Various Artists

Les Introuvables du Chant Français

  • AllMusic Rating
    8
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

EMI Classics' Les Introvables du Chant Français is an incredible undertaking, consisting of eight well-filled discs totaling 185 tracks, a survey of "golden age" French singing. This collection ranges in artists from baritone Lucien Fugère, who was born the year before Chopin died and made his operatic debut before the advent of recording, to Camille Maurane, who retired from teaching only in 1981 (and at age 95 was still alive in March 2007). Chronologically, the selection begins with a G&T of soprano Félia Litvinne made in 1902 and ends with early LP-era recordings of soprano Renée Doria made in 1953, but most of the recordings are concentrated in the 1920s and 1930s. This was the last great renaissance of French singing before the Second World War changed the whole nature of cultural life in France. By "singing," of course, operatic singing is intended, though the last disc dips its toe into French popular chanson through the inclusion of tracks by Fréhel and Yvette Guilbert. In terms of "trained" singers, Les Introvables du Chant Français is uncommonly generous; among just better-known names, it features Edmond Clément, Marcel Journet, Emma Calvé, Emile Scarambeg, Fanny Heldy, Yvonne Brothier, Paul Franz, Marie Delna, Maria Kouznetzoff, Yvonne Gall, Ninon Vallin, Vanni-Marcoux, Charles Panzèra, and Gérard Souzay along with many, many unfamiliar performers.

This 630-minute survey not only covers the singers, but the key repertoire as well. Sizeable sections of this program are devoted to Gounod, Massenet, Meyerbeer, Reyer, and Offenbach, not to mention such unimaginable obscurities as an aria from Albéric Magnard's Guercouer dating from 1933. It is the repertoire that largely drives the program, which begins with Lully and runs through to Messager, followed by a disc devoted to French versions of foreign opera and a final disc, "Le muse légère," devoted to opéra comique.

The slight booklet note, while well intentioned, isn't tremendously helpful and assumes that the listener already knows a lot about French opera going into this package; perhaps that's just as well, as the potential audience for this mammoth set outside of France is going to be limited indeed. Disc 6, consisting of 26 tracks surveying the French operatic landscape in the wake of Bizet's Carmen and including works by 14 composers ranging from Offenbach to Ravel, is a lot to take in on its own. Some of it will be deep even for expert tastes -- tenor Jean de Reszké, who destroyed his only studio recordings, isn't represented, but his non-professional wife, Marie de Reszké, is in a test record made in 1905 -- and she's not half bad! The sound, as one might expect for a package of such great comprehension, is variable in the extreme, though none of the tracks betray more than a faint amount of hiss at their worst and sound reasonably lifelike at best, though some transient audio artifacts resulting from digital audio restoration is audible here and there.

Les Introvables du Chant Français is a steal at twice the asking price, and yet the question remains - when will a listener have the time to survey all of the wondrous riches represented here? Though not as "legendary" in this period as German, and some American, singers, the players on the French opera stage of the years 1890-1940 are represented on record a bit more comprehensively than their German and American counterparts, and Les Introvables du Chant Français takes broad sample of that entire spectrum of recorded performances.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Cadmus et Hermione, opera, LWV 49
1
3:09
2
2:41
Persée, opera, LWV 60
3
2:25
Amadis, opera, LWV 63
4
3:22
Les Indes galantes, opéra-ballet
5
3:38
Orphée et Eurydice (French version), opera in 3 acts, Wq. 41
6
4:23
7
3:24
Alceste (French version), opera in 3 acts, Wq. 44
8
4:21
9
4:04
10
5:15
Iphigénie en Tauride, opera in 4 acts, Wq. 46
11
3:36
La rencontre imprévue (or, "The Pilgrim of Mecca"), opera in 3 acts, Wq. 32
12
3:16
Ariodant, opera
13
4:10
Les Abencérages ou Létendard de Grenade, opera-ballet in 3 acts
14
4:32
Les Troyens, opera, H. 133a
15
3:12
16
4:02
La Damnation de Faust, for mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, bass, chorus and orchestra, ("légende dramatique") H. 111 (Op. 24)
17
5:12
18
3:47
19
1:47
Pénélope, opera in 3 acts
20
2:30
Guercoeur, opera, Op. 12
21
3:18

