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5 – French bass-baritone Hippolyte Belhomme (1854-1923) as a farcical Biju in Adolphe Adam’s opera « Le Postillon de Longjumeau », Monnaie, Brussels, 1907.

A favorite at the Opéra-Comique, he was endowed with a diminutive but alluring presence and a resounding voice. He enjoyed paying funny tricks to his colleagues and as shown here, he had a strong comic talent! He left a recording legacy.

French bass-baritone Hippolyte Belhomme (1854-1923)

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6 – French soprano Rose Caron (1857-1930) as Elisabeth (“Tannhäuser”), Opéra de Paris, ca. 1885-1886.

Following a modest debut and a stint as a chorister, she ruled as a primadonna, esteemed by composers and conductors alike. A respected personality in the Parisian posh circles. Her elegiac figure and acting skills were mesmerizing.

She helped funding the construction of the new Opéra-Comique and left a recording legacy.


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7 – Opéra-comique at its best: French soprano Lise Landouzy (1861-1943) and French tenor Edmond Clément (1867-1928) in “Manon”, Monnaie, Brussels, 1903.

The sheer vocal and stylistic splendor of Manon and the Chevalier des Grieux was saluted by the press as “the ideal interpretation of ‘Manon’”, shortly after composer Jules Massenet congratulated the artists in Paris in 1893. Both soloists left a recording legacy.

French soprano Lise Landouzy (1861-1943)

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8 – Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931) as Ophélie (“Hamlet”), Opéra de Paris, ca. 1890, a role in which she delivered vocal beauty paired with a dazzling technique.

Wherever she sang, she was greeted with rave critics, embodying a soprano’s dream come true. Her madness scene in “Hamlet” captured her audience until a ripe age, still sing beautifully the repertoire of her youth! She left a recording legacy.


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11 – Dutch baritone Henri Albers (1866-1926) in Herodiade (Massenet)

An outstanding baritone, he could learn his part almost photographically in one day in a gallery of more than 140 roles. When his life-size portrait as “Hamlet” by Alfred Bastien was presented to him during an official ceremony at the Monnaie, he fainted, overcome by emotion. He left a recording legacy.

Henri Albers in Herodiade Watermark Operas
Henri Albers in Herodiade

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12 – French bass Marcel Journet (1866-1933) as Méphistophélès (« Faust »), Opéra de Paris, 1931, one of the most memorable “Devils” of his generation …

This distinguished bass scored great successes throughout the world. Belgian tenor Fernand Ansseau (1890-1972) recalled that “his voice was as powerful as an organ”.

A born actor, he could tackle comic and dramatic parts alike, which all gave rise to long standing ovations and encores. He left a recording legacy.


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13 – French tenor Léon David (1867-1962) as a defiant Don José (« Carmen”), Opéra-Comique, 1905.

Born into a musical family, he had a hefty but surprisingly supple lyric voice which was compared to “a violin” by composer and violinist Armand Marsick (1877-1959). An accomplished and refined musician (he had a perfect ear), he became a distinguished voice teacher and author. He left a recording legacy.


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14 – French tenor Edmond Clément (1867-1928) as a menacing Don José (“Carmen”), Monnaie, Brussels, 1907, a role he sang successfully 180+ times, thanks to his dramatic instinct and handsome look…

Clément exemplified tonal beauty and phrasing, with a voice ideally tailored to opéra-comique, but in New York, his appearances were challenged by those of Enrico Caruso. Wounded during WW1, he reduced his operatic appearances and taught at Nice. He left a recording legacy.


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16 – Belgian tenor Laurent Swolfs (1867-1954) as Samson (“Samson et Dalila”), Monnaie, Brussels, 1906, sadly a sign of bad omen for him…

A dramatic tenor, reputed for his instinctive musicality and pathos, singing in five languages. After an illustrious career, he taught in Brussels.

Almost blind, he fell down the stairs of his home and died soon after! Author of an informative autobiography: « Souvenirs de Théâtre et de Coulisses”. He left a recording legacy.


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17 – French bass André Gresse (1868-1937) as an impressive Osmin in « Die Entführung aus dem Serail », Opéra Comique, 1905.

Endowed with an extended voice and an infectious ‘vis comica’, this versatile bass mastered a repertoire of more than 125 roles. A fixture at the Opéra and a respected musical figure, he taught at the Paris Conservatoire, forming many leading singers. He left a recording legacy.


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18 – French mezzo-soprano Charlotte Wyns (1868-1917) as “Carmen”, Opéra Comique, on a background note written in shorthand, 1904.

An Opéra-Comique top star, she sang with the best artists of her generation and premiered several operas, including “Sapho”. An admired and poignant “Carmen”, she sang Bizet’s opera 220 times! An iconic and beloved Belle-Epoque artist, she left a scarce recording legacy.


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20 – French soprano and actress Georgette Leblanc (1869-1941) as Anita (“La Navarraise”), Nice, 1912 at the center of a dispute over “Mélisande”…

Her companion, Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949), author of “Pelléas et Mélisande”, tried to convince Claude Debussy to let her create “Mélisande” in 1902, to no avail: a quarrel ensued and Mary Garden won.

Leblanc’s voice was rather conventional, but she was a remarkable actress. She left a recording legacy.


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21 – Italian soprano, actress, monologist and beauty queen Lina Cavalieri (1874-1944) as Leoncavallo’s “Zazá” to Raoul Gunsbourg (1860-1955), Saint Petersburg, 1901

A compelling beauty with innate acting skills, a distinctive voice and strong business acumen, her ambition was to become a celebrity beauty queen. Her talents took her to music-hall, operatic and theatrical stages worldwide. She died in the bombing of her house while trying to save her jewelry collection!.


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22 – Scottish soprano and seductress Mary Garden (1874-1967) as an eerie Katyusha in Franco Alfano’s “Resurrection”, Chicago Civic Opera, season 1925-1926.

The creator of “Pelléas et Mélisande”, she embodied vocal magnificence and refinement, remaining closely associated with “opéra-comique”. Katyusha was a triumph shared with Belgian tenor Fernand Ansseau (1890-1972) as Dimitri. She left a recording legacy.


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24 – Paul Bender, German bass and actor (1875-1947) as an ominous Hagen in Richard Wagner’s “Götterdämnerung”, Hofoper, Munich, ca. 1910.

A powerful bass and a consummate actor, following his 1914 concert at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, critics wrote that “His partners were dismayed by his devil-like histrionic abilities and unearthly expression” (Comoedia).

He later became a revered professor in acting and a mute film actor. He left a recording legacy.


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