Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

Apr 16, 2012

Alice Verlet (Soprano) (Belgium 1873 - Paris, France 1934)

The Queen of the Night in ''The Magic Flute''

She was a Belgian-born operatic coloratura soprano active primarily in France. She sang principal roles at the operas in Lyon, Nice, and Monte Carlo; at His Majesty's Theater in London; at La Monnaie in Brussels; and at the Paris Opéra and Opéra-Comique. In the United States, although not entirely absent from the operatic stage, she was known primarily as a concert singer and was a featured singer on Edison records.
Alice Verlet was born in 1873 as Alice Verheyden in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, where her father was an official. She commenced musical study at age 8 with lessons in piano and harmony; vocal training did not follow until age 16, when she studied under Mme. Moriani, then a respected voice teacher in Brussels. Within four years, in 1893, Verlet made her professional debut at Leuven, immediately after which she sang for the Belgian Queen and members of the nobility in Brussels.
Verlet made her debut at the Opéra-Comique in 1894. as Philine in Thomas's Mignon On July 16, 1895, she appeared in England, participating in a concert at the Masonic Hall in Birmingham presented by Mme. Moriani to showcase her pupils. Two other participants, now long forgotten, had already made debuts in London, but with some prescience Mme. Moriani emphasized to the press that the Opéra-Comique had recently engaged Verlet as prima donna.
From that point forward, Verlet enjoyed a successful career, particularly in Francophone Europe. Her debut at the Monnaie in Brussels took place on September 7, 1901 in Verdi's Rigoletto; she remained a member of that company for the balance of the season and later would make periodic appearances there. Her debut at the Paris Opéra, as Blondine in a French-language production of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, came in 1903. She sang her first Rigoletto in that house on April 11, 1904; Adelina Patti, who was in attendance, conspicuously displayed enthusiasm for Verlet's singing and offered congratulations to Verlet's teacher, Mme. Moriani.
In 1905 and 1906, Verlet played the Naiad in the first modern revival of Gluck's Armide in Paris. Other cast members included Lucienne Bréval, Agustarello Affré, Dinh Gilly, and Geneviève Vix. Two years later, she was at the Théâtre de la Gaîté-Lyrique for a run of Lakmé with David Devriès and Félix Vieuille.
Verlet assembled a company and undertook a tour of England in 1910. Other members included contralto Edna Thornton and pianist Mark Hambourg; the accompanist was Cyril Towsey of Wellington, New Zealand, who had carved out a career performing in such ad hoc groups. In July, Verlet returned to Birmingham, the scene of her English artistic "coming out" 15 years before, as a participant in daily concerts for the city's centenary fetes, although perhaps upstaged by a massive air show, not unmarred by fatal crashes of the then-novel machines. She was again in distinguished artistic company, organized and directed by Dan Godfrey: other participants included singers Nellie Melba, Agnes Nicholls, and Harry Plunket Greene; pianists Wilhelm Backhaus, Myra Hess, and Benno Moiseiwitsch; and violinist Mischa Elman. Verlet made her London debut one month earlier as a participant in the Thomas Beecham Opera Comique Season at His Majesty's Theater. As in her Paris Opera debut, the opera was Die Entführung aus dem Serail, but now Verlet played Constanze opposite Maggie Teyte as Blonde and Robert Radford as Osmin, all under Beecham's baton.
Shortly after completing her first season at the Opéra-Comique, Verlet sang at the residence of the American Ambassador to Belgium. The result was an invitation to make her first visit to the United States, which led to her US debut in August 1896. Among her early US engagements was at the sold-out May 10, 1897 inaugural concert of the Fanny Mendelssohn Society, a women's choral group founded and directed by J. Alfred Pennington, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Interspersed with selections for the chorus and for harpist Maude Morgan, Verlet sang two songs, "The Kiss" by Helmund and "Les Filles de Cadiz" by Léo Delibes; two operatic excerpts, the Spinning Song from Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer and the Shadow Song from Meyerbeer's Dinorah; and, together with all the other artists assembled, including accompanist Charlotte Blackman, Horatio Parker's part song for women's chorus, composed only five years earlier, "The Fisher." Verlet's interpolation of a high concluding note in the Meyerbeer earned her a standing ovation and encore.
At the time of the Scranton performance, Verlet counted 25 operas in her repertoire; could sing fluently in French, Italian, and German; and planned to make her New York debut at Carnegie Hall on the following November 1 in a Damrosch concert. Some twenty-five years later, ending a concert tour on March 17, 1922, Verlet would revisit that hall to present a program including European operatic arias "from Mozart to Massenet" and songs by US composers including Henry Hadley and Thurlow Lieurance. Accompanying her were pianist J. Warren Erb and a young Spanish-born classical violinist from Cuba named Xavier Cugat,  who soon would shift genres and go on to fame as the "rhumba king", the first leader of a successful Latin dance band in the United States.
Although primarily a concert singer in the United States, Verlet did perform some opera. In 1915 the Chicago Opera engaged her as Philene in several performances of Thomas's Mignon. Also in the cast were Conchita Supervia, Charles Dalmorès, and Marcel Journet. She also performed with the Boston Opera.
The sort of elaborate ornamentation in which she excelled having fallen out of fashion, Verlet retired from performing in 1920. Thereafter, she taught voice until her death in Paris in 1934.

