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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)
Hippolyte Belhomme - The Pretty Maid of Perth (Bizet) - When the flame of l`amour

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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)
Lise Landouzy - Lakmé (Delibes) - In the forest near us

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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
Henri Albers - Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saens) - Be cursed forever

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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.

Marcel Journet - Faust (Gounod) - The Golden Calf

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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.

Edmond Clement - The Pearl Fishers (Bizet) - At the bottom of the holy temple (with Journet)

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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.

Laurent Swolfs - Serenade (Gounod), sung in Dutch, ca. 1910

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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.

Wyns Charlotte - Carmen (Bizet) - Act I: seguidilla By the ramparts of Seville

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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.

Georgette Leblanc - Thaïs (Massenet) - Love is a rare virtue

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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!.

Lina Cavalieri - Manon Lescaut (Puccini) - In quelle trine morbide (1910)

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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.

Paul Bender - Der Wanderer

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26 – French contralto Marie Delna (1875-1932) as Didon (“Les Troyens à Carthage”), creation at the Opéra-Comique, June 9, 1892. It marked her extraordinary debut, aged 17. Edmond Clément sang the role of Hylas.

With her opulent voice and commanding stage presence, she was dubbed the “sensational contralto”. Despite her prestigious international career and after a foray into teaching, she died in poverty, her funeral being paid by her former colleagues of the Opéra.

Marie Delna - The Trojans at Carthage (Berlioz) - Dear Tire (1912)

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28 – Belgian mezzo-soprano and actress Marguerite Sylva (1875-1957). From “Carmen” to Broadway and Hollywood…

Her life wife was a fairy tale come true. From the Opéra-Comique to the Drury Lane Theater and Broadway musicals, she was an amazing stage performer, actress and singer, who quickly became a household name. She crashed her car into a house driving at full speed and died short after, left a recording legacy.

Marguerite Sylva - Carmen (Bizet) - Act I: seguidilla By the ramparts of Seville

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31 – French soprano Suzanne Cesbron-Viseur (1879-1967) in Jules Massenet’s “Ariane”, a role she rehearsed with the composer himself.

A stylish lady, she was one of the most distinguished ambassadors of French opera, and a close friend of many composers. A delicate and intuitive soprano, she was also an exceptional concert soloist.

She became a respected professor and taught singers such as Germaine Lubin and Régine Crespin, etc.), left a recording legacy.

Suzanne Cesbron-Viseur - Sappho (Massenet) - For a year I was your wife (1929)

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33 – Elusive French tenor David Devriès (1881-1936) as Jean in Massenet’s “Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame”, Monnaie, Brussels, October 14, 1920.

Born into a reputed musical family, his career epitomized French vocal refinement with a small, but perfectly placed voice. He was instrumental in helping to persuade Scottish soprano Mary Garden (1874-1967) to sing the tenor part of Jean at the Metropolitan Opera in 1908. He left a recording legacy.

David Devries - The Juggler of Notre Dame (Massenet), Act I: O freedom, my love!

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34 – Belgian bass Albert Huberty (1881-1955) as a realistic old Hebrew (“Samson et Dalila”), Opéra de Paris, 1919.

A legendary bass, he sang over 3200 performances, from buffo parts, to lyric or dramatic roles. His stentorian voice was considered alarmingly powerful and he could recreate almost any part instantly. However, as a professor, he simply sat at the piano, and sang …for himself, uncaring towards his pupils! He left a recording legacy.

Albert Huberty - Faust (Gounod) - Serenade

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39 – French baritone Léon Ponzio (1884-1947) as a striking Bruno, creation of “Oudelette”, opera by Charles Radoux, Monnaie, Brussels, April 21, 1912.

Of Italian descent, gifted with a warm and powerful voice, he was the quintessential singing comedian in a repertoire encompassing more than 150 roles. He was also a talented painter and graphic designer, before devoting his time to teaching. He left a recording legacy.

Watermark Operas
Leon Ponzio - The Song of the Desert (Romberg) - Song of the desert, ca. 1930

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42 – French soprano Lucyle Panis (1887-1966) as Maliella in Wolf-Ferrari’s “I Gioelli della Madonna”, creation, Monnaie, Brussels, 1913.

42 – French soprano Lucyle Panis (1887-1966) as Maliella in Wolf-Ferrari’s “I Gioelli della Madonna”, creation, Monnaie, Brussels, 1913.

She was famous for her beauty and commanding stage deportment. Her “shapely figure” was praised as much as her voice! Her performance of “Thaïs” at the Opéra Comique in 1921 was considered to be “too provocative”… She left a recording legacy.

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45 – The indomitable Belgian contralto Jeanne Montfort (1889-1964) as a plump and vigorous Dalila (“Samson et Dalila”) her debut role at the Opéra de Paris in 1921.

Endowed with what she herself described as “a voice from the Gods”, she sang a variety of contralto and alto roles, before embarking on a successful teaching journey in Paris. She reportedly had a private affair with a reputed lady fashion designer … She left a recording legacy.

Jeanne Montfort - Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saens) - My heart opens to your voice (1930)

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46 – Belgian tenor Fernand Ansseau (1890-1972) as Orphée (« Orphée et Eurydice »), Monnaie, Brussels, 1922. On October 11, 1921, he created the revised tenor version at the Opéra-Comique to huge acclaim.

A pupil of Désiré Demest and Ernest Van Dyck, he was one of the most sought after tenors of his generation who cut short his career at its peak in 1940 at the outbreak of WW2 just after German invasion to devote himself to fishing, archery, “pétanque” (boules) and to teaching. He left a recording legacy.

Fernand Ansseau - Orpheus and Eurydice (Gluck) - J`ai lost my Eurydice

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47 – Belgian soprano Emma Luart (1892-1968) as the Queen in Samuel-Rousseau’s opéra-comique « Le bon Roi Dagobert », Opéra-Comique, 1920.

With her brilliant voice, distinctive musicality and stylish looks, she was dubbed “the perfect voice” and “La Luart” by her aficionados. Her histrionic abilities were also greeted as “incredibly convincing”.

One of Opéra-Comique’s most beloved artists, she left a recording legacy.

Emma Luart - Thaïs (Massenet) - L`amour is a rare virtue (1928)