V2560. WAGNER EN FRANÇAIS: Jane Cros, Maryse Beaujon, Marcel Journet, Paul Franz, César Vezzani, Georges Thill & Germaine Lubin. (France) Malibran 166. [Sheer enchantment in these marvelous displays of the now extinct French style.] Long out-of-print, Final Copy!
"With Wagner's operas enjoying the cache of the forbidden and a pilgrimage to Bayreuth or to Brussels as the only way for the dedicated French Wagnerian to see the works staged, Wagnerism was raised to the status of a quasi-religion in the pages of the avant-garde Révue Wagnerienne in the 1880s. Attempts to bring Wagner back onto the stage in France centred on LOHENGRIN, undoubtedly the most accessible of Wagner's operas for nineteenth century audiences. The Paris premier of LOHENGRIN at the Eden-Theatre in 1887 and the premiere at the Palais Garnier in 1891 both occasioned street battles and serious public disorder. But the battle was soon won and LOHENGRIN notched up an impressive 100 performances at the Palais Garnier within three years, placing it amongst the most popular of operas in France. Over this period there developed a rich and authentic francophone Wagner tradition.
This CD concentrates on singers of the following generation in the inter-war period and after the introduction of the electrical recording process enabled records to do better justice to Wagnerian voices and orchestration. At this time the Paris Opéra and other French and Belgian theatres were spoilt for choice when they wished to cast LOHENGRIN. The oldest singer represented on this disc is Marcel Journet (1867-1933). He made his debut as early as 1893 - just two years after LOHENGRIN found its way onto the stage at the Opéra. His vocal longevity enabled him to make electric recordings that display the splendid ease and smoothness of the top part of his range. Journet made his Opéra debut in 1909 in the role of King Henry. However he spent much of his career on the other side of the Atlantic hence this Victor recording in rather strangely accented German.
The most celebrated French Lohengrin of the interwar period was undoubtedly Georges Thill. He sang the role at the Paris Opéra for the first time on 28 August, 1926 and then on a further 68 occasion over the rest of his career in various theatres. The more reflective passages of the role which hover in the upper middle register, lie very comfortably for Thill's voice. Has there ever been a German tenor who could sing this music as effortlessly and beautifully as Thill? The French version of Act II, scenes I and II with Martial Singher, Marjorie Lawrence and Yvonne Brothier was the only complete one available in the years before the Second World War. The chief interest in these records lies in the glorious Ortrud of the Autralian Marjorie Lawrence. Though she was an Anglo-Saxon, as the French so quaintly describe the diverse people of the English speaking world, Marjorie Lawrence was a product of French training and spent the best years on her all too brief career in France. She made her debut at the Paris Opéra as Ortrud on 25 February, 1933 and achieved a triumphant success despite the attempts of Germaine Lubin to upstage her, so amusingly described in her autobiography.
The last two Lohengrins on this CD - the Corsican César Vezzani and the Belgian René Maison - achieve an excellence in the role of Lohengrin which is very different from that of Georges Thill. The singing of neither could be described as effortless.
Vezzani's career was largely confined to the French provinces and colonies. Luckily he left enough recordings to prove that he possessed one of the most brilliant and thrilling tenor voices of the twentieth century. René Maison enjoyed far greater international recognition, singing with great success in New York, Chicago and Buenos Aires. He was by all accounts a very religious man who fell to his knees to pray before going on stage as Parsifal. His Lohengrin is one of the most passionate on record and more earthy perhaps than spiritual. It would have to be a very cool-headed Elsa who could resist the ardour of this Lohengrin in the Bed Chamber scene!"
- Patrick BADE