je succombe, hélas! (Wie immer voll Unruh sein Schlaf … Er schlummert fest. Weh mir!) [Schlummerlied] 7:09
Sabine Kalter as Sélika; 13 April 1923; ODEON (XXB 6854-II/XXB 6855) Rxx 80151/80152
3. Fille des rois … Quand l’amour m’entraîne 4:19
Louis Lestelly as Nélusko; 14 January 1914; HMV (02890 1/2v) 032305
4. En vain leur impuissante rage … Combien tu m’es chère 7:19
Marie Lafargue as Sélika and Léon Beyle as Vasco; 5 December 1912; HMV (02612v/02613v) 034179/80
5. Moi seule il m’aime … Dans les soupirs de la ramure [Septet] 5:32
Lise Landouzy as Inès, Amélie Talexis as Sélika, Gaston Dubois as Vasco, with Tina Dubois-Lauger as Anna, Georges Régis as Don Alvar, Lucien Rigaux as Nélusko, and Étienne Billot as Don Pédro; 1907; ODEON (XP 3642/43) 56132/56148

Act 3
6. Debout, matelots! [Quatuor des matelots] 2:49
Gaston de Poumayrac, Louis Nansen, Henri Dangès, and Hippolyte Belhomme; mid-1909; PATHÉ (0838, transfer number 43738GR) 29 cm etched label disc 0838
7. Ô grand saint Dominique 4:26
Berthe Auguez de Montalant as Inès with chorus; 2 December 1908; HMV (0867v) 033078
8. Hola, matelots 1:31
Pierre Gailhard as Nélusko; December 1904; FONOTIPIA (XPh 517) 39093
9. Adamastor, roi des vagues profondes 3:15
Léon Melchissédec as Nélusko; 1907; APGA (1625) 1625
10. Adamastor, roi des vagues profondes 3:43
Hector Dufranne as Nélusko and chorus; 1907 G&T (6611p) 032056
11. Je viens à vous malgré ma haine (Io vengo a voi, malgrado l’odio) 3:39
No extant recording sung in French.Gino Martinez-Patti as Vasco and Cesare Preve as Don Pédro; 1905; G&T (552c) 054066

Act 4
12. Pays merveilleux … Ô paradis! 3:25
Léon Escalaïs as Vasco; 1905; FONOTOPIA (XPh 491) 39426
13. Conduisez-moi vers ce navire 3:09
Agustarello Affre as Vasco; 1906; ODEON (XP 2475) 36672
14. L’avoir tant adorée … Écrase-moi, tonnerre! 4:07
Louis Lestelly as Nélusko; 18 April 1916; GRAMOPHONE (393af) 032325
15. Brama! Wichnou! Shiva! [Invocation du Grand Brahmine] 3:25
Pierre d’Assy as Le Grand Brahmine and chorus; 1909; GRAMOPHONE (0926v) 032153
16. Jamais nulle mortelle … Ô transports, ô douce extase … Ô ma Sélika 7:43
Marie Lafargue as Sélika and Léon Beyle as Vasco; 18 December 1912; GRAMOPHONE (02614v/02633v) 034181/82
17. Remparts de gaze [Chœur dansé] 2:47
Antoinette Laute-Brun as Inès and chorus as maidens; 1905; G&T (4564o) 34681

CD 3 [79:46]

L’AFRICAINE (continued)
Act 5
1. D’ici je vois la mer … Ô temple magnifique … La haine m’abandonne 8:22
Odette Carlyle as Sélika; 3 July 1911; HMV (01962v/01963v) 033123/24
Supplementary Meyerbeer recordings of particular interest

Act 1
2. Veille sur eux toujours (Ognor sovr’essi vigile ... Vascel sulla tua sponda) [Prière et barcarolle] 2:11
Rosalia Chalia as Catherine; 1900; U.S. ZONOPHONE (9136) 9136
Act 3
3. Pour fuir son souvenir … Ô jours heureux 3:45
Pol Plançon as Pierre; 14 April 1908; VICTOR (C-6111-2) 85124
4. La, la, la, air chéri! [La, la, la, aria cara!] 4:24
Yvonne de Tréville as Catherine; 1916; EDISON TONE TEST (4717-A) 80374
Act 2
5. Ombre légère qui suis mes pas (Ombra leggiera non te n’andar) [Valse de l’ombre] 5:36
Elvira de Hidalgo as Dinorah; 20 and 22 March 1924; COLUMBIA (AX 378/386) L 1580
6. Ombre légère qui suis mes pas (Du leichter Schatten) [Schattentanz] 4:28
Margarethe Siems as Dinorah; 1903 G&T (238y) 043029

