OP3174. L'AIGLON (Honegger & Ibert), recorded 11 Jan., 1956, w.Dervaux Cond. Géori-Boué, Xavier Depraz, Roger Bourdin, Lucien Lovano, Joseph Peyron, Lillane Berton, erc. (France) Malibran 792. - 7600003777928
“In 1900 Edmond Rostand wrote a play entitled L’AIGLON, featuring Sarah Bernhardt, based on the life of the Duke of Reichstadt, Napoléon Bonaparte’s son. Following his father’s death, the young man became a virtual prisoner of Chancellor Metternich at the Hapsburg court in Austria. In 1852, Victor Hugo wrote a poem, ‘Napoléon II’, in which he called the Duke ‘aiglon’ or eaglet (his father being the Eagle). Rostand described his play as being simply ‘the story of a poor child.’ This is only partly true.
His play was created in March 1900, a time when France was in the midst of the so-called Dreyfus affair and was threatened by the belligerent new German Empire. Jacques Ibert and Arthur Honegger’s opera, L’AIGLON was composed two years before World War II. In both cases, France realised it was on the cusp of a world conflict, with a hostile, warmongering Germany. France needed to rearm itself both materially and morally, and artistic creators mobilised themselves. Honegger and Paul Claudel created JEANNE D’ARC AU BÛCHER; film director Carl Dreyer produced the PASSION DE JEANNE D’ARC, while fellow director, Abel Gance produced his 1927 masterpiece, NAPOLÉON (for which Honegger composed the music). Rostand’s play is obviously a personal drama but it is also a reflection on patriotism, honour, manipulation and morality. With L’AIGLON, Honegger and Ibert adroitly use the past as a means to illuminate the future.
L’AIGLON is one of the few operas written jointly by two composers. In 1936, the director of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, Raoul Gunsbourg wanted to present an opera based on Rostand’s play. The choice of the composer was a difficult one but two names stood out : Jacques Ibert and Arthur Honegger. The two composers were friends, and they ultimately decided to collaborate on the score.
In a 1937 article in FIGARO, Honegger explained the work’s challenges and mandate: ‘Our work has an undeniable originality; that of bringing together on the same musical collaboration, two composers of the same generation….The determining factor of this collaboration was a mutual desire to try and create a work with a popular and direct character’.
In reality, artistic choices were dictated by the composers’ respective personalities: Ibert wrote acts I and V, in which finesse, emotion and restraint predominate while Honegger took on acts II and IV, with their drama and heroism. The third act was composed jointly. The resulting work is intense and moving. The major challenge was to maintain a musical balance while constantly sustaining the dramatic progression so dear to Honegger’s heart and also communicating the elegance and subtlety of Ibert’s writing. The fourth act in particular contains an epic sweep and great dramatic tension (in a dream, the protagonist, surrounded by an army of ghosts, relives the battle of Wagram). The final act, in which the dying hero is serenaded by a series of popular French songs, is imbued with emotion.
This jointly conceived work depicts an Aiglon whose ‘clothes are too large for the young man….’ And so, just as in the play, a woman interprets the title role. Not only have Honegger and Ibert succeeded in retaining their individual musical personalities, but they have also done so without compromising the homogeneity of the complete work. The triumphant premiere of L’AIGLON took place on 10 March, 1937, at l’Opéra de Monte-Carlo with a star-studded cast that included the soprano Fanny Heldy as L’Aiglon, the bass-baritone Vanni-Marcoux as Séraphin Flambeau and the baritone Arthur Endrèze as Metternich.”
- Richard Turp, LA SCENA MUSICALE, 1 Feb., 2015
“French soprano Geori Boué was born on 16 October, 1918 in Toulouse and managed an exemplary career in her native country. She studied at the Music Conservatory in Touluse, taking on voice with Claude Jean, piano and harp. She made her début in Toulouse in 1938 and rose to fame singing staples of the French repertoire that include Marguerite from FAUST, Juliette from ROMÉO ET JULIETTE and Manon from Massesent’s opera of the same name. As her career progressed she expanded into other repertoire taking on Gilda in Verdi’s RIGOLETTO, Violetta in LA TRAVIATA, Mimi in LA BOHEME, Cio Cio San in MADAMA BUTTERFLY, Tatiana in EUGEN ONÉGIN, Desdemona in OTELLO and Thaïs among other roles. In later years CARMEN, WERTHER and numerous operettas would enter her repertoire. She also appeared in a 1943 film entitled LA MALIBRAN.
She also managed an international career in Mexico, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro and at La Scala in Milan where she appeared as Mélisande in Debussy’s PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE under the baton of Victor de Sabata. She appeared in that Debussy work alongside her husband Roger Bourdin. She died at age 98, 5 Jan., 2017.”
- David Salazar, operawire.com, 6 Jan., 2017
Roger Bourdin studied at the Paris Conservatory, where he was a pupil of André Gresse and Jacques Isnardon. He made his professional début at the Opéra-Comique in 1922, as Lescaut in MANON. His début at the Palais Garnier took place in 1942, in Henri Rabaud's MÂROUF, SAVETIER DU CAIRE. The major part of his career was to be spent between these two theatres, where he created some 30 roles.
Bourdin seldom performed outside France, but did a few guest appearances at the Royal Opera House in London, La Scala in Milan, and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. He also sang in the first performance of surviving fragments of Chabrier's VAUCOCHARD ET FILS IER on 22 April 1941 at the Salle du Conservatoire with Germaine Cernay, conducted by Roger Désormière.
His most memorable roles were: Clavaroche in André Messager's FORTUNIO, Metternich in Arthur Honegger and Jacques Ibert's L'AIGLON, Duparquet in Reynaldo Hahn's CIBOULETTE, Lheureux in Emmanuel Bondeville's MADAME BOVARY, the lead in Darius Milhaud's BOLIVAR, but also standard roles such as Valentin, Athanael, Onegin, and Sharpless. In all he sang an estimated 100 roles throughout his long career.”
- Ned Ludd