OP0454. LA TRAVIATA (in French), recorded 1912, Pathé, w.Archainbaud Cond. Jane Morlet, Henri Albers, Hippolyte Belhomme, Maurizio Troselli, etc.; LES FRÈRES DANILO (Nouguès), recorded 1912, Pathé, w.Nouguès Cond. Henri Albers, Marguerite Mérentié, Edmond Tirmont, Alfred Maguenat, Pierre Dupré, etc. 2-Marston 52043. Transfers by Ward Marston. - 638335204321
“LES FRÈRES DANILO is something of an anomaly in the pioneering Pathé Opéra series (Le Théâtre chez soi). Starting in 1911 with the all-time favorites of CARMEN and FAUST, Pathé pursued a policy of recording popular operas from both the French and Italian repertoire of the nineteenth century, works which regularly brought in the crowds to the main Parisian and provincial opera houses. LES FRÈRES DANILO represents a further innovation. Pathé Frères must have commissioned Jean Nouguès, one of the most popular opera composers of the day, to write an opera especially for the gramophone.
By 1912, Jean Nouguès was at the height of his fame. His first work to attract public attention was the incidental music to the play LA MORT DE TINTAGILES, based on a book by Maurice Maeterlinck. The play was first produced in 1905 at the Théâtre des Mathurins in Paris. A good part of the success was attributed to the acting of the charismatic Georgette Leblanc in the leading role of Ygraine.
Nouguès’ real success came with QUO VADIS?, an opera based on Henryk Sienkiewicz’s then popular novel, set in Nero’s Rome. It was premiered at the Nice Opera in 1909 and brought to Paris at the Théâtre Municipale de la Gaîté Lyrique in the same year. There it caused a sensation. MUSICA critic Félicien Grétry declared it was equal only to the furore of the first performance of CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA a decade and a half earlier.
The singers engaged by Pathé for LES FRÈRES DANILO were the equal of those of the other sets devoted to the well known operas. Two of the singers were nearing the height of their powers, soprano Marguerite Mérentié and baritone Henri Albers, whereas the two other principals, tenor Edmond Tirmont and high baritone Alfred Maguenat, were just at the beginning of illustrious careers. Mérentié left relatively few records: three sides for French Gramophone in 1907 and 14 sides for Pathé in 1911/1912, not including the two complete operas. Henri Albers was the second well-established singer in the cast. Albers recorded more extensively than the other singers of this set, though mostly for Pathé’s vertical cut issues. Apart from CARMEN, he also appears in LA FAVORITE (Marston Pathé Opéra volume 2), ROMÉO ET JULIETTE, and LA TRAVIATA.
Edmond Tirmont left a fair number of recordings from the various stages of his career, starting with Odeon in 1911, continuing on to French Gramophone of the same period. For Pathé he recorded extracts from DAME EN DÉCOLLETÉ by Maurice Yvain, and the French version of LA BAYADÈRE by Kalman; Tirmont was a member of the creator cast of both. His last recordings date from the beginning of the 1930s, a series of floppy discs of the obscure firm Discolux, for whom he recorded extracts from such newer works. Alfred Maguenat made his début at the Opéra-Comique in 1908, singing smaller roles, though quickly progressing to parts such as Escamillo in CARMEN and Pelléas.”
- John Humbley, Program Notes
“This reissue of the Pathé 1912 LA TRAVIATA on compact disc restores to circulation an important document known by most collectors only through an unlistenable LP pressing. Aside from Albers, none of the singers in the Pathé TRAVIATA enjoyed an international career. Morlet and Troselli were members of the Trianon-Lyrique, a lesser Parisian theater which presented an opera season underwritten by the city council. They must have sung TRAVIATA there. Jane Morlet is best known for the two Verdi roles—Violetta and Léonore—she recorded for Pathé in 1912.
Unlike Troselli and Morlet, Albers appeared at major international houses. The Dutch baritone made his debut in 1889 and, encouraged by Jules Massenet, rapidly established an important career. He reached Covent Garden in 1894 and the Metropolitan Opera four years later. After one season at the Met, Albers made his debut at the Opéra-Comique, where he remained until his death in 1925. He mastered a broad repertory of leading baritone roles in French, Italian, and German operas. Albers sang Wotan in the first French production of Wagner’s RING and also recorded five roles in Pathé’s opera series—Escamillo (CARMEN), Alphonse (FAVORITE), Capulet (ROMÉO), L'Auguste (LES FRÈRES DANILO), and d'Orbel (TRAVIATA).
Jane Morlet may not claim a place among the pre-eminent Violettas, but she sustains the role with honor and, at times, genuine distinction. Her soprano—notable for its compact, ringing tone —leaps out of the dim recording with vital impact. Her voice sounds even throughout its compass, and remains true and firm the higher it rises. And, she commands what so few Violettas in our time enjoy, a solid core of sound in the middle and lower-middle range where much of Violetta’s music lies. Morlet has a fluent technique that allows her to execute the divisions and scale passages in the first-act duet with Alfredo….her singing is straightforward rather than delicately nuanced—but her portrayal is heartfelt and sincere. Discographers of LA TRAVIATA will no longer be able ignore the Pathé recording of Verdi’s opera.”
- Robert Baxter, Program Notes