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Michel Sénéchal, French lyric tenor

By July 12, 2021March 19th, 2023No Comments

In French song, the singer becomes a painter, describing a landscape, suggesting an emotion…One must use the entire palette of colors of the voice…”
— Michel Sénéchal

I think that French, when properly sung, is one of the most beautiful languages to hear. Sénéchal was a great French singer who had a very long career. He has a resonant sound and should be a model for anyone singing in French. Note that Sénéchal avoids over-nasalizing everything.

Scène VI.
GEORGES, seul.

(Il fait nuit totale. Pendant la ritournelle de l’air suivant, Georges va rallumer le feu qui s’éteint, pose ses deux pistolets sur la table, etc.)

Viens, gentille dame,
De toi, je réclame
La foi des sermens.
A tes lois fidèles,
Me voici, ma belle,
Parais, je t’attends.
Que ce lieu solitaire
Et que ce doux mystère
Ont de charmes pour moi !
Oui, je sens qu’à ta vue
L’âme doit être émue ;
Mais ce n’est pas d’effroi.

Viens, gentille dame, etc.

Déjà la nuit plus sombre
Sur nous répand son ombre :
Qu’elle tarde à venir !
Dans mon impatience,
Le cœur me bat d’avance
D’attente et de plaisir.

Viens, gentille dame, etc.

(A la fin de la cavatine on entend un air de harpe, et Anna paraît.)

Scene VI.
GEORGES (alone).

(It’s pitch black. During the ritornello of the next tune, Georges goes to rekindle the fire, which goes out, puts his two pistols on the table, etc.)

Come on, kind lady,
From you, I demand
The faith of sermons.
To your faithful laws,
Here I am, my beautiful one,
Appear, I wait for you.
That this lonely place
And that this sweet mystery
Have charms for me!
Yes, I feel that the sight of you
One’s soul must be moved;
But there is no fear.

Come on, kind lady, etc.

Already the night darker
Its shadow spreads over us:
How long to come!
In my impatience
My heart is beating ahead
Expectation and pleasure.

Come on, kind lady, etc.

(At the end of the cavatina a harp tune is heard, and Anna appears.)

Michel Sénéchal, February 11, 1927 – April 1, 2018

Sénéchal was an undisputed master of the French repertoire, he was intimately connected to the great composers such as Charpentier, Hahn, Honegger, Messian, and Poulenc, as well as the renowned master teacher Nadia Boulanger. A student at the Paris Conservatory along side Régine Crespin and Gabriel Bacquier, he studied with the great French baritone Camille Maurane, as well as Gabriel Pollet, the last disciple of Fauré, Duparc, Satie and Debussy.

Michel Sénéchal led a brilliant career, starring on the world’s most prestigious stages including the Paris, Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, Milan, London, Bruxelles, Moscow, Madrid, Barcelona and San Francisco opera houses as well as the Metropolitan in New York. He can be heard on over a hundred recordings. Renowned for his impeccable style and dramatic presence, he was one of Karajan’s preferred singers. The maestro invited him to perform in Mozart’s greatest operas in Vienna, where he also took on many other prominent roles alongside the most celebrated singers of our times, under the most renowned conductors.

Michel Sénéchal was born in Paris. During his childhood, he sang as an alto in the choir at his grade school and at his church; then after a period of classical study, he entered into the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris where he studied voice with Gabriel Paulet. He won the 1er Prix de Chant in 1950 and was immediately engaged with the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels where he made his début in Mârouf. In 1958, he made his débuts at the Paris Opera and at l’Opéra-Comique where he excelled at his chosen repertoire: Mireille, Mignon, Lakmé, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Les Indes Galantes, Cosi Fan Tutte, Le Compte Ory, Platée, L’Incorrazione di Poppea…

While his light tenor voice was perfectly suited to leading roles of Mozart and Rossini which he sang in his early career, he dedicated the second half of his career to the repertoire for character tenor. Thanks to his unique artistry and exceptional humor, he became the premiere performer of these roles.

Established as an absolute master of French singing, he was professor and director at the Opéra de Paris School for fifteen years; he offered classes at Columbia University and New York’s Mannes College. He also gave master classes to young singers at the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera and taught at the International Vocal Arts Institute in Montreal.

After making his debut in 1950, he continued to be active for over 60 years as a performer and master teacher.

François-Adrien Boieldieu, (born Dec. 16, 1775, Rouen, France—died Oct. 8, 1834, Jarsy), composer who helped transform the French opéra comique into a more serious form of early romantic opera.

Boieldieu studied in Rouen under the organist Charles Broche and composed numerous operas and piano sonatas. His sonatas are remarkable for their form, and they constitute the first important body of piano works by a French composer. In 1796 he settled in Paris, where he met Étienne Méhul and Luigi Cherubini. The following year he produced three comic operas—La Famille suisse, L’Heureuse nouvelle, and Le Pari ou Mombreuil et Merville. He became professor of piano at the conservatory in 1798 and composed his successful operas Le Calife de Bagdad (1800) and Ma Tante Aurore (1803). From 1804 to 1810 he directed the opera at St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1816 he became director of music to Louis XVIII, in 1817 a member of the French Institute, and in 1820 professor of composition at the conservatory. His main operas of this period were Jean de Paris (1812), Le Petit Chaperon rouge (1818; “Little Red Riding Hood”), and his masterpiece, La Dame blanche (1825; “The White Lady”). Composed on a libretto by Eugène Scribe, derived from Sir Walter Scott’s novels The Lady of the Lake, Guy Mannering, and Monastery, it had received 1,700 performances by 1914. Boieldieu’s work illustrates the evolution of French operatic music in the generation following the French Revolution. In its lighter aspects, his style was compared to Gioacchino Rossini’s. His scenes of mystery and romance, particularly in La Dame blanche, are akin to those of Carl Maria von Weber. He also composed numerous romances for voice and harp or piano and a concerto for harp (1801).