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“There must be something there that we don’t know about”: Massenet and Lucy Arbell

Abstract : Lucy Arbell (1878–1947) assumed an important position in Massenet's compositional process and output. Beginning with Ariane in 1906, he wrote principal or secondary roles for the singer in all of his operas, as well as the celebrated song cycle Expressions lyriques (1909–1911). Despite Massenet's admiration, the French contralto was received ambivalently by critics and she fell into oblivion soon after his death. For some, her talents as an actress could not make up for the mediocre quality of her voice. Drawing on unpublished and hitherto unknown archival documents, this article explores Arbell's career, which has been largely overlooked by scholars. I reveal how her career's evolution was intimately connected to the professional and sentimental relationship between singer and composer. Massenet notably wrote roles for her that included extensive use of spoken declamation, which sets them apart in the history of opera.
Keywords : french singer massenet
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Contributor : Jean-Christophe Branger Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, September 26, 2019 - 6:17:54 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - 1:06:02 PM


  • HAL Id : hal-02298475, version 1


Jean-Christophe Branger. “There must be something there that we don’t know about”: Massenet and Lucy Arbell. Cambridge Opera Journal, Cambridge University Press (CUP), 2018, Primas Donnas and Leading Men on the French Stage, 30, pp.186-213. ⟨hal-02298475⟩



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