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Mesaj  Admin Bir Paz Tem. 10, 2011 6:28 pm


Emma Calvé as Carmen

Poster for Emma Calvé in Massenet's Sapho, Opéra Comique in Paris, November 27, 1897

Emma Calvé, born Rosa Emma Calvet (August 15, 1858 – January 6, 1942), was a French operatic soprano.

Calvé was probably the most famous French female opera singer of the Belle Époque. Hers was an international career, and she sang regularly and to considerable acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. She possessed a potent stage presence and was noted for her acting ability, stormy personality, and dramatic intensity. Contemporary accounts of her voice describe it as extraordinary, with a first-rate technique.

Early Life

Calvé was born in Decazeville, Aveyron. Her father, Justin Calvet, was a civil engineer. She spent her childhood at first in Spain with her parents, then in diverse convent schools between Roquefort and Tournemire (Aveyron). After her parents separated, she moved with her mother to Paris. There she attempted to enter the Paris Conservatory, while she studied the art of singing under Jules Puget.

After her debut at the Brussels La Monnaie, she took lessons in Paris from the celebrated teacher Mathilde Marchesi, a retired German mezzo-soprano and student of Manuel García. She made a tour of Italy, where she saw the famous actress Eleonora Duse, whose impersonations made a deep impression on the young singer. She trained herself in stage craft and gesture by closely observing Duse's performances.

[edit] Career

Her operatic debut occurred in 1881 in Gounod's Faust at Brussels' La Monnaie; later she sang at La Scala, in Milan, and also at the principal theatres of Naples, Rome, and Florence.

Returning to Paris in 1891, she created the part of Suzel in L'Amico Fritz by Pietro Mascagni, playing and singing the role later at Rome. Because of her great success in it, she was chosen to originate the role of Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana, which was viewed as one of her greatest parts. She repeated her success in it in London.

Her next triumph was Bizet's Carmen. Before beginning the study of this part, she went to Spain, learned the Spanish dances, mingled with the people and patterned her characterization after the cigarette girls whom she watched at their work and at play. In 1894, she made her appearance in the role at the Opéra-Comique, Paris. The city's opera-goers immediately hailed her as the greatest Carmen that had ever appeared, a verdict other cities would later echo. She had had many famous predecessors in the role , including Adelina Pattié, Minnie Hauk and Célestine Galli-Marié, but critics and musicians agreed that in Calvé they had found their ideal of Bizet's cigarette girl of Seville. Her many charms of voice, figure, and personality combined to make it one of the most brilliant impersonations ever given in opera.

Calvé first appeared in America in the season of 1893–1894 as Mignon and her reception then and ever afterward was flattering. She would make regular visits to the country, both in grand opera and in concert tours. She created the part of Anita, which was written for her, in Massenet's La Navarraise in London, in 1894, and sang Sapho, in an opera written by the same composer.

She also sang Ophélie in Ambroise Thomas's Hamlet in Paris in 1899, but the part was not suited to her and she dropped it. She also appeared with success in many roles, among them, as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, the title role in Félicien David's Lalla Rookh, as Pamina in The Magic Flute, and as Camille in Herold's Zampa, but she is best known as Carmen.

Calvé developed an interest in the paranormal and was once engaged to the occult author Jules Bois

Calvé died in 1942 at Montpellier, Hérault, and is buried in Millau. Her voice, however, is preserved in a number of recordings made between 1902 and 1920. These are available on CD transfers.

In the winter of 1893-1894 the Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862-1947) executed a life-size portrait of her standing full-length in a green-blue dress, wearing an opera cloak of white and gold with a sable edge, clutching American Beauty roses. It is now lost, as is a pastel he made of her in March 1894.

Swami Vivekananda's Influence

Swami Vivekananda no doubt had a lasting influence on Emma Calvé. In the words of Calvé herself "(He) 'truly walked with God, a noble being, a saint, a philosopher and a true friend. His influence upon my spiritual life was profound... my soul will bear him eternal gratitude'. Emma Calvé also visited Belur Math - Swami Vivekananda's tribute to his guru Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. She said about this visit and her association with the monks there -The hours that I spent with these gentle philosophers have remained in my memory as a time apart. These beings — pure, beautiful and remote seemed to belong to another universe, a better and wiser world'[3] There is some doubt as to when she first met Swami Vivekananda. Some feel it was in 1894 in Chicago. Others think it was in 1899, during his second visit to the west. She has left a couple of reminscences of the Swami. Calvé along with Swami Vivekananda and Monsieur Charles Loyson (formerly Pere Hyacinthe) and his wife, Monsieur Jules Bois, and Miss Josephine MacLeod visited Europe in 1900. They together visited Paris, Vienna, Constantinopole, Hungary, Serbia, Egypt.

Swami Vivekananda wrote of Calvé: 'She was born poor but by her innate talents, prodigious labour and diligence, and after wrestling against much hardship, she is now enormously rich and commands respect from kings and emperors....The rare combination of beauty, youth, talents, and "divine" voice has assigned Calve the highest place among the singers of the West. There is, indeed, no better teacher than misery and poverty. That constant fight against the dire poverty, misery, and hardship of the days of her girlhood, which has led to her present triumph over them, has brought into her life a unique sympathy and a depth of thought with a wide outlook.'

Emma had the pleasure of meeting Swami Vivekananda during one of her U.S. tours. She seems to have been quite impressed by the Swami's abilities and remained a friend and admirer through her life. She speaks about him for several pages in her autobiography "My Life" ( pages 185-194) which is surprising as she does not give too many other people this much attention in her book. She doesn't talk about Jules Bois at all, and he is acknowledged in many circles as being very close to Emma for a considerable length of time.

