Skip to main content
Lyric Coloratura Soprano

Yvonne Gall, French lyric soprano

By May 9, 2024No Comments

Yvonne Gall was a very well known and well regarded soprano of her time. She made her operatic debut at the Paris Opéra in 1908 as Mathilde, and remained on its roster until 1935; she also sang at the Opéra-Comique in Paris (1921–34). From 1918 to 1921 she was a member of the Chicago Grand Opera, then sang in San Francisco (1931).

I like several things about her voice. She has good breath control, and her legato is also very good. She is expressive while still singing what the composer wrote. See if you like her.

Berlioz, La damnation de Faust, “L’amour l’ardente flamme”

D’amour l’ardente flamme,
Consume mes beaux jours.
Ah! la paix de mon âme
A donc fui pour toujours!

Son départ, son absence
Sont pour moi le cercueil,
Et loin de sa présence,
Tout me paraît en deuil.
Alors ma pauvre tête
Se dérange bientôt,
Mon faible cœur s’arrête,
Puis se glace aussitôt.

Sa marche que j’admire,
Son port si gracieux,
Sa bouche au doux sourire,
Le charme de ses yeux,
Sa voix enchanteresse,
Dont il sait m’embrâser,
De sa main, la caresse,
Hélas! et son baiser,
D’une amoureuse flamme,
Consument mes beux jours!
Ah! le paix de mon âme
A donc fui pour toujours!

Je suis à ma fenêtre,
Ou dehors, tout le jour –
C’est pour le voir paraître,
Ou hâter son retour.
Mon cœur bat et se presse
Dès qu’il le sent venir,
Au gré de ma tendresse,
Puis-je le retenir!
O caresses de flamme!
Que je voudrais un jour
Voir s’exhaler mon âme
Dans ses baisers d’amour!

Berlioz, The damnation of Faust, “Love’s burning flame”

Love’s burning flame
Consumes my life.
Ah, my soul’s peace
Has fled for ever.

His departure, his absence
Are death to me,
And far from his presence
All seems to me in mourning.
Now my poor head
Is soon in turmoil,
My feeble heart stops,
Then at once freezes over.

His gait that I admire,
His carriage so graceful,
His mouth sweetly smiling,
The charm of his eyes,
His enchanting voice
With which he knows how to set me afire,
The caress of his hand,
Alas! and his kiss,
The flame of love
Consume my life.
Ah, my soul’s peace
Has fled for ever.

I am at my window
Or outside all day –
To see him appear,
Or hasten his return.
My heart beats and throbs faster
When it senses his coming,
O that through my tenderness
I might bring him back!
O burning caresses!
How I should wish one day
To see my soul sigh
In his loving kisses!

Massenet, Thaïs, “Air du miroir”

O mon miroir fidèle, rassure-moi.
Dis-moi que je suis belle et que je serai
belle éternellement !
Que rien ne flétrira les roses de mes lèvres,
Que rien ne ternira l’or pur de mes cheveux,
Dis-le-moi ! dis-le-moi !
Dis-moi que je suis belle et que je serai
belle éternellement !
Ah! je serai belle éternellement !
Ah! Tais-toi, voix impitoyable.
Voix qui me dis: Thaïs, tu vieilliras !
Un jour ainsi, Thaïs ne serait plus Thaïs !
Non! Non! je n’y puis croire,
Toi, Vénus, réponds-moi de ma beauté
Vénus, réponds-moi de son éternité !
Vénus, invisible et présente !
Vénus, enchantement de l’ombre
Vénus, réponds-moi, réponds-moi !
Dis-moi que je suis belle, etc.

Massenet, Thaïs, “Aria of the Mirror”

O my faithful mirror, comfort me.
Tell me that I am beautiful and that I shall
always be beautiful.
That nothing will wither the rose of my lips,
that nothing will tarnish the pure gold of my hair,
Tell me! Tell me!
Tell me that I am beautiful and that I shall
always be beautiful.
Ah! I will always be beautiful!
Ah, keep silent, pitiless voice.
The voice that tells me “Thais, you will grow old!”
And so, one day, “Thaïs will no longer be Thaïs!”
No! No! I will not believe it!
Venus, tell me I am beautiful!
Venus, tell me that my beauty is immortal!
Venus, invisible yet present!
Venus, spell of the darkness,
Venus, speak to me, speak to me!
Tell me I am beautiful, etc.

