V2601. ANDRÉ PERNET: Arias from Barbiere, Don Giovanni, Philémon et Baucis, Mireille, Manon, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Thais, La Marchand de Venise, Faust, Lakmé, Louise, Don Quichotte, Die Walküre & Boris Godunov. (France) Malibran AMR 185, recorded 1930-36. [AMR titles are issued without rear tray-cards]
“I had a firsthand report of Pernet’s storied career from two habitués of the opera who spoke of him in hushed, awed tones, but I was not ready for the treasure which those 78rpm grooves were to unlock for my ears. Here were characters, fairly leaping from the speakers - a voice of unique quality, an opalescent, chameleon-like quality in which each phrase, line, word and, even, syllable was not only chiseled with rare precision, but also with distilled meaning and insight while respecting the composer and dramatic intent - able to turn ‘on a dime’ and shift tone, mood and significance instantaneously….while developing his evidently fine voice by studying with the distinguished bass André Gresse, who had retired to become an equally famous voice teacher at the Paris Conservatoire. The voice is well extended over nearly two and one-half octaves….a peerless example of extraordinary voice-painting allied to what was described by his contemporary critics as a silken tone.
On July 7, 1928, Pernet debuted at the Paris Opéra as Méphistophélès in Gounod’s FAUST. So successful was this debut that within his first 18 months at the Opéra, he had sung Wotan in DIE WALKÜRE, the title role in BORIS GODUNOV, Athanaël in THAÏS, plus the Sultan of Khaïtan in Rabaud’s MAROUF….his interpretations were marked by their unflinching fidelity to the intentions of composer and librettist. He cut precisely to the quick of his characters, imposing himself, dominating the stage and becoming a favorite of the public. Boris became a winning ticket for Pernet throughout his career, and it proved to be his finale on stage.
In the spring of 1930, shortly after he appeared for the first time as St. Bris in LES HUGUENOTS, then as King Marke in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, with Lubin. He would add Gurnemanz in PARSIFAL to his Wagner roles soon thereafter,as well as Méphistophélès in Berlioz’ DAMNATION DE FAUST.
Reynaldo Hahn was responsible for one of Pernet’s greatest successes in a new opera, that being the premiere of his LE MARCHAND DE VENISE, March 25, 1935, alongside Fanny Heldy as Portia, as well as Paul Cabanel and Martial Singher. Here Pernet incarnates a spiteful Shylock, spewing his hatred of those who use and despise him, with the composer conducting.
To the writer of these words, no singer on records puts his imprint on the music and characters better than Pernet. His is the voice which comes to the mind’s ear in any of the music he recorded. What a magnificent singer he was!
- Father Cornelius Mattei, GREAT OPERA SINGERS, 4 April, 2015