|Liner Notes: Suzanne Balguerie; Germaine Corney - Operatic Recital|
Balguerie and Corney were great favorites with French audiences of the '20's and '30's. Balguerie, because of the grand opera she sang most frequently, would by usual standards be associated with the Paris Opera exclusively. Not so. The Opera Comique, home of opera with spoken dialogue, also presented such unlikely works as Don Giovanni, Tristan and Isolde, Penelope (Faure), Tosca, Pelleas et Melisande, Iphigenie en Tauride (Gluck), Contes d'Hoffmann and Le Nozze diFigaro. In all these, Balguerie appeared at the Comique (and also at the Opera where there was an overlapping of repertory). Actually, she pursued concurrent careers in the two houses, alternating between the Comique's Penelope or Iphigenie and the Opera's Brunnhilde (Walkure) or Marguerite (Faust). As a rule, she impersonated women who had been tormented by a fate beyond their control. She embodies feeling learned through suffering, while Germaine Corney, exclusively at the Comique, was cast usually in happy roles - the quintessence of girlish, carefree charm, in keeping with her light, lyric sensuous voice.
Neither singer is new on Club "99". Both adorned Max de Schauensee's French Showcase (now on Club 99 CD 507/80): Balguerie with two selections from Dukas's Ariane et BarbeBleue, and Corney with two French art songs. Corney also was one of the soloists on Tales of Offenbach (now on Club 99 CD 511/12), admired in Perichole and Madame Favart.
Balguerie began life at Le Havre in 1888 and died at 85 in Grenoble in 1973. Retired from the stage in 1950, she became a voice teacher at Grenoble in 1951. She had her vocal training at the Paris National Conservatory and made her debut at the Comique in Ariane et Barbe-Bleue in 1921. (It is difficult to ascertain where she sang before this.) This was the Maeterlinck story which Dukas had composed in 1907 when it served as a vehicle for Maeterlinck's wife, Georgette Leblanc. In a 1927 performance, two of the roles were filled by Mlles. Germaine Corney (Melisande) and the fine mezzo, Germaine Cernay (Selysette) whose names were then as now confused.
Balguerie's career at the Comique bloomed as she took on numerous "creator" roles: (1922) Quand La Cloche Sonnera, by Alfred Bachelet (with Rene Lapelletrie/Rene Verdiere, Lafont/Beckmans), and Polypheme by Jean Cras (with Vanni Marcoux as Polypheme, Max Bussy as Acis). In 1923, a CR role was Milhaud's brieflived La Brebis Egaree. In 1924, there was Appel de la Mer - Rabaud's music to John M. Synge's Riders to the Sea (with Germaine Baye, Madeleine Sibille, Raymond Gilles, and Louis Morturier). Firmly situated in the Comique, the singer made her debut at the Opera in 1923 as Brunnhilde. In 1927, she was in a CR role in Les Burgraves by Leo Sachs (with CesbronBiseur, Barthe, Tessandra & MM. Burbon, Delmas, Fontaine, Bigneau and Cambon). Back once more at the Salle Favart (her most serious rivals being Lubin and Yvonne Gall), she appeared as Antonia (Contes d'Hoffmann), Donna Anna, Tosca, and Melisande. In 1923, in Le Nozze di Figaro, she sang the countess (with Mlle. Roger as Bartolo, De Creus as Don Basilio). The following three operas were sung interchangeably at both houses - Tristan, Penelope and Iphigenie en Tauride. A Tristan at the Comique in 1925 had Madeleine Sibille as Brangaene, Oscar Ralf as the male lead, Henri Albers as Kurwenal, F. Vieuille as King Mark, Leon Niel as the Shepard. In 1927 again at the Comique, Penelope was given with Germaine Corney (Philo) and MM. Oger, Vieuille, L. Niel, Roger Bourdin; it was repeated in 1931 with the same cast except that Muratore had the tenor lead as Ulysses. At the Opera once more, she created two roles: (1932) Un Jardin sur l'Oronte - by Bachelet (with Mlles. Ferrer, Mahe, Ricquier, & MM. de Trevi, Singher, Endreze, Narron, Luccioni). Also (1934) La Princesse Lointaine - a play by Rostand, set to music by Withkowsky (with Mlles. Almona and Descamps & MM. Singher, Le Clezio, Fabert and Etcheverry).
In addition to being a dedicated and much loved lady ofthe opera tic stage, Balguerie recorded for Polydor and Columbia (electrical recordings).
Corney describes herself as a graduate of the National Conservatory of Music which she attended between 16 and 19, and from which she carried off three prizes and an award by the Opera Comique. Then, engaged by the Comique, at that time under the management of Albert Carre and Vincent Isola (1919 -1925), she asked for a 6 month leave in order to give concerts at the Municipal theater of Rio de Janeiro and at the Colon of Buenos Aires. She must have extended her visit because she says that at the age of 19, dazzled by her collaborators, she made her Monte Carlo debut as Stephano in Romeo (with a gracious Fanny Heldy in the lead role) and proceeded to Siebel in Faust with the vocally magnificent Muratore and the theatrically superb Vanni Marcoux - "Quelle distribution!...Jetais jeune! J'avais 19 ans! Quelle multiplication maintenant!"