Swami Vivekananda, the lifelong ascetic, probably had infinite compassion for his somewhat eccentric but extremely talented "friend" who rose from so much poverty to so much eminence and in many ways who was completely an anti thesis to him (he being a man of complete renunciation and she being a symbol of materialistic world). She needed help - spiritual and emotional during her most troubled time and the great monk took her under his protective wings.

The story of the first meeting of Swami Vivekananda and Madame Emma Calvé, as told in Calvé’s autobiography, My Life - Swami Vivekananda was lecturing in Chicago one year when I was there; and as I was at that time greatly depressed in mind and body, I decided to go to him.

. . . Before going I had been told not to speak until he addressed me. When I entered the room, I stood before him in silence for a moment. He was seated in a noble attitude of meditation, his robe of saffron yellow falling in straight lines to the floor, his head swathed in a turban bent forward, his eyes on the ground. After a pause he spoke without looking up.

"My child", he said, "what a troubled atmosphere you have about you. Be calm. It is essential".

Then in a quiet voice, untroubled and aloof, this man who did not even know my name talked to me of my secret problems and anxieties. He spoke of things that I thought were unknown even to my nearest friends. It seemed miraculous, supernatural.

"How do you know all this?" I asked at last. "Who has talked of me to you?"

He looked at me with his quiet smile as though I were a child who had asked a foolish question.

"No one has talked to me", he answered gently. "Do you think that it is necessary? I read in you as in an open book."

Finally it was time for me to leave.

"You must forget", he said as I rose. "Become gay and happy again. Build up your health. Do not dwell in silence upon your sorrows. Transmute your emotions into some form of external expression. Your spiritual health requires it. Your art demands it."

I left him deeply impressed by his words and his personality. He seemed to have emptied my brain of all its feverish complexities and placed there instead his clear and calming thoughts. I became once again vivacious and cheerful, thanks to the effect of his powerful will. He did not use any of the hypnotic or mesmeric influences. It was the strength of his character, the purity and intensity of his purpose that carried conviction. It seemed to me, when I came to know him better, that he lulled one's chaotic thoughts into a state of peaceful acquiescence, so that one could give complete and undivided attention to his words.[6]


Calvé, Emma: "My Life", Appleton. 1922.
Calvé, Emma: "Sous tous les ciels, j'ai chanté", Plon, Montréal 1940; (1940; "I've Sung Under Every Sky") : autobiography.

Chronological Table

1858 Birth of Rosa Emma Calvet in Decazeville.
1864 She attends a convent in Rodez. The sisters give some concerts where Mgr Bourret, bishop of this town appreciates her voice.
1874 Emma and her mother Léonie go up to Paris. Although they are short of money, Puget consents to give Emma lessons.
1882 Debut at the Brussels La Monnaie, as Marguerite in Charles Gounod's Faust. Lessons by Mrs Marchesi, one of the most influential voice teachers of the era.
1882 fin, Théodore Dubois' Aben Hamet in the Théâtre-Italien. 1883 She creates Victorin Joncières' Le Chevalier Jean in the Opéra-Comique. She sings in Zampa and Lalla-Roukh. After a failure at the Scala, recommended by Gounod, she took lessons from Rosine Laborde. In Rome she took lessons from Domenico Mustafà (1829 -1912).
1885 nov., in Nice she sings the part of Leïla in Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de perles with a grand success. She sings Halévy's L'éclair.
1888 May. Milan. Triumph in the Scala with Hamlet.
1890 She creates Cavalleria rusticana in Florence. She sings in Rome, then in Naples.
1891 November: she sang the French premiere of Cavalleria rusticana at the Opéra-Comique in Paris.
1892 Travel in Spain; November: great success in Carmen at the Opéra-Comique.
1893 Carmen in London's Covent Garden, and in Windsor by Queen Victoria. September: she leaves for the United States. Carmen in the Metropolitan Opera in New York, then in Boston, Chicago and Montreal.
1894 July: she buys the medieval castle of Cabrières in the Causses.
1895 October: she creates Massenet's La Navarraise in Paris; Tour in Russia: Sankt-Petersburg, performance in front of the tsar.
1896 November: creation of Massenet's Sapho, with a libretto from a novel of Alphonse Daudet.
1899-1900 Travel in Orient along with Swami Vivekananda
1902 She creates in the Opéra-Comique Reynaldo Hahn's La Carmélite.
1903 April: Hector Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust.
1904 October: in the Gaîté, Massenet's Hérodiade.
1906 Germany and Austria
1910-1912 Travel around the world
1914 July: Berlin December: 4th tour in the United States
1915 USA
1916 Benefit concerts in Montpellier, Marseille, Toulon, Nice and Cannes, for the Croix-rouge.
1919 For the last time in the Opéra-Comique. English tour with tenor Vladimir Rosing and pianist Arthur Rubinstein.
1920 She records for Pathé.
1922 Tour in England, Scotland and Ireland, with Alfred Cortot and Jacques Thibaud.
1925 5th tour in the USA.
1925 She retired from the stage. She returned in her beloved Midi to teach, living in different houses in Millau and surroundings.
1942 6 January - dies in a clinic in Montpellier, aged 83.

in Les Introuvables du Chant Français EMI, 2005;
Emma Calve: the Complete Victor Recordings (1907-16), Romophone CD 81024-2.


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