Great French singers of the past

Last night’s presentation by Stephen Tucker was a wonderful selection of recordings, both of French song but also of French singers.  Several of the recordings were of some vintage: for example a 1907 version of Emma Calvé singing L’amour est une oiseau rebelle from Bizet’s Carmen.  Also from Carmen, there was a 1911 recording of Paul Franz singing La Fleur que tu m’as jeté.  Franz started life as a labourer working on the roads – from roads to riches you might say.

Another example was Emile Vanni Marcoux singing Une grande innocence from Pelléas et Mélisande: the interesting point here is that the recording was made in 1910 during the composer Debussy’s lifetime.

Some of the recordings were scratchy of course reflecting the technology available at the time, but we heard a number of now largely forgotten singers in their full glory.

Stephen played a total of 20 songs and they included Meyerbeer – hugely popular in the middle of the nineteenth century – Gounod’s Faust, Berlioz and in particular Le Spectre de la rose from Nuits d’Ete.  Berlioz also composed a version of the Faust legend, Le Damnation de Faust was a failure and was eclipsed by Gounod.

We also heard pieces by Massenet, Delibes, Lalo and Duparc.  The evening was entitled Cette chanson est pour vous and the evening ended with a version of Madame, cette chanson est pour vous with Django Reinhardt.

A most enjoyable and informative evening listening to tracks and recordings one would not normally ever come across.

Peter Curbishley

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