OP2260. SAMSON ET DALILA, recorded 1946, w.Fourestier Cond. L’Opéra Ensemble; Hélène Bouvier, José Luccioni, Paul Cabanel, Charles Cambon, etc.; JOSÉ LUCCIONI: Arias from Polyeucte, Roméo, Carmen, Hérodiade & Manon – recorded 1936-46. (Canada) 2-Naxos 8.110063/64. Transfers by Ward Marston. Final copy! - 636943106327
"A heroic tenor with strong lyric instincts, [Luccioni] had a brilliant, trumpety voice, forwardly produced, tightly focused, and apparently tireless. The words are perfectly clear, and Luccioni, not given to much nuance, pretty much lets them speak for themselves.”
- Ralph V. Lucano, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/Aug., 2000
“Hélène Bouvier was a French operatic mezzo-soprano, particularly associated with the French repertoire. She studied at the Paris Conservatory and made her début in Nantes in the title rôle of Gluck's ORFEO ED EURIDICE, in 1930. She then left for Argentina where she sang at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Back in France, she made her début at both the Palais Garnier and the Opéra-Comique during the 1938-39 season, where she quickly established herself in rôles such as Carmen, Dalila, Charlotte, Geneviève, the mother in LOUISE, etc. She made guest appearances at La Scala in Milan, La Monnaie in Brussels, the Monte Carlo Opera, also appearing in Dresden and Leipzig, the Holland Festival, and again at the Teatro Colón from 1949 until 1965. She took part in the creation of contemporary works, notably Maurice Duruflé's ‘Requiem’ and Darius Milhaud's BOLIVAR. She was also admired in Arthur Honegger's ANTIGONE and Carl Orff's OEDIPUS REX. She retired from the stage in 1967 and taught in Paris.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron
“There were considerable artists who are nearly ‘forgotten’ today, probably due to their few recordings. Paul Cabanel is one of them, at least outside of France. To me, he belongs to the most complete French singers. Paul Cabanel’s dark-timbred voice is of great beauty and warmth . He is equally outstanding in dramatic (Athanaël) as well as in lyric parts. He shows through characterization, musicality and a perfect French enunciation why he was such an acclaimed artist in his time. Cabanel sings a lordly and tender Arkel in a reference recording of PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE performed by a great French cast. Do not miss the integral recording of SAMSON ET DALILA conducted by Louis Fourestier. It is the most ‘French style’ version of that opera.
This recording of SAMSON ET DALILA from 1946 was the first commercial version made on 78s and includes, (as few subsequent recorded versions have done), a full French cast and conductor backed by the forces of the National Opera in Paris. That, surely, would have pleased even the irascible Saint-Saëns.
The first commercial recording of Saint-Saëns' biblical opera SAMSON ET DALILA, made by EMI in 1946, remains in many ways the finest. Certainly sonics of this recording, originally released on 78s, cannot compete with more modern issues, but there are numerous other qualities that place this recording at the top of the list. First and foremost, the recording is by far the most idiomatic of all commercial issues. It is the only one that features an entire cast—principal singers, chorus, orchestra, and conductor—who are native to the French style. What a pleasure it is to hear the text proclaimed with such clarity and sensitivity and to hear the wide range of colors and unerring sense of line the vocalists are able to impart to their music. Finally what a pleasure it is to listen to a conductor who collaborates in such a sympathetic way with his singers.
José Luccioni represents a type of voice that has essentially disappeared from our midst. This native of Corsica possessed a bright heroic tenor, very much in the mold of such great singers as Léon Escalaïs (with whom Luccioni studied) and Georges Thill. It is a voice that lacks the baritonal quality of such famous Samsons as Mario del Monaco, Jon Vickers and Plácido Domingo. But these considerable artists do not begin to approach Luccioni's ease with the French language and style. Luccioni proves himself to be a dramatically persuasive Samson as well. His entrance (‘Arrêtez, ô mes frères’) is a model of heroic dignity, ideal for a messenger of God. During the Act II confrontation with Dalila, Luccioni rises to greatness in his depiction of the conflict raging within Samson between his devotion to God and desire for carnal pleasure. The despair that Luccioni expresses during the Scene at the Mill is all the more touching because of the tenor's admirable restraint. And in the opera's final moments, Luccioni gloriously depicts the return of Samson's strength with a ringing B-flat. Despite impressive recorded competition, José Luccioni remains the best Samson on disc.
He is partnered by the equally impressive Dalila of the Parisian mezzo-soprano Hélène Bouvier. Unfortunately this longtime star of the Paris Opéra and Opéra-Comique participated in relatively few commercial recordings, making this SAMSON ET DALILA all the more valuable. As with José Luccioni, Hélène Bouvier offers a memorable combination of vocal riches, a firm grasp of the French operatic style, and dramatic persuasiveness.
Paul Cabanel, Charles Cambon, and Henri Médus, all distinguished French artists, are excellent as respectively, the High Priest, Abimélech, and an Old Hebrew. As previously mentioned, conductor Louis Fourestier demonstrates admirable sympathy with his singers and with Saint-Saëns' music. The dramatic conclusion of Act II and a scintillating ‘Bacchanal’ reveal that Fourestier was also capable of generating considerable excitement. The timbre of the orchestra, with its rather nasal winds and brass, reinforces the Gallic atmosphere of the enterprise.”
- Loyal Bluto