Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

Jun 21, 2015

Jeanne Gerville-Réache (Contralto) ( Orthez, France 26 March 1882 – New York City, USA 5 January 1915)

Her father was the governor of the French Caribbean islands Guadeloupe and Martinique, and she spent her childhood in Martinique with him and her Spanish mother. She studied in Paris under Rosine Laborde through whom she met operatic soprano Emma Calvé, a former pupil of Laborde's. Calvé arranged for Gerville-Réache to make her professional opera début as Orphée in Gluck's ‘’Orphée et Eurydice’’ at the Opéra-Comique in 1899. Mezzo-soprano Pauline García-Viardot coached her for this first production and then continued to teach her for the next several years. Gerville-Réache was offered a permanent place at the Opéra-Comique in 1900 and she sang there through 1902. While there she sang roles in two world premieres, Catherine in Camille Erlanger's ‘’Le Juif polonais’’ (1900) and the role of Geneviève in Debussy's ‘’Pelléas et Mélisande’’ in 1902. Shortly after Pelléas et Mélisande, Gerville-Réache got in a heated argument with the Opéra-Comique 's director, Albert Carré, and she left the company. In 1903 she joined the roster at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels where she appeared in five operas over the next two seasons. She made her debut at the Royal Opera House, London, in 1905 in the role of Orpheus. In 1907, Gerville-Réache came to the United States for the first time to sing with the Manhattan Opera Company in New York City, where she performed roles until 1910. She notably reprised the role of Geneviève in the United States premiere of ‘’Pelléas et Mélisande’’ (1908) and gave a critically acclaimed performance as Dalila in Saint-Saëns' ‘’Samson et Dalila’’. She also sang in the world premiere of Jan Blockx's ‘’De Herbergprinses’’ (performed in Italian as ‘’Princesse d'Auberge’’, 1909), and in the United States premiere of Richard Strauss's ‘’Elektra’’ (1910) as Klytaemnestra, the latter of which she did not enjoy singing. In 1910 she married Georges Gibier Rambaud who was the director of the Pasteur Institute's branch in New York City. From 1910 until 1912, Gerville-Réache sang with the Chicago Grand Opera Company and appeared in operas in Boston and Philadelphia. She portrayed such roles as Dalila, the title role in Bizet's ‘’Carmen’’, Brangäne in Richard Wagner's ‘’Tristan und Isolde’’, and Fricka in Wagner's ‘’Die Walküre’’. From 1914 until 1915 she sang with the National Canadian Opera in Montreal. Gerville-Réache died at the early age of 32 from food poisoning in New York City.

Chronology of some appearances

1899-1902 Paris Opéra-Comique 
1903 Brussels Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie
1905 London Covent Garden
1907-1910 Manhattan Opera 
1910-1912 Chicago Grand Opera 


Victor, 1909-04-29
Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saëns): Mon coeur s'ouvre 88184 C6981
Sapho (Gounod): O ma lyre immortelle 88166 C7024

Victrola, 1909-04-29
Werther (Massenet): Va! laisse couler mes larmes 81091 B7022

Victor, 1909-10-30
Reine de Saba (Gounod): Plus grand, dans son obscurité 88205 C8332

Victor, 1910-12-09
Carmen (Bizet): L'amour est un oiseau rebelle (Habanera) 88278 C8334

Victor, 1911-05-05
Vivandière (Godard): Viens avec nous, petit 87080 B8333
Paul et Virginie (Massé): Parmi les lianes 88317 C9700

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