OP3021. HERVÉ (Florimond Ronger), incl. LE JOUER DE FLÛTE, w.Soret Cond. Fanély Revoil, Freda Betti, Aimé Doniat, Gaston Rey & René Hérent; TROMBOLINO, w.Cariven Cond. Denise Duval, Gilbert Moryn & Jean Giraudeau; LE RETOUR D’ULYSSE, w.Cariven Cond. Denise Duval, Jean Giraudeau & Joseph Peyron. (France) Malibran 718. - 7600003777188
“Hervé (real name Louis Auguste Florimond Ronger) was a French singer, composer, librettist, conductor and scene painter, whom Ernest Newman, following Reynaldo Hahn, credited with inventing the genre of operetta in Paris.
Hervé studied with Daniel Auber, and by the age of fifteen was serving as organist at Bicêtre Hospital and a stage vocalist in provincial theatres, where he trained his fine tenor voice. He won a competition in 1845 for the prestigious Paris post of organist at the Church of Saint-Eustache, while he doubled with his theatrical music career, a situation that he turned to advantage years later, in his most famous work, MAM'ZELLE NITOUCHE.
Before he became musical director of the Théâtre du Palais Royal in 1851, he composed a one-act tableau grotesque, a burlesque on DON QUIXOTE titled DON QUICHOTTE ET SANCHO PANÇA. It was conceived as a vehicle for the actor Desiré, who was short and plump, accompanied by the tall and gangling Hervé, as he was now calling himself, in order to distance his two personas. It was staged at Adolphe Adam's Opéra-National, and achieved a great success in 1848, in spite of the distracting revolution: furthermore, according to the composer Reynaldo Hahn, the farcical pot-pourri was ‘simply the first French operetta’. He had also composed musical entertainments to keep the patients entertained at the Bicêtre Hospital, and these gained the notice of producers.
Thus Hervé was the founder of a new era of French operettas. Through his Folies concertantes, a small theater stage he took over in 1854 and for which he wrote many works, he became the forerunner of the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens of Jacques Offenbach, whose early efforts he produced at his theatre, renovated as the Folies-Nouveaux. The restrictive license of the Folies concertantes permitted only spectacles-concerts, with no more than two characters, in a single act, stringencies imposed on Offenbach as well, but which encouraged Hervé to experiment with genres, before more flexible rules were established in the following decade. A jealous rivalry soon developed between Hervé and Offenbach, which was patched up only in 1878, when Hervé sang in a revival of Offenbach's ORPHÉE AUX ENFERS.”
“When Aimé Doniat left the Conservatoire (with a first Bassoon Prize), he was engaged in an orchestra. After only three months, and having made the acquaintance of a small traveling troupe, he was hired to accompany it during its tour in Algeria, and then joined with it in Marseilles. From there, he joined the National Radio. The Radio Orchestra and its chorus returned to Paris in March 1943. Doniat became a soloist and was frequently called upon to replace singers in lyrical performances on various Parisian and provincial scenes. As early as 1944, he decided to take a big risk and became soloist for the various radio programs: operettas, comic operas. His new activity also led him to participate in several casts in various operettas performed in concert halls.
Doniat worked extensively for Véga, Decca, RCA, Erato, Saphir, Le Chant du Monde, Musidisc, EMI, Pathé, Vox, Visadisc, Philips and recorded over 160 LPs. After the disappearance of the LP, more than fifty reissues were released before the end of the twentieth century, in discs, cassettes and compact discs. He won 10 Grands Prix du Disque. He sang Delmet, Botrel, Scotto, and many others. He resurrected medieval songs and French provinces. He wrote lyrics on ancient mélodies he loved to discover. He translated into French the booklets of a few German-language operettas.
Beside his recordings, Aimé Doniat remained one of the essential pillars of the Lyric Service of the RTF, then of the ORTF. For many years, before the taste of the French public for classic lyric art faded, he recorded a dozen operettas a month (which left very little time for rehearsals) with Jany Sylvaire and Lina Dachary, his most faithful female partners, and under the direction in particular of Jules Gressier and Marcel Cariven. The number of these recordings was reduced to two per month during the last ten years of its life, as broadcasting programs had shrunk considerably on national radio. They were heard more on the Belgian and Swiss radio channels. Doniat taught singing for a long time on a private basis, for a few selected pupils, ultimately teaching at Versailles.”