At the Opera Comique where she stayed through 1936, she made her debut as Micaela - a role which she later recorded on Polydor in an abridged Carmen (with Suzanne Broh1y, Henry St. Cricq, Jose Beckmans). In an appearance in 1930 in the same role, she sang with Lucy Perelli, Gaston Micheti, Roger Bourdin. There followed roles great and small. Among the latter, some in typically French, unexported works: Philo in Penelope (1924) with the principal roles sung by Claire Croiza, Rene Lapelletrie and Felix Vieuille; Melisande in Dukas's Ariane et Barbe-Bleue (1927), a slave in La Hulla by M. Samuel-Rousseau, and appearances in Sylvio Lazzari's La Lepreuse (with Sibille, Raveau, Perelli, Legrand & Vieuille), in Lakme as Ellen, in Louise as Irma, in La Reve by Alfred Bache1et, and a small CR role in the Indes Galantes (Rameau revised by Dukas) with Brothier and Villabella.
More important were her Sophie in Werther (with Thill/Friant), Mimi in several galas with Lauri-Vo1pi, Mignon, the Princess in Colette - Ravel's L'Enfant et les Sortileges, Marenka in La Fiancee Vendue (The Bartered Bride), Aline in Xavier Leroux's Le Chemmeau, Lola in Cavalleria, Marion in Ganne's Saltimbanques, Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Vincinette in Mireille, Rozenn in Roi d'Ys, Alexina in Chabrier's Roi Malgre Lui, the Virgin in Messager's Beatrice, and Myrto in Aphrodite (Pierre Louys - C. Erlanger). In 1906, this had first seen the light with Mary Garden, Leon Bey1e, David Devries. The 1926 cast with Corney had as leads Raymonde Vinonti, Madeleine Sibille, Maurice Oger, Roger Bourdin.
One must not omit CR roles such as that of the queen in Le Roi Dagobert (Samuel-Rousseau), Dolores in La Famme et le Pantin (better known as Zandonai's Conchita - 1929) with Mmes. Andree Cortot, Aimee Lecouvreur, Suzanne Duman, Gaston Micheletti, Louis Morturierr, Paul Payen, Louis Arnoult). Also, Fee Tulipe in Riquet a la Houpe (Georges Hue) 1928 with Luart, Ducuing, G. Cernay, Charles Friant, Julien Lafont, Roger Bourdin, Victor Pujol. Lastly, the Princess in Laparra's Joueur de Viole (with Brothier & Micheletti).
All the foregoing made up Corney's life at the Opera Comique. But she also appeared at the Chatelet in Rose de France with Roger Bourdin and in Au Soleil du Mexique with Andre Bauge. She was a natural choice for light opera in Lausanne, Switzerland in leading roles in Messager's Veronique, Lecocq's Le Petit Duc, and Offenbach's Vie Parisienne. Then, there were opera engagements in Belgium, Vichy, Vittel, Lyon, Lille, Limoges, le Touquet. At the GaiteLyrique, she appeared in Mignon, Veronique, and Vieux Garcons, This last by Louis Urgel (1931) was a CR role which she first sang here and then presented at the Comique.
In 1939, Corney was engaged by French radio and left for Rennes to sing under the direction of Inghilbrecht and Gressier. There, Inghilbrecht orchestrated Moussorgsky's Nursery Cycle for her and conducted various performances in which she was feature: Comte d'Ory (Rossini), Une Education Manquee and L'Etoile (Chabrier) as well as Boris Godunov where she played the role of Feodor. The war seems to have put an end to Germaine Corney's singing career. Like so many of her colleagues, she became a teacher. For five years, she taught singing at the Conservatory of Tryoes, the Luxembourg Conservatory, and at the Goeblins in Paris.
On records, aside from the aforemetioned Carmen, she appeared in a set of Boheme on Polydor with Madeleine Sibille, M. Claudel and A Gaudin. There are also numerous records on Polydor, Parlophone, and Columbia. There does not seem to be a poor one in the lot.
One other point. It is easy to confuse Germaine Corney with Germaine Cernay. The voices are dissimilar; it is only the names that cause trouble. Mlle. Corney's name is her own. It was Germaine Pointu who took the stage name of Germaine Cernay and thereby precipitated headaches for mailmen, reviewers, and other who even now, 25 years later after Cernay's death, are still confusing the artists. Things were not made easier by the fact that they joined the Comique within a year of each other. In Mignon, each played the lead, Cernay singing the mezzo version, Corney the soprano. They both were in Ariane et BarbeBleue and Riquet a la Houpe. Both played Vincinette in Mireille. There must have been other junctures which I have missed. Mlle. Corney speaks of Cernay as a friend whose one flaw was that she took a fancy to a name so like Corney's. She is grateful, however, that Cernay was a fine artist. "Si cela avait ete le contraire!"
It has been my pleasure to re-unite on this disc two excellent artists who sang together about fifty years ago. I acknowledge my gratitude to Max de Schauensee, critic and collector, who campaigned for this combination of two of his favorite artists and who gave me free access to his record library.
1 LOHENGRIN (Wagner): ELSAS TRAUM; Poly. 566104 5'00"
Tracks 1-7: Suzanne Balguérie
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