OP1799. PÉNÉLOPE (Fauré), Broadcast Performances, 11 Nov., 1951, w.Inghelbrecht Cond. ORTF Ensemble; Berthe Monmart, Christiane Gayraud, Georges Jouatte, André Vessières, Charles Paul & Charles Cambon. (France) 2-Malibran 699. - 3760003776995
“PÉNÉLOPE is an opera in three acts by the French composer Gabriel Fauré. The libretto, by René Fauchois, is based on Homer's ODYSSEY. In 1907 the Wagnerian soprano Lucienne Bréval encountered Fauré in Monte Carlo. She expressed surprise that he had never written an opera, and introduced him to the young René Fauchois, who had recently written a play based on the section of the ODYSSEY dealing with Ulysses' return to Ithaca. Work on the score was slow because Fauré's teaching and administrative duties as head of the Paris Conservatoire left him only the summer holidays free for composing. For this reason he asked Fauchois to reduce the libretto from five to three acts and to cut the character of Ulysses' son Telemachus.
Fauré worked on the opera each summer between 1907 and 1912. He orchestrated most of the piece himself, in contrast with his frequent practice of delegating orchestration to one of his students. However, at the end of October 1912 he had orchestrated only half the score; with the premiere announced for the following March he recognised that with his commitments to the Conservatoire entrance examinations he needed the help of an assistant to ensure that the score would be completed in time.
Of composers of his generation, Fauré was one of the least influenced by Wagner, but for PÉNÉLOPE he adopted two essential elements of Wagner's compositional technique: character and themes are represented by leitmotifs, and the music is mostly continuous, with no individual arias. These are the only ways in which the work is Wagnerian, though the two main roles call for voices of heroic quality.
The premiere at Monte Carlo was not a great success, partly because the director of the theatre, Raoul Gunsbourg, was more concerned with promoting his own opera, VÉNISE, which made its début four days later. Fauré was not greatly troubled at the modest success of the piece: he regarded the Monte Carlo production as ‘a rehearsal for Paris’, where the work was to be given two months later. PÉNÉLOPE was rapturously received at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris on 10 May, 1913. Several newspapers from foreign countries thought it worthwhile sending their critics to the premiere. The Paris cast was headed by Bréval, with Lucien Muratore as Ulysse, Cécilie Thévenet as Euryclée and Paul Blancard as Eumée. Muratore in particular was considered a great improvement on his Monte Carlo counterpart.
The piece was only very briefly the principal topic of discussion in Parisian musical circles: less than three weeks after the premiere of the opera the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was the venue for the first performance of THE RITE OF SPRING. The scandal at and after the ballet's premiere preoccupied the French press, and Fauré's opera was hardly mentioned. A second blow to the fame of PÉNÉLOPE was the financial collapse and near bankruptcy of the theatre six months after the premiere. The sets and costumes had to be sold.
The Opéra-Comique took PÉNÉLOPE into its repertoire on 20 January, 1919, with a cast including Germaine Lubin in the title role and Charles Rousselière as Ulysse and Félix Vieuille as Eumée, conducted by François Ruhlmann. Later revivals were conducted by Albert Wolff (1922), Désiré-Émile Inghelbrecht (1924, with Claire Croiza in the title role), and Wolff again in 1927 and 1931, totalling 63 performances. On 14 March, 1943 the Paris Opera staged PÉNÉLOPE, conducted by Ruhlmann, with Lubin in the title role.”
“The first performance of Debussy’s PELLEAS ET MELISANDE in 1902 made a major impact upon Inghelbrecht and he was to be associated with the music of that composer throughout his life. Jacques Rouche engaged Inghelbrecht as conductor at the Theatre des Arts in 1908, where he directed the first performance of Florent Schmitt’s LA TRAGEDIE DE SALOME, and in 1911 he was chorusmaster for the stage première of Debussy’s mystery-play with dance, LE MARTYRE DE SAINT SEBASTIEN; he later conducted with distinction its revival as a concert piece in 1912. In order to give Paris a first-class choir, Inghelbrecht founded the Association Chorale Professionelle in 1912 and in the same year was appointed director of music at the newly constructed Theatre des Champs-Elysees, where he conducted the theatre’s opening season productions. These included Berlioz’s BENVENUTO CELLINI, Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV, and Dukas’ LA PERI.
After World War I, in 1919 Inghelbrecht founded the Concerts Pleyel with the objective of performing the music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. He toured Europe with the Ballets Suedois between 1920 and 1923, conducting the first performances of LES MARIES DE LA TOUR EIFFEL by Les Six, and Milhaud’s L’HOMME ET SON DESIR (both in 1921) and on his return to France became chief conductor at the Opera-Comique, Paris (1924–1925). He then held a succession of posts - second conductor at the Concerts Pasdeloup (1928–1932), chief conductor of the Algerian Opera (1929–1930), and once again chief conductor at the Opera-Comique (1932–1933) - before embarking upon his major achievement: the formation in 1934 of the top radio orchestra in France, the Orchestre National de Radio France, of which he was chief conductor until the liberation of France at the end of World War II. He continued to conduct this orchestra until the end of his life, including on tour to England in 1953, even during the years (1945–1950) when he was chief conductor at the Paris Opera.
Inghelbrecht knew Debussy well, and specialised in the performance of his music throughout his career. He recorded works by Debussy both before and after World War II, on 78rpm and long-playing records, keeping alive a style of interpretation which he sedulously maintained to the end of his life. His performances of Debussy’s music were direct and precise, and without any hint of ‘impressionism’. His own compositions, especially those written when he was young, clearly showed the influence of Debussy. Among the most well-known of his works are LA NURSERY, composed between 1905 and 1932, the ballet EL GRECO of 1920, and the REQUIEM of 1941. He also wrote several books on different aspects of conducting.”
- David Patmore, A–Z of Conductors
“Soprano Berthe Monmart débuted at L’Opéra–Comique on 18 April, 1951 as the Countess in NOZZE. She then appeared as Ariadne in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, Santuzza in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, Fiordiligi in COSÌ FAN TUTTE and Charlotte in WERTHER.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron
“In the firmament of model French singers, Charles Cambon figures amongst the greatest. Thanks to the good instincts of certain artistic directors, this voice of exceptional timbre, power and range has been preserved for us in all its splendour.
Charles Cambon joined the chorus at l’Opéra in 1923, amking his solo début a year later in a small role in BORIS GODUNOV. He would remain thrity years in this illustrious theatre, making an impression as Amonasro, Valentin, Ottokar in DER FREISCHÜTZ, as Sylvio in PAGLIACCI and as the Dutchman. He appeared only once at l’Opéra-Comique as a memorable Zurga in LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES. But it was radio and records that brought him fame. True opera-lovers never missed the broadcasts in which he starred, admiring his diction, his fearlessness, his fabulous top notes but also his sensibility and his dramatic instincts in the greatest roles; Rigoletto, Luna in IL TROVATORE, Athanaël, Iago and of course Hamlet.
Charles Cambon died in Paris on 17 September,1965. He lives on, thanks to recordings, as one of the most admired baritones of the French vocal tradition.”
- Jean Ziegler