OP0282. MANON (The First Recording of the Opera), recorded 1923, Pathé, w.Büsser Cond. l'Opéra-Comique Ensemble; Heldy, Marny, Ponzio, Dupré, etc.; Manon - Excerpts, w.Carré, Korsoff, Beyle, Vallandri & Bréjean-Silver, the latter's Fabliau Aria (written for her by Massenet). 2-Marston 52003. Transfers by Ward Marston. - 638335200323
"The man who conducts this recorded performance, Henri Büsser, who went from being musical secretary to Charles Gounod, the composer of FAUST and ROMÉO ET JULIETTE (who had been, together with César Frank, his composition teacher,) to celebrated orchestrator of pieces by Fauré [‘Apres un rêve’ & PÉNÉLOPE to winner of the prix-de-Rome (1893) as respected composer and conductor and musicologist. In private life he was married to the noted French soprano Yvonne Gall who sang Juliette to Agustarello Affre's Roméo in Pathé's 1912 ROMÉO ET JULIETTE recording. During the last two decades of Massenet's life, Henri Büsser was one of the composer's closest protégés, assisting him in the preparation of a number of premières and revivals.
Belgian soprano Fanny Heldy made her début at the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels, in 1910, as Elena in Gunsbourg's IVAN LE TERRIBLE. Between 1914 and 1918 she sang at Monte Carlo. Heldy's début at the Opéra-Comique occurred in 1917 as Violetta; she remained a member of the company for twenty years and there achieved some of her greatest triumphs in a varied repertoire that encompassed not only Rosina, Olympia, Antonia and Manon, but Mimi, Butterfly and Tosca as well. It was at the Paris Opéra, however, where she bowed as Juliette in 1920, that Heldy reigned supreme as prima donna assoluta for a quarter of a century. There she added to her repertoire such parts as Nedda, Elsa, Ophélia, Esclarmonde and Thaïs. In 1921 she sang in the world première of Gabriel Dupont's ANTAR and in 1935 created the role of Portia in Reynaldo Hahn's LE MARCHAND DE VENISE.
Fanny Heldy had a considerable international career. In 1926 Toscanini invited her to La Scala to sing Mélisande and Louise, two of her most famous roles. Later that year she caused quite a sensation when she appeared with Fernand Ansseau at Covent Garden in MANON.
As heard in this earlier recording, her voice is a remarkable musical instrument, capable of much loveliness, brilliance, and power. There is much to admire in her Manon: the beauty of tone (she tosses off some stunning high Ds) never shrill or brittle; her remarkable fidelity to Massenet's profusion of expression and articulation markings.”
“Marston's magical time machine takes us back to 1923 and the first complete (well, almost complete) recording of Massenet's staple. Its considerable merits include a stylistic authenticity that's all the more treasurable for having been eroded over the years. Heldy, the Manon, was a Belgian soprano whose high, smallish voice was sharply focused, sometimes to the point of edginess. She's firmly in the Gallic tradition, with clear diction and a winning combination of elegance and passion. Her partners here are good, typical of their time and place. So is the conducting of Henri-Paul Büsser, a protégé of the composer. He keeps things moving, and livens the music with stylish portamenti. Transfers of the acoustic originals are amazingly fine.”
“Fanny Heldy is few collectors’ favourite singer today, but she was one of the most important sopranos in both Paris and Brussels for nearly thirty years, associated with several creations…and many important revivals, starting in 1910….the record collector is tempted to reappraise the aural evidence of this obviously now underrated singer, and indeed some of her records repay careful listening….Malibran has a near complete CD [V1868] and her MANON – the first commercial recording – is available at Marston Records [above].”
- John Humbley, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2012
“Heldy sang at the Palais Garnier (l’Opéra), débuting in 1920 and singing many lyrico-spinto rôles. She was an accomplished comedienne, very attractive, and maintained her high standards throughout her career.”
– Richard T. Soper, BELGIAN OPERA HOUSES AND SINGERS, p.222