Chronology of some appearances

1902 Bruxelles Theatre Royal de la Monnaie  L'enlevement au serail (Costance)
1903 Parigi Theatre de l'Opera, Palais Garnier L'enlevement au serail (Blondine)
1905 Parigi Theatre de l'Opera, Palais Garnier Le Cid (infante)



APGA, Paris 1906?
Rigoletto (Verdi): O doux nom 1056
Rigoletto (Verdi): Au temple 1057
Faust (Gounod): Le roi de Thule 1070

G&T, Paris 1907
Hamlet (Thomas): A vos jeux, mes amis 33677  5375h

Gramophone, Paris 1908
Cid (Massenet): Couplets de l'infanta 33733 5932h
Rigoletto (Verdi): O douce nom 033052 603i

Gramophone, London 1909-06-08
Serenata a Laura (Pons, words Caruso) 7-53000 10245e

Gramophone, London 1909-06-14
Laura, Hymne d'amour (Pons) 2-033004  3143f

Edison, New York 1915?
Faust (Gounod): Air des bijoux BA 28237 3585-A
Mireille (Gounod):  O légère hirondelle (Arietta) 80750 3559-C
Rigoletto (Verdi): Caro nome 82080 3501-B
Huguenots (Meyerbeer): O beau pays 82090 3553-C

EdisonNew York 1915-04-15?
Stabat Mater (Rossini): Quis est homo with  Margaret Matzenauer PA 29036 3689-A

Edison, New York 1915
Nymphes et Sylvains (Bemberg) BA 28229 4282-C
La vièrge à la crèche (Perilhou) BA 28224 4297-C
Carnival of Venice, pt 1 pt 2 (Benedict) 83070, 83070 3826-C 3855-A

Edison, New York 1916
La Brabanconne BA 28266 4670-C
Ernani (Verdi): Ernani, involami BA 28245 4709-B
Le Crucifix (Faure) with Orphee Langevin BA 28257 4712-B
Hamlet (Thomas): Doute de la lumière with Orphee Langevin 82265 4727-B
Les filles de Cadiz (Delibes) BA 28264 4861-C

Edison, New York 1917?
Roméo et Juliette (Gounod): Ange adorable with Ralph Errolle 82211 5961-C

Edison, New York 1917-06-18
Rigoletto (Verdi): Bella figlia dell'amore with Guido Ciccolini, Merle Alcockand and Arthur Middleton 29006 5629-C

Edison, New York 1917-09-14
Lucia di Lammermoor (Donizetti): Chi mi frena with Ciccolini, Middleton, Scott, Baroni & Alcock 82266 5787-A

Edison, New York 1918?
Chanson d'amour (Hollman) 82178 6336-A

Verlet by Stampanoni

No comments:

Post a Comment