V1732. JEANNE GERVILLE-RÉACHE: Songs by Schumann, Hahn & Chaminade; Arias from Orfeo, La Vivandière, Sapho, Werther, Paul et Virginie, L’Enfant Prodigue, Samson et Dalila, Carmen, La Reine de Saba & Il Trovatore - recorded 1909-11; Mme CHARLES CAHIER: Songs by Martini, etc.; Arias from La Favorite, Le Prophète & Carmen – recorded 1928. (Austria) Preiser 89737. - 717281897372
“[Gerville-Réache’s] powerful voice is of a highly individual quality seldom, if at all, encountered today. A strong, very distinctive lower register forms a rock-solid foundation to a well equalized scale….A rarity from Massé’s PAUL ET VIRGINE was popular…years ago. Some would consider its inclusion alone worth the price of the CD….Sarah Jane Lyston Walker, otherwise Mme Charles Cahier… was on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera and enjoyed a reputation as a recitalist and a Mahler interpreter in the USA….In later life she was renowned as a great teacher; her students included Rosette Anday, Göta Ljungberg and Marian Anderson.”
- Vivian A. Liff, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Nov./Dec., 2011
“Jeanne Gerville-Réache was born in Orthez, in the south of France, into a wealthy and politically well connected family. She spent a part of her childhood in the French West Indies, where her father was stationed as a diplomat, but back in Paris she studied with Rosine Laborde and the legendary Pauline Viardot-Garcia. We probably have the latter to thank for most of that which we hear on Gerville-Réache’s recordings today. Emma Calvé was overwhelmed by the young contralto’s voice, and arranged for her début at the Opéra-Comique as Gluck’s Orphée in 1899. She was only 17 years old.
She remained on the roster at the Opéra-Comique until 1903, and it was there that she created the rôle of Geneviève in PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE (1902), but the young Gerville-Réache faced formidable competition from Marie Delna. There, and at the Paris Opéra as well, Delna was well known for jealously hoarding the larger contralto rôles with the ferocity of Cerberus guarding the River Styx. Blanche Deschamps-Jehin was similarly entrenched (and married to the principal conductor) at Monte Carlo, so Gerville-Réache was obliged to cast her sights outside of France for any measure of personal opportunity or acclaim.
In the early years of the 20th century, she sang in Brussels and at Covent Garden before her début with the Manhattan Opera Company in New York as La Cieca in LA GIOCONDA (1907), with one of those ‘Golden Age’ dream casts including Lillian Nordica, Giovanni Zenatello, Mario Ancona, Adamo Didur and Eleanora de Cisneros. At the Manhattan, she was well received in Massenet’s LA NAVARRAISE , not so successful as Carmen and fearsome as Klytämnestra in ELEKTRA, but she created a true sensation in SAMSON ET DALILA. Her interpretation of this rôle quickly established the popularity of Saint-Saëns’ opera in America, and the critic Philip Hale ranked her Dalila ‘on a par with de Reszke’s Roméo, de Lucia’s Canio, Ternina’s Isolde, Calvé’s Carmen and Maurel’s Iago’.
When the Met and its trustees raised sufficient ‘hush money’ for Oscar Hammerstein and the Manhattan Opera closed down, Gerville-Réache appeared with the Chicago, Philadelphia and Montréal companies, but mostly sang in extensive recital tours and as soloist with symphonies throughout the United States. She had taken up residence there in 1910 with her husband (the director of the Pasteur Institute in New York) and their two young sons. Her last hours of life found her besieged with an unbelievable combination of violent illnesses. Ptomaine poisoning triggered a ruptured appendix, which induced a miscarriage, and she died in New York at the tragically young age of 32.
Gerville-Réache possessed the voice of a fine cello swathed in burgundy-colored velvet. A true, sonorous contralto with many of the better qualities of Ernestine Schumann-Heink and Louise Homer, remarkably amalgamated into a single human voice. Gerville-Réache’s voice cannot but leave an impression on those hearing her, and in record after record (not that there are all that many of them), she displays a remarkable range. Hers was without doubt a voice to be cherished and remembered, she displays a remarkable range which encompasses cavernous lows to ringing, apparently effortless high notes.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“Sara Cahier, better known as Mme Charles Cahier, was actually born Sara Jane Walker in Nashville, Tennessee. Her teachers included Jean de Reszke, Victor Capoul, and Amalie Joachim. After her debut in 1904 she joined the Hofoper in 1907 and remained until 1911. Under Mahler, she sang Amneris, Carmen, Dalilah, Fidès, Ortrud, and Santuzza. She was also famous for her interpretation of Mahler’s works, creating the alto version of DAS LIED VON DER ERDE. Among her later pupils were Marian Anderson, Göta Ljüngberg, and Rosette Anday.”
- Christopher Norton-Welsh, Program notes to Marston’s MAHLER’S DECADE IN VIENNA