OP2228. LES PÊCHEURS DE PERLES, recorded 1953, w.Fournet Cond. Concerts Lamoureux Ensemble; Pierrette Alarie, Léopold Simoneau, René Bianco & Xavier Depraz; Pierrette Alarie, w.Dervaux Cond. Concerts Lamoureux Orch.: Arias from Roméo, Carmen, Lakmé, Mireille, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Les Pêcheurs de Perles & Mignon – recorded 1953. (England) 2-Guild 2382/83. [Very long unavailable, it is wonderful to have a few copies, once again.] - 795754238327
“This recording is a superlative example of the elegant French style of the 1940s and ‘50s that has been absorbed into a kind of all styles combined, an international style. This 1953 performance is considered the definitive recording. The lightness, the grace, the delicate quality of the style are all embodied in the voice of one of the finest French tenors of the era, Léopold Simoneau. His singing is a miraculous combination of the energy and masculinity of the rôle, the legeresse of the music, and the strikingly beautiful mezza voce of his voice. Pierrette Alarie (Mrs Simoneau) uses her delicate voice, so refined and so French, to create a suitable Hindu priestess. Rene Bianco’s individual, colorful voice takes on the drama of Zurga with ease, combining with Simoneau in a prize-winning performance of the celebrated duet. Inhabiting the vocal depths is the splendid singing-actor Xaver Depraz. All these marvelous talents are supported with an impressive sense of style and a combination of strength and delicacy by the masterly Jean Fournet.
A delightful bonus of eight arias sung by Alarie fills out the recording. Like the complete PEARL FISHERS this recital was also recorded in 1953 and also issued on the Philips label. It is not the most hackneyed nor the most unusual of selections but a happy combination of musical charms: two arias from MIREILLE, one of Lakmé’s arias (not the ‘Bell Song’), Antonia’s ‘Les Oiseau dans la Charmille’ (HOFFMANN), a different recording of ‘Comme Autrefois’ (PEARL FISHERS), Juliet’s Waltz, Philine’s ‘Je suis Titania’ (MIGNON), and Micaela’s aria from CARMEN. These are all charmingly sung in her unique little
girl, bird-like, delicate glass-like voice.”
- Charles H. Parsons, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/Aug., 2012
“Pierrette Alarie-Simoneau sang in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, among other operas at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1940s. A coloratura whose light, lyric voice was often described as silvery or crystalline, Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau was known for her dynamic stage presence and refined musical interpretations. She and her husband, the renowned lyric tenor Léopold Simoneau, often performed together and were long considered the first couple of Canadian opera. Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau, who before her marriage in 1946 was billed as Pierrette Alarie, was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in 1945. She made her Met début on 8 Dec., 1945, as Oscar in Verdi’s UN BALLO IN MASCHERA. She remained at the Met for three seasons, appearing 26 times between 1945 and 1948. Her other rôles there included Xenia in Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV, Blonde in Mozart’s ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO and Olympia in Offenbach’s LES CONTES d’HOFMANN. Reviewing her Olympia in The New York Times in 1946, Olin Downes wrote, ‘She has a brilliant coloratura, and good stage business in the representation of the stiff gestures of the mechanistic doll’.
Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau also sang with the New York Philharmonic, the Paris Opéra-Comique and the Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence and Glyndebourne Festivals. Her rôles over the years included Rosina in Rossini’s BARBER OF SEVILLE and the title rôles in Delibes’ LAKMÉ, and LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR.
Pierrette Marguerite Alarie was born in Montréal on 9 Nov., 1921. Her father, Sylva, was a choirmaster; her mother, Amanda, a singer and actress. Pierrette began acting on local stages as a child and as a teenager sang popular songs on Canadian radio. She later studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia with the distinguished soprano Elisabeth Schumann. After retiring from the opera and concert stages, Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau worked as an opera director and teacher. In 1982 she and her husband Leopold Simoneau founded Canada Opera Piccola, a training company in Victoria.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 July, 2011
"Léopold Simoneau, the Canadian lyric tenor who dominated international Mozart performance in the 1950s, was the epitome of the French tenor, meaning that he had a light voice, beautiful diction and a mastery of musical nuance….By the time he made his Met début as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI, in 1963, Mr Simoneau was acknowledged as one of the world’s leading performers of the role….After initial voice studies in Québec City, he moved to Montréal…where he met Ms Alarie….they were married in 1946….In June, Mr Simoneau and Ms Alarie celebrated their 60th anniversary."
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 29 Aug., 2006
"Simoneau was the most elegant Mozart tenor of his time – and it was a time that saw the likes of Valletti, Gedda, Alva, Kraus and Burrows. He had a uniquely beautiful voice, seamlessly produced, with a rich, gleaming middle range and a perfect legato. His control of dynamics was peerless: any note could be swelled or diminished at will, without the slightest disturbance to the vocal line. All the finesse did not preclude strength and virility; Simoneau was always dramatically alive and responsive to the words."
- Ralph V. Lucano, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, May/June, 2006
“René Bianco was a French baritone whose career began in 1942 in the major theaters of North Africa (Algiers, Tunis, Oran, etc.), then continued in France. From 1950, he regularly performed at the Opéra de Paris especially the works of Verdi, Gounod and Bizet . He then retired to teaching in the 1990s.”
- Ned Ludd