OP1925. ZÉMIRE ET AZOR (Grétry), Live Performance, 16 May, 1955, Bath, w.BEECHAM Cond.Bournemouth Ensemble; Huguette Boulangeot, Michel Sénéchal, Bernard Lefort, Arda Mandikian, etc. (England) 2-Somm 30. Final Sealed Copy! - 748871253025
"A unique recording taken from a live broadcast performance May 16, 1955 at the Royal Theatre in Bath, UK. SOMM's efforts in highlighting Sir Thomas Beecham's conducting genius in exclusive live performances came to the fore during 2011, the year of the conductor's 50th anniversary (April 1879 - March 1961). Now, SOMM presents a very special, long-awaited premiere release. Beecham's love of French music was well known through his regular performances of 19th-century works by Berlioz, Bizet, Chabrier, Debussy, Gounod, and Franck, and his library was full of valuable first edition scores of operas by Grétry and Mehul. The sparkling performances and production of ZÉMIRE ET AZOR, sung in French by a hand-picked French cast at the Royal Theatre, were considered to be the highlight of the May Festival in Bath."
Having been shipwrecked in a storm, the merchant Sander and his servant Ali find their way to a strange palace. A banquet has been laid, though there is no sign of the owner, and the two help themselves to the feast. When Sander plucks a rose from the palace garden to give to his daughter Zémire, the beast-like Azor appears. He is the owner of the palace and says Sander must pay with his life for stealing the rose, unless he can persuade one of his daughters to take his place. When she hears what has happened, Zémire agrees to sacrifice her life for her father and Ali leads her to the palace, where she almost faints at the fearsome sight of Azor. However, Azor proves to be a kind host, showing Zémire her family in a magic mirror and even allowing her to visit home again so long as she promises to return. After a stay with her family, Zémire decides to return to Azor and finds him in despair because he believes she has abandoned him. She protests that she cares about him and the magic spell on Azor is lifted now he has found love. He changes from a beast to a handsome prince and claims his kingdom with Zémire at his side."
"Following studies at the Paris Conservatory, Michel Sénéchal made his debut in 1950 at La Monnaie in Brussels. Under contract there for three seasons, he sang the lyric tenor repertory, as he continued to do later at both the Paris Opéra and the Opéra-Comique and in other theaters through France. His sophisticated sense of makeup, stage movement, comic timing, and seizing each element of irony and rendering it unforgettable all are built upon the underpinnings of a handsome light tenor voice, well-trained and always pleasant to hear. So dominant has this supporting artist become, the catalog reveals multiple recordings of his core repertory. His roles grew to include Rossini's Almaviva and Comte Ory, Hylas in Berlioz's LES TROYENS, Paolino in Cimarosa's IL MATRIMONIO SEGRETO, Georges Brown in Boieldieu's LA DAME BLANCHE, and three of Mozart's leading tenor parts: Tamino, Ferrando, and Don Ottavio. At Aix-en-Provence in 1956, Sénéchal sang the travesty role of Rameau's PLATÉE, a curious creature of heart-stopping homeliness who believes herself to be beautiful. The role is both a leading one and a character study. His success in the role was so great, he was called upon to perform the part in Amsterdam, at the Monnaie, and later, the Opéra-Comique.
For Michel Sénéchal's Metropolitan Opera debut on 8 March, 1982, he was engaged for LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN, performing the four comic tenor roles, a turn that by then had all but become a signature assignment. Other roles following at the Metropolitan were Guillot in Massenet's MANON and Mozart's Don Basilio. Sénéchal has, in addition to established repertory stage works, undertaken contemporary operas.
Sénéchal's mastery of the tenor character repertory has repeatedly brought him into the recording studio. His four comic characters in Hoffmann have been preserved on disc three times, while in James Levine's recording of ANDREA CHENIER, Michel Sénéchal appears together with his greatly respected Italian counterpart, Piero di Palma, and supporting principals Scotto, Domingo, and Milnes. In addition to Offenbach's HOFFMANN and a near-definitive ORPHEE AUX ENFERS recorded under Plasson in 1978, Sénéchal appears with Dame Felicity Lott in a recording of LA BELLE HELENE released in 2000."
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com