OP1054. LES PECHEURS DE PERLES (Bizet), recorded 1953, w.Fournet Cond. Concerts Lamoureux Ensemble; Pierrette Alarie, Léopold Simoneau, René Bianco & Xavier Depraz. (France) 2-Malibran 615. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 3760003776155
"This recording is a superlative example of the elegant French style of the 1940s and '50s that has been absorbed into a kind of all styles combined, an international style. This 1953 performance is considered the definitive recording. The lightness, the grace, the delicate quality of the style are all embodied in the voice of one of the finest French tenors of the era, Léopold Simoneau. His singing is a miraculous combination of the energy and masculinity of the role, the legeresse of the music, and the strikingly beautiful mezza voce of his voice. Pierrette Alarie (Mrs Simoneau) uses her delicate voice, so refined and so French, to create a suitable Hindu priestess. Rene Bianco's individual, colorful voice takes on the drama of Zurga with ease, combining with Simoneau in a prize-winning performance of the celebrated duet. Inhabiting the vocal depths is the splendid singing-actor Xaver Depraz. All these marvelous talents are supported with an impressive sense of style and a combination of strength and delicacy by the masterly Jean Fournet."
- Charles H. Parsons, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/Aug., 2012
"Methodical, unflappable (he is said to have seldom raised his voice), and subtle in the ways of the French repertory, Jean Fournet saw his career extend over an extraordinarily long period. After having established himself in his native country, he proved a welcome addition to opera companies in America, where the French style had become something of a lost art. Beyond stage work, he proved, both early and late, a persuasive interpreter of the French symphonic literature. After studies at the Paris Conservatoire, Fournet made his debut in his native city in 1936; two years later, he was engaged by Rouen on a permanent basis. In 1940, he moved to Marseilles and, beginning in 1944, presided over the Paris Opéra-Comique as music director, simultaneously offering instruction in the art of conducting at the Ecole Normale. In the 1950s, he was involved in several recording projects that enhanced his reputation considerably, notably his Fauré REQUIEM and a lightly turned LES PECHEURS DE PERLES. Two further appointments awaited him in Europe before he turned to a regimen of guest conducting: in 1961 he became conductor of the Netherlands Radio Symphony, and from 1968 to 1973, he served as artistic director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Fournet made his American opera debut with the Chicago Lyric Opera in 1965 directing a double bill consisting of a staged CARMINA BURANA and Ravel's magical L'HEURE ESPAGNOLE, the latter with Teresa Berganza, Alfredo Kraus, and Sesto Bruscantini. The conductor impressed immediately as one who could imprint elegance and respect for French style on his casts. His success led to further assignments, each helping reestablish the French wing in a city that had known great French artists in decades past. Among the productions were LES PECHEURS DE PERLES in 1966, another double bill (LE ROSSIGNOL and OEDIPUS REX) in 1968, WERTHER in 1971, PELLEAS ET MELISANDE in 1972, MANON in 1973, and DON QUICHOTTE in 1974. In 1987, Fournet made his Metropolitan Opera debut conducting a production of SAMSON ET DALILA. In addition to a number of orchestral discs, Fournet recorded the aforementioned LES PECHEURS DE PERLES for Philips with Léopold Simoneau and Pierrette Alarie, still unsurpassed. Fournet's Fauré and Berlioz Requiems are also impressive, likewise his 1973 Chicago MANON with Kraus and Zylis-Gara."
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Pierrette Alarie-Simoneau sang in UN BALLO IN MASCHERA, among other operas at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1940s. A coloratura whose light, lyric voice was often described as silvery or crystalline, Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau was known for her dynamic stage presence and refined musical interpretations. She and her husband, the renowned lyric tenor Léopold Simoneau, often performed together and were long considered the first couple of Canadian opera. Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau, who before her marriage in 1946 was billed as Pierrette Alarie, was a winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in 1945. She made her Met début on 8 Dec., 1945, as Oscar in Verdi’s UN BALLO IN MASCHERA. She remained at the Met for three seasons, appearing 26 times between 1945 and 1948. Her other rôles there included Xenia in Mussorgsky’s BORIS GODUNOV, Blonde in Mozart’s ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO and Olympia in Offenbach’s LES CONTES d’HOFMANN. Reviewing her Olympia in THE NEW YORK TIMES in 1946, Olin Downes wrote, ‘She has a brilliant coloratura, and good stage business in the representation of the stiff gestures of the mechanistic doll’.
Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau also sang with the New York Philharmonic, the Paris Opéra-Comique and the Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence and Glyndebourne Festivals. Her rôles over the years included Rosina in Rossini’s BARBER OF SEVILLE and the title rôles in Delibes’ LAKMÉ, and LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR.
Pierrette Marguerite Alarie was born in Montréal on 9 Nov., 1921. Her father, Sylva, was a choirmaster; her mother, Amanda, a singer and actress. Pierrette began acting on local stages as a child and as a teenager sang popular songs on Canadian radio. She later studied at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia with the distinguished soprano Elisabeth Schumann. After retiring from the opera and concert stages, Mrs. Alarie-Simoneau worked as an opera director and teacher. In 1982 she and her husband Leopold Simoneau founded Canada Opera Piccola, a training company in Victoria.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 July, 2011
"René Bianco was a French baritone whose career began in 1942 in the major theaters of North Africa (Algiers, Tunis, Oran, etc.), then continued in France. From 1950, he regularly performed at the Opéra de Paris especially the works of Verdi, Gounod and Bizet . He then retired to teaching in the 1990s.
Xavier Depraz entered the Paris Conservatory in 1947 studying under Fernand Francell for singing, Louis Musy for stage and René Simon for the theater. In 1951 he participated in operatic creations at the Opï¿½ra in Mulhouse and Nancy, two works composed by Marcel Landowski, and in concert version of Prokofievï¿½s THE FIREY ANGEL. He appeared in Béla Bartok's BLUEBEARD'S CASTLE, plus RIGOLETTO, DON GIOVANNI, DON QUIXOTE and THAï¿½S. Late in his life he began a prolific dramatic artist career, first on television, for which he notably played the role of Ursus in THE MAN WHO LAUGHS for Jean Kerchbron then to the big screen. Very large, dry, emaciated face, deep timbre, he alternated effectively in military roles, as clergeymen as well as crooks. He was professor of opera at the Paris Conservatoire in 1973."
- Zillah Akron Dorset
"...the French bass Xavier Depraz had a warm basso cantante voice which darkened a little in its bottom register, opening out into a lower extension quite unusual for its type, enabling him to sing Mozart's bass roles convincingly....He is a touching Don Quichotte, a role he could have been born to sing....Nilakantha's stanzas from LAKME are beautiful....one of his best roles [is] Basile in the Opéra-Comique version of BARBIERE...."
- Tully Potter, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 2016