Episode 144. Mad about Mesplé

Episode 144. Mad about Mesplé



Two years ago this month, the world lost the great French soprano Mady Mesplé at the age of 89. Celebrated as the finest French coloratura of her era (and one of the best examples ever of that dying breed), Mesplé was officially diagnosed in 1996 with Parkinson’s, which had already gravely affected her health for years. For me there is a personal connection here, as next week it is eleven years since my own father died of the same disease. The focus this week, however, is on not on Mesplé’s disease, but her extraordinary vocalism, musicianship, and versatility. Not only was she unmatched in the operatic repertoire for which she was justly celebrated, she was also a mistress of the mélodie, a charming interpreter of French operetta, and a fearless interpreter of contemporary repertoire. This episode examines her contributions in all of those genres, as well as celebrating her delicious expressions of musical humor, and her surprising depth, even profundity, in examining the darker recesses of human experience. On this episode, Mesplé is aided by fellow singers Gabriel Bacquier, Michel Dens, Jane Berbié, Alain Vanzo, and Michel Trempont; pianists Aldo Ciccolini, Jeanine Reiss, Dalton Baldwin, Gabriel Tacchino, and Michel Legrand; and conductors Georges Prêtre, Pierre Dervaux, Michel Plasson, Jean-Pierre Marty, Gilbert Amy, and Jean-Claude Hartemann.

Here is the link to Mesplé’s extraordinary late-career live performance of Francis Poulenc and Jean Cocteau’s harrowing monologue, La Dame de Monte-Carlo: https://youtu.be/r6QwlvlonRo


Ambroise Thomas, Jules Barbier, Michel Carré (after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe): Je suis Titania la blonde (Mignon). Mady Mesplé, Jean-Pierre Marty, Orchestre du Théâtre National de l’Opéra [1968]

Ambroise Thomas, Jules Barbier, Michel Carré (after William Shakespeare): Et maintenant, écoutez ma chanson (Hamlet). Mady Mesplé, Jean-Pierre Marty, Orchestre du Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris [1968]

Fritz Kreisler, arr. Michel Legrand: Schön Rosmarin. Mady Mesplé, Michel Legrand [1964]

As Hilda Mack in the French premiere of Elegy for Young Lovers by Hans Werner Henze

Arnold Schoenberg, Maurice Maeterlinck (German translation by K.L. Ammer [Karl Klammer]: Herzgewächse, Op. 20. Mady Mesplé, Gilbert Amy, Ensemble du Domaine Musical [live Paris 07.XII.1970]

Louis Ganne, Maurice Ordonneau: La Bergère Colinette (Les Saltimbanques). Mady Mesplé, Jean-Pierre Marty, Orchestre de l’Association des Concerts Lamoureux [1968]

Janine Reiss (23 November 1921 – 2 June 2020)

Charles Gounod, Antoine de Baïf: Ô ma belle rebelle. Mady Mesplé, Janine Reiss [1975]

Gabriel Fauré, Armand Silvestre: Aurore, Op. 39/1. Mady Mesplé, Janine Reiss [1975]

(19 December 1931 – 12 December 2019)

Claude Debussy, Stéphane Mallarmé: Apparition, L.57. Mady Mesplé, Dalton Baldwin [ca. 1978]

Louise de Vilmorin (4 April 1902 – 26 December 1969)

Francis Poulenc, Louise de Vilmorin: Mon cadavre est doux comme un gant (Fiancailles pour rire, FP101/4). Mady Mesplé, Gabriel Tacchino [1984]

Charles Chaynes (11 July 1925 – 24 June 2016)

Charles Chaynes: Tu es venu, Gyla, tu as bien fait, comme j’avais envie de toi (Quatre Poèmes de Sapho, No. 3). Mady Mesplé, Trio à Cordes Français [Gérard Jarry, Serge Collot, Michel Tournus] [1971]

Aldo Ciccolini 15 August 1925 – 1 February 2015)

Erik Satie, M. God [Mimi Godebska]: Daphénéo. Mady Mesplé, Aldo Ciccolini [1974]

Jane Berbié

Gioacchino Rossini: Duetto buffo di due gatti. Mady Mesplé, Jane Berbié, Jeanine Reiss [1972]

Michel Trempont (28 July 1928 – 30 January 2021)

Jacques Offenbach, Hector Crémieux, Ludovic Halévy: Bel insecte à l’aile dorée [Duo de la Mouche] (Orphée aux Enfers). Mady Mesplé, Michel Trempont, Michel Plasson, Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse [1979]

Michel Dens (22 June 1911 – 19 December 2000)

André Messager, Georges Duval, Albert Vanloo: Va, petit âne [Duo de l’âne] (Véronique). Mady Mesplé, Michel Dens, Jean-Claude Hartemann, Orchestre de l’Association des Concerts Lamoureux [1969]

Alain Vanzo (2 April 1928 – 27 January 2002)

George Bizet, Léon Battu, Ludovic Halévy: Per me beato appieno (Don Procopio) Mady Mesplé, Alain Vanzo, Bruno Amaducci, Orchestre Lyrique de Radio France [05.VII.1975]

Mady Mesple and Gabriel Bacquier after Le Dernier Sauvage by Gian Carlo Menotti, Paris 1963

Giuseppe Verdi, Edouard Duprez (after Victor Hugo): Final Duet (Rigoletto) [sung in French]. Mady Mesplé, Gabriel Bacquier, Orchestra conducted by Jean-Claude Hartemann [1963]

On La Chance aux Chansons, 30 December 1999

Oscar Straus after Johann Strauss II, Léopold Marchand, Albert Willemetz (after Paul Knepler, Armin Robinson): Je t’aime quand même (Les trois valses [Drei Walzer]). Mady Mesplé, Pierre Dervaux, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo [1981] (as lip-synched on La Chance aux Chansons, 30.XII.1999)

Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hoffmansthal: Großmächtige Prinzessin (Ariadne auf Naxos) [excerpt]. Mady Mesplé, Peter Maag, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande [Genève 20.02.69]

Erik Satie, Plato (translated Victor Cousin): Mort de Socrate (Socrate, Movement 3) [excerpt]. Mady Mesplé, Pierre Dervaux, Orchestre de Paris [1972]

Screenshot from live performance of La Dame de Monte-Carlo, Paris 14 May 1990

Francis Poulenc, Jean Cocteau: La Dame de Monte-Carlo, FP 180. Mady Mesplé, Georges Prêtre, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo [1986]

Reynaldo Hahn, Jean Moréas: Fumée. Mady Mesplé, Dalton Baldwin [1989]

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