This is another of those cases where I have opted to be lazy. This aria is originally in Italian. The French, during a certain period, sang everything in French. Unfortunately, trying to find a French translation of this Italian aria is not worth the effort. The French is very close to the Italian. So, I have given you the Italian aria with an English translation. If you read the English as Gall sings, you will understand what the aria is about.

Verdi, Otello, “Aria del Salice”

Mia madre aveva una povera ancella,
innamorata e bella;
era il suo nome Barbara;
amava un uom che poi l’abbandonò.
Cantava una canzone,
la canzon del Salice.
(ad Emilia)
Mi disciogli le chiome.
Io questa sera
ho la memoria piena
di quella cantilena.
“Piangea cantando nell’erma landa,
piangea la mesta,
O Salce! Salce! Salce!
Sedea chinando sul sen la testa,
Salce! Salce! Salce!
Cantiamo! cantiamo!
Il salce funebre sarà la mia ghirlanda.”
(ad Emilia)
Affrettati; fra poco giunge Otello.
“Scorreano i rivi fra le zolle in fior,
gemea quel core affranto,
e dalle ciglia le sgorgava il cor
l’amara onda del pianto.
Salce! Salce! Salce!
Cantiamo! cantiamo!
Il salce funebre sarà la mia ghirlanda.
Scendean l’aucelli a vol dai rami cupi
verso quel dolce canto.
E gli occhi suoi piangean tanto, tanto,
da impietosir le rupi.”
(ad Emilia, levandosi un anello dal dito)
Riponi quest’anello.
Povera Barbara!
Solea la storia con questo
semplice suono finir:
“Egli era nato per la sua gloria,
io per amar…”
(ad Emilia)
Ascolta. Odo un lamento.
(Emilia fa qualche passo.)
Taci… Chi batte quella porta?
È il vento.

“Io per amarlo e per morir.
Cantiamo! cantiamo!
Salce! Salce! Salce!”
Emilia, addio.

Verdi, Othello, “The Willow Song”

My mother had a poor maidservant,
she was in love and pretty;
her name was Barbara;
she loved a man who then abandoned her.
She used to sing a song,
the song of “The Willow”.
(to Emilia)
Unbind my hair.
This evening
my memory is haunted
by that old refrain.
“She wept as she sang on the lonely heath,
the poor girl wept,
O Willow, Willow, Willow!
She sat with her head upon her breast,
Willow, Willow, Willow!
Come sing! Come sing!
The green willow shall be my garland.”
(to Emilia)
Make haste; Othello will soon be here.
“The fresh streams ran between the flowery
banks, she moaned in her grief,
in bitter tears which through her eyelids sprang
her poor heart sought relief.
Willow! Willow! Willow!
Come sing! Come sing!
The green willow shall be my garland.
Down from dark branches flew the birds
towards the singing sweet.
Sufficient were the tears that she did weep
that stones her sorrow shared.”
(to Emilia, taking a ring from her finger)
Lay this ring by.
Poor Barbara!
The story used to end
with this simple phrase:
“He was born for glory,
I to love…”
(to Emilia)
Hark! I heard a moan.
(Emilia takes a step or two.)
Hush… Who knocks upon that door?

‘Tis the wind.

“I to love him and to die.
Come sing! Come sing!
Willow! Willow! Willow!”
Emilia, farewell.
How mine eyes do itch!
That bodes weeping.
Good night.
(Emilia turns to leave.)
Ah! Emilia, Emilia, farewell!
Emilia, farewell!

Yvonne Gall
March 6, 1885 – August 21, 1972

Gall was renowned for her performances in both opera and operetta during the early 20th century. Gall began her career at the Paris Opera, where she debuted in 1906. She gained significant recognition for her roles in works by composers such as Massenet, Gounod, and Bizet.

One of her most notable roles was as the title character in Massenet’s opera “Manon,” which she performed to great acclaim. Gall’s voice was celebrated for its clarity, agility, and emotional depth, making her a favorite among audiences and critics alike.

In addition to her success in opera, Gall also excelled in operetta, performing in works by composers such as Offenbach and Lehár. Her versatility as a singer allowed her to transition seamlessly between the worlds of opera and operetta, further solidifying her reputation as a versatile and talented artist.

Throughout her career, Gall performed on stages across Europe. She remains remembered as one of the leading sopranos of her time.