OP0417. LES AVENTURES DU ROI PAUSOLE (Honegger), recorded 1992, w.Venzago Cond. Atelier Philharmonique Suisse Ensemble; Gabriel Bacquier, Michel Sénéchal, Christine Barbaux, etc. [Sheer enchantment!] 2-Musiques Suisses 6115, Slipcase Edition, w.Elaborate 123pp. Libretto-Brochure. Long out-of-print, Final Copy!
“Whoever would have thought that Arthur Honegger, the rigidly Protestant composer famous for his oratorios such as LE ROI DAVID and JEANNE D’ ARC, the First Symphony and his 1934 cello concerto, would compose one of the most controversial and lyrical pieces of the twentieth century? He surprised the world with an authentic operetta in pure vaudeville style, and once more showed his mastery and versatile creativity. Above all the piece was a sign of his penchant for differing styles and genres; so, in Honegger’s mind, a good operetta was better than a bad opera. THE ROI PAUSOLE was a resounding success.
After the successful ROI PAUSOLE, the premiere of which was followed by 500 more performances, Honegger composed two further operettas, one of which was created in collaboration with his friend Jacques Ibert. It must have been with great pleasure, commitment and enthusiasm that he and the famous librettist Albert Willemits worked together to bring to life the adventures of the ambiguous king Pausole who ruled over the licentious kingdom of Tryphème with his 365 wives - one for each night of the year. Although the composition is in typical vaudeville style (music alternated with spoken text), both musically and literarily it transcends the genre in every aspect.
The score is full of surprises: a brilliant small orchestral arrangement, a hint of vaudeville, a pinch of Dixieland, a genuine Spanish paso doble, ‘schmaltzy’-like chansons, classic bel canto and the odd jolly reference to his own work. But above all it conveys Honegger’s connection to the Groupe des Six! The libretto by Albert Willemetz is based on an erotic novel published in 1901 by the then famous Belgian writer Pierre Louÿs, who was a friend of Debussy and lyricist of his ‘Chanson de Bilitis’. Willemetz wrote beautiful albeit slightly elaborate French dialogues in verse: scintillating, daring, ambiguous, ever alluding but never explicit. As this makes the libretto difficult to translate, an immense task awaits the director who, despite the language barrier, wants to involve an audience in this delicious comedy of morals.”
- Zillah D. Akron
“Gabriel Bacquier was a leading twentieth century baritone, especially in roles in his native French. He was noted for his sophisticated and natural acting style, his smooth, warm voice, and his remarkable endurance. His studies at the Paris Conservatoire were unusually successful: he won three first prizes in student voice competitions there. As a result he quickly obtained a regular operatic job, joining the Compagnie Lyrique in 1950. From this privately owned opera company, he moved in 1952 to join the company of La Monnaie, the main opera house in Brussels. He returned to Paris in 1955 to join the Opéra-Comique in 1956. Two years later he joined the Opéra de Paris, débuting there as Germont, Sr., in LA TRAVIATA.
He gained a reputation as a serious, reliable singer, willing and able to take both comic and serious roles, and parts ranging from supporting characters to leads. Although he had a wide range, he was especially effective in the more lyric baritone parts and was one of the leading Mozart singers of his generation, yet he was able convincingly to sing such dramatic parts as Simon Boccanegra and Boris Godunov.
He began to make appearances abroad in the 1960s, particularly in England, where he débuted as the Count in Mozart's MARRIAGE OF FIGARO in 1962 and as Riccardo in Bellini's I PURITANI in 1964. The same year he first sang at the Metropolitan in New York, where he also became a favorite performer, frequently appearing on the national Saturday broadcasts.
In his fifties, Bacquier notably improved, gaining power and expressivity in his voice. At the same time he refined his acting technique, becoming known for avoiding the stock operatic gestures meant to portray villainy, or the buffoonery used in comic roles. His characters thus had a quality of realism that made their evil, heroism, wit, or foolishness seem natural and thus more effective. This particularly showed itself in his four, differentiated portrayals in the ‘adversary’ roles of Offenbach's LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN.
In addition to his Mozart roles (especially the Count), his ‘signature rôle’ was that of Scarpia in TOSCA, which he played with suave, even charming, external manners that made his underlying evil even more frightening. He was the leading baritone for French opera and for Italian operas written originally in French, such as Rossini's GUILLAUME TELL and Meyerbeer's LES HUGUENOTS.
He was also a fine interpreter of French chanson in recital, particularly the songs of Satie, Ravel, and de Severac. In the 1990s, when he was in his seventies, he scored a notable success as the King of Clubs in the Lyons Opera's French production of Prokofiev's LOVE OF THREE ORANGES under the baton of Kent Nagano, a production also made into a highly acclaimed recording.”
- Joseph Stevenson, allmusic.com
"It was not until 1982, when he impersonated the servants in Offenbach's LES CONTES D'HOFFMANN, that French tenor Michel -Sénéchal enlivened the MET stage, where he was heard as recently as the opening night of the 2005-2006 Season as Don Basilio in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO. Principally known beyond the borders of his native country as a character tenor par excellence, Sénéchal was acclaimed in France as an accomplished exponent of high-flying parts such as Rameau's Platée, Rossini's Comte Ory, and Nicias in Massenet's THAIS. In Boston's DON GIOVANNI, Sénéchal sings with aristocratic grace, unerring stylishness, and a voice that sounds tailor-made for the music. Comforting Donna Anna and swearing to partner her in her quest for vengeance for her father's death, the tenor summons his trademark honeyed tones followed by more robust vocal mettle than might have been expected from him. Sénéchal is among the few recorded Ottavios who actually sounds as though he is so hopelessly in love with Anna as to be willing to suffer any impediment to their union....the ease with which he scales the heights of Ottavio's lines in ensembles is marvelous. In Sénéchal's performance of Ottavio's 'Il mio tesoro', his breath control completely conquering music that defeats many tenors. Vocally, Sénéchal is not the most opulent Ottavio on records, but he is among the most stylish and theatrically effective."
- John Rockwell, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 3 June, 1983