Track Listing - Disc 5

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Thaïs, opera in 3 acts
1
3:30
2
4:42
Chérubin, opera in 3 acts
3
2:37
Thérèse, music drama in 2 acts
4
2:35
Sapho, lyric piece in 5 acts (2 versions)
5
3:41
Panurge, farce in 3 acts
6
2:20
Le Cid, opera
7
3:55
8
3:16
Marie-Magdeleine, sacred drama in 3 acts
9
4:43
Manon, opera in 5 acts
10
3:33
11
3:18
Le mage, opera in 5 acts
12
2:44
Le roi de Lahore, opera in 5 acts (3 versions)
13
4:04
Le jongleur de Notre-Dame, opera in 3 acts
14
4:15
La navarraise, lyric episode in 2 acts
15
1:37
Hérodiade, opera in 4 acts
16
3:45
Grisélidis, opera in 3 acts
17
2:43
Don Quichotte, comic opera in 5 acts
18
6:41
Cléopâtre, opera in 4 acts
19
4:30
Werther, lyric drama in 4 acts
20
2:27
21
2:16
Esclarmonde, opera in 4 acts
22
3:01
Don César de Bazan, comic opera in 4 acts (2 versions)
23
3:03

Track Listing - Disc 6

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Les contes d'Hoffmann, opera in 4 acts
1
3:06
2
3:07
3
2:07
Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, opera
4
3:56
Pelléas et Mélisande, opera in 5 acts, L. 88
5
2:45
Monna Vanna, opera
6
2:47
Le Roi d'Ys, opera in 3 acts
7
3:24
8
4:36
Le marchand de Venise, opera in 3 acts
9
3:24
L' heure espagnole, opera in 1 act
10
4:34
11
2:40
Gismonda, opera
12
4:44
Le bon rol Dagobert
13
3:11
Mârouf, Savetier du Caire, opera
14
2:44
15
2:39
Gwendoline, opera in 2 acts
16
2:26
Le roi malgré lui, opéra-comique in 3 acts
17
2:35
18
2:21
19
3:05
Fortunio, operetta
20
2:09
La Basoche, opera
21
2:40
22
2:58
Louise, opera
23
4:32
Lakmé, opera
24
2:05
25
2:10
26
1:58

Track Listing - Disc 7

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Aida, opera
1
4:57
Tosca, opera
2
3:07
Tannhäuser, opera, WWV 70
3
4:18
Siegfried, opera, WWV 86c
4
4:20
5
2:28
Roméo et Juliette, opera
6
3:16
Risurrezione, opera
7
3:39
Manon, opera in 5 acts
8
2:45
Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), opera, K. 492
9
3:01
Il Trovatore, opera
10
2:33
Le prophète, grand opera in 5 acts
11
4:30
La bohème, opera
12
4:35
Faust, opera
13
3:22
14
3:04
Carmen, opera
15
3:07
Boris Godunov, opera
16
3:37
Armide, opera in 5 acts, Wq. 45
17
4:15
Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), opera, WWV 86b
18
3:50
Mignon, opera in 3 acts
19
2:26
Tristan und Isolde, opera, WWV 90
20
5:41
Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades), opera, Op. 68
21
2:57
22
2:53

Track Listing - Disc 8

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Les contes d'Hoffmann, opera in 4 acts
1
2:46
Madame Favart, comic opera in 3 acts
2
3:14
Lischen et Fritzchen, operetta in 1 act
3
3:10
La boulangère a des écus, operetta in 3 acts
4
1:11
Les brigands, operetta in 3 acts
5
2:37
6
2:37
7
2:41
La vie parisienne, operetta in 5 acts, revised to 4 acts
8
2:17
La Périchole, operetta in 2 acts
9
1:48
La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, operetta in 3 acts
10
3:06
La femme à papa
11
2:40
12
2:04
13
0:57
La Fille de Madame Angot, operetta in 3 acts
14
3:01
Péché véniel
15
2:52
Les Travaux d'Hercule, operetta
16
2:12
Brummel, operetta in 3 acts
17
3:22
O mon bel inconnu, musical comedy in 3 acts
18
3:16
19
1:30
20
0:56
Philippine, operetta
21
3:03
L' Étoile, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts
22
3:06
Work(s)
23
4:13
La lettre de Jean-Pierre
24
3:27
25
2:28
26
3:10
27
3:26
Work(s)
28
2:21
29
3:04
La dame aux camelias, film score
30
2:57
blue highlight denotes track pick