Act 3
7. En chasse, en chasse, piqueurs adroits! [Chant du chasseur] 3:20
Juste Nivette as Le chasseur; 1908; ODEON (XP 3884) 60645
8. Ah! mon remords te venge (Sei vendicata assai) 4:31
Mario Ancona as Hoël; 20 March 1908; VICTOR (C-6044) 88169

Act 2
9. Sur mes genoux … Ah! je succombe, hélas! 3:42
Rosa Ponselle as Sélika; 14 January 1925; VICTOR (C-31710-2) unissued on 78 r.p.m. format
10. Fille des rois 1:56
Gabriel Soulacroix as Nélusko; 1904; Dutreih (150002) 21 cm etched label disc D-002
11. Combien tu m’es chère 2:45
Amélie Talexis as Sélika and Gaston Dubois as Vasco; 1907; ODEON (XP 3711) 60493

Act 3
12. Ô grand saint Dominique 3:44
Antoinette Laute-Brun as Inès; 1905; G&T (4505 o) 34675
13. Hola, matelots ... Adamastor, roi des vagues profondes (All’erta marinar ... Adamastor, re dell’acqua profonde) 3:10
Ricardo Stracciari as Nélusko; 23 March 1925; ENGLISH COLUMBIA (AX962) D 14651

Act 4
14. Pays merveilleux … Ô paradis … Conduisez-moi vers ce navire 4:23
Paul Dangély as Vasco; 1910; EDISON CYLINDER 27097
15. Pays merveilleux … Ô paradis … Conduisez-moi vers ce navire 4:47
Léon Beyle as Vasco; 1905; G&T (4500o) 34673
16. Two fragments from Ô paradis! 2:46
a. Ô paradis, sorti de l’onde …
b. Salut! Monde nouveau …
Jean de Reszke as Vasco; 15 March 1901;MAPLESON CYLINDER originally issued on IRCC 183-B
17. Two fragments from Sélika/Vasco Duet 3:32
a. Vasco: Ô transports
b. Sélika: Sois ma femme!
Lucienne Bréval as Sélika and Jean de Reszke as Vasco; 15 March 1901;MAPLESON CYLINDER originally issued on IRCC 183-B
18. Ô transports, ô douce extase 2:25
Amélie Talexis as Sélika and Gaston Dubois as Vasco; 1907; ODEON (XP 3713) 60496
Act 5
19. D’ici je vois la mer … Ô temple magnifique … La haine m’abandonne 7:00
Barbara Kemp as Sélika; 1917; ODEON (xxb 6348/6349) XX76598/99
20. Ô riante couleur … Quels célestes accords! (O ridente color … Quai celesti concenti!) 3:00
Celestina Boninsegna as Sélika; 1905; G&T (7324 1/2b) 53418

CD 1: Accompaniment: Tracks [1-4, 6-7, 9-10, 13-16, 18-20, 22] accompanied by orchestra; Tracks [5, 8, 11-12, 17, 21] accompanied by piano Language: Tracks [1-3, 5, 8-9, 11-13, 15-20, 22] sung in French; Tracks [4, 6-7, 10, 14, 21] sung in Italian Recording location: Tracks [1-2, 8-9, 11-13, 15-20, 22] recorded in Paris; Tracks [3, 10] recorded in New York; Tracks [4-5] recorded in London; Tracks [6-7, 14] recorded in Milan; Track [21] recorded in Montevideo

CD 2: Accompaniment: Tracks [1-7, 9-11, 13-17] accompanied by orchestra; Track [8] unaccompanied; Track [12] accompanied by piano Language: Tracks [1, 3-10, 12-17] sung in French; Track [2] sung in German; Track [11] sung in Italian Recording location: Tracks [1, 3-10, 13-17] recorded in Paris; Track [2] recorded in Berlin; Tracks [11-12] recorded in Milan

CD 3: Accompaniment: Tracks [1, 3-5, 7-9, 11-19] accompanied by orchestra; Tracks [2, 6, 10, 20] accompanied by piano Language: Tracks [1, 3, 7, 10-12, 14-18] sung in French; Tracks [2, 4-5, 8-9, 13. 20] sung in Italian; Tracks [6, 19] sung in German Recording location: Tracks [1, 7, 10-12, 14-15, 18] recorded in Paris; Tracks [2-4, 8, 16-17] recorded in New York; Tracks [5, 13] recorded in London; Tracks [6, 19] recorded in Berlin; Track [9] recorded in Camden, New Jersey; Track [20] recorded in Milan