“Denise Duval didn't set out to be a muse. In 1947, as a freshly engaged contract singer, she was rehearsing MADAMA BUTTERFLY at Paris’ Opéra-Comique when a voice bellowed from the darkened auditorium, ‘That’s the soprano I need!’ It was Francis Poulenc, in search of a leading lady for his new comic opera, LES MAMELLES DE TIRÉSIAS. In his frustrated state, he’d likely have settled for almost any suitable singer; instead, he’d just found his ideal. For the next sixteen years - until the end of his life - Denise Duval was his colleague, his friend, his inspiration….it was with the Bordeaux Opéra that she made her professional stage début, in 1943, as Lola in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA. Over her next two years there, she graduated to Santuzza and to a wide range of roles better suited to her lean, pointed, typically Gallic lyric soprano - Marguerite in FAUST, Mimì, Micaela, Mélisande, Thaïs, and the one that became an early calling-card, Cio-Cio-San. In 1945, Duval traveled to Paris for an audition at the Opéra - and wound up, through a chain of fortuitous connections, with a year’s contract at the Folies-Bergère, where night after night, discreetly costumed, she sang ‘Un bel dì’ and a Chopin song. ‘My parents were thunderstruck, and my teacher nearly had a stroke’, she recalled years later.
The Opéra and the Opéra-Comique finally beckoned, and she made her début at the bigger house, as Salomé in HÉRODIADE, and at its smaller sibling in that career-changing BUTTERFLY. When the frothy, satirical MAMELLES had its premiere, in June 1947 - incongruously, after an already full evening of TOSCA - it was ‘booed, insulted and hissed’, Duval remembered. But like so many other Parisian theatrical scandals, it quickly became an event, and Poulenc soon was writing to a friend, ‘I have an unbelievable Thérèse who is stunning Paris with her beauty, her gifts as an actress and her voice’….Her career blossomed further at both the Opéra and the Comique, where in 1949 she created another role, Francesca in Reynaldo Hahn’s posthumously staged LE OUI DES JEUNES FILLES. In 1952 and 1953, for EMI, she made her first recordings, as Concepción in L’HEURE ESPAGNOLE and as Thérèse in MAMELLES. Her professional itinerary broadened its reach to Monte Carlo, Milan, Aix, Cologne and Florence. But she didn’t hit full stride until 1957, when, at the Opéra, she sang in the French-language premiere of DIALOGUES DES CARMÉLITES, as Blanche, a role Poulenc wrote for her and one she memorably committed to disc on EMI’s still unsurpassed original-Paris-cast recording. In 1959, she scored a still more indelible success as Elle in the premiere (at the Comique) of LA VOIX HUMAINE, the Jean Cocteau monodrama couture-tailored to her talents by Poulenc. In 1960, she repeated that triumph for the opera’s British début (at Edinburgh, with Glyndebourne forces) and its American premiere, as half of an American Opera Society double bill with MAMELLES at Carnegie Hall. The latter stirred the Times’s Howard Taubman to write, ‘It is difficult to imagine a more convincing and more affecting performance than Miss Duval’s’. It led, too, to her Dallas Civic Opera début in 1961, in an elaborate THAÏS directed by Franco Zeffirelli, just as the Edinburgh engagement prompted a two-summer run at Glyndebourne as Mélisande. A broadcast of the second-year revival, from 1963, was issued on official Glyndebourne CDs.
But Poulenc had died earlier that year, and Duval never quite rallied. Following what turned out to be the last of her dozens of performances of Blanche, in Buenos Aires in 1965, she collapsed from a cortisone overdose and essentially retired from singing. After a lengthy recovery, she taught at the École Française de Musique and occasionally directed. But she left two treasured mementi of those latter years - a 1970 film (by director Dominique Delouche) of LA VOIX HUMAINE, in which she gives a riveting lip-synched performance to her own classic recording of a decade earlier; and a master class captured by Delouche in 1998, in which, still très soignée at seventy-seven, she remains the Elle with whom all her successors must reckon.
‘I’m proud that my name will always be connected with [Poulenc’s]’, she once said. The man who called her ‘my Duval’ would surely have returned the compliment.”
-Patrick Dillon, OPERA NEWS, 26 Jan., 2016