A year ago the Met enjoyed a big success with its first production in a century of Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles. Today’s “Trove Thursday” revisits that opera with an impressive Francophone cast headed by the superb Nadir of Alain Vanzo, one of my favorite tenors.
Vanzo was the premier French lyric tenor of the post-war era excelling in roles like Roméo, Werther, and Des Grieux (he also sang Puccini’s). Occasionally he took on heavier roles like Raoul in Les Huguenots and Don José and such non-French rarities as Adolar in Weber’s Euryanthe, but he mostly stayed with the parts which made him famous which he continued to perform with stylish finesse throughout his long career.
Never a glamorous stage figure, Vanzo rarely sang in America and never at the Met. No doubt his most famous (and only?) New York appearance was as Gennaro in American Opera Society’s Lucrezia Borgia opposite Montserrat Caballé the night of her celebrated U.S. debut. More than thirty years ago at age 56 he appeared as Faust with the Philadelphia Opera opposite Valerie Masterson and James Morris, a production later televised on PBS.
Of his relatively few complete opera recordings he is probably best known for his Gérald in Delibes’s Lakmé opposite Joan Sutherland–he had been Edgardo at her Paris Opêra debut in 1960.
He finally got to record Nadir in 1977 for EMI with Ileana Cotrubas, but today’s 1959 French Radio performance finds him in notably fresher voice. His Lëila here, Janine Micheau, is featured in EMI’s previous Pêcheurs recording with Nicolai Gedda as her Nadir.
Although he never recorded the role, around the time of his Met debut Gabriel Bacquier sang Zurga in the US—twice with the Philadelphia Opera alongside Adriana Maliponte and Ferruccio Tagliavini (!)/Richard Verreau.
A reminder that “Trove Thursday” offerings can be downloaded via the audio-player. Just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.