V2003. HÉROINES DE MASSENET, incl. Ninon Vallin, Germaine Cernay, Maryse Beaujon, Charlotte Tirard, Mary Garden, Lucy Vauthrin, Yvonne Brothier, Marcelle Ragon, Madeleine Sibille, Germaine Martinelli, Suzanne Brohly, Mireille Berthon, Renée Doria, Marguerite Mérentié, Jacqueline Brumaire & Lucy Perelli. (France) Malibran 749. [Sheer enchantment in these marvelous displays of the now extinct French style.] - 7600003777492
“Ninon Vallin, in ‘Il est doux’ and Manon’s ‘Adieu’, the latter possibly the most touching performance in this singer’s large discography. Her voice, with that exceptionally meaty lower-middle, is just one of the highly distinctive timbres on display. To be cherished are the glitter of Marcelle Ragnon (another Manon, adorable in the Gavotte), the bracing clarity of Germaine Martinelli (MARIE-MAGDELEINE), and the unusual sound of Madeleine Sibille (very hefty bottom octave and blazing upper one, eminently suiting LE CID’s Chimène). Sibille gets four selections; there are three from Doria, incomparably womanly as Fanny Legrand and Thaïs. Another Thaïs here is in Doria’s class: the pristine-voiced Jacqueline Brumaire, superbly musical and deeply thoughtful in the ‘Air du Miroir’.
In excerpts from CHÉRUBIN, one can delight in the charm of artists both internationally celebrated (Mary Garden in the title rôle, which she created) and virtually unknown outside France (Lucy Vauthrin, as the showy L’Ensoleillad), Yvonne Brothier as the gentle Nina). For contrast, listen to Mireille Berthon in one of the most passionate episodes in late-career Massenet, ‘Ce que j’appelle beau’ from SAPHO, performed here with thrilling, verismo-like intensity.
Two mezzos, Lucy Perelli and Germaine Cernay, are simply spellbinding. The latter earns unexpected sympathy for Hérodiade in that character’s plea to her husband; Cernay’s voice is impeccably even, her phrasing elegant, and she totally commands climaxes that other singers generally scream. In Charlotte’s Letter Scene, Perelli brings WERTHER’s unhappy heroine instantly to life with just two words – ‘Ces lettres!’. This is another voice with a flame in it, and the performance is enriched with much finely-wrought legato.”
[Vocal] technique [among these artists] is generally splendid, musicality often sublime. What proves most rewarding, however, is textual communication. It’s not a matter of mere intelligibility…the words are coloured with a specificity giving phrase after phrase extraordinary immediacy. Typical are monologues from HÉRODIADE for Salomé (Maryse Beaujon, a vibrant soprano who can make her character’s anguish clear just by leaning on the consonants of the word ‘souffrance’) and Hérode (the vocally effulgent Ernest Blanc, projecting a deep sense of longing as he implores, ‘Ne t’enfuis pas, douce illusion’).
Massenet’s better-known characters are represented, as are those much less familiar. Among the latter are noble Griséledis (Charlotte Tirard, heart-stoppingly lovely) and Alain, the shepherd who loves her (Miguel Villabella, shining-voiced and exultant; Louis Cazette, with a haunting, seemingly innate melancholy in his timbre). Even more off-the-beaten-track are episodes from ROMA (enlivened by Charles Fontaine, a superb spinto tenor), ARIANE, PANURGE, and LE MAGE.”
- Roger Pines, OPERA, Jan., 2013