Current Exhibit

OPERATIC GLORIES FROM THE OPERA-COMIQUE

(Paris, 1840-1930)

What is “opéra comique”? It is a French 'musical genre' alternating sung passages with spoken sections, as opposed to opera, which is entirely sung (e.g. "Carmen" vs. "Tosca"). From its humble inception through a royal decree by King Louis XIV (1714), to its many designations and locations, the Opéra-Comique experienced turbulent times. Two devastating fires destroyed it in 1838 and again in 1887 during a performance of Mignon. The current Opéra-Comique was erected in 1898 on Place Boieldieu. Countless singers performed there in historic performances. Take a look …

  • 1 - Period engraving of the Opéra-Comique or second Salle Favart in its full glory in 1864

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    1 - Period engraving of the Opéra-Comique or second Salle Favart in its full glory in 1864

    Following the fire of 1838, a new house was inaugurated in 1840 until another ghastly blaze destroyed the theatre again in 1887, killing 84 people. The existing Opéra-Comique was inaugurated in 1898 with a capacity of 1,255 seats.
    Following the fire of 1838, a new house was inaugurated in 1840 until another ghastly blaze destroyed the theatre again in 1887, killing 84 people. The existing Opéra-Comique was inaugurated in 1898 with a capacity of 1,255 seats.
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    2 - French composer Jules Massenet’s historic piece of ephemera from the second 1887 fire

    Jules Massenet (1842-1912) was one of Opéra-Comique’s most beloved composers. These fragments of the boxes’ wallpapers with annotations in his hand are one-of-a-kind relics from his own collection!
    Jules Massenet (1842-1912) was one of Opéra-Comique’s most beloved composers. These fragments of the boxes’ wallpapers with annotations in his hand are one-of-a-kind relics from his own collection!
    2 - French composer Jules Massenet’s historic piece of ephemera from the second 1887 fire
  • 3 - French tenor Gilbert Duprez (1806-1896) and daughter soprano Caroline Duprez (1832-1875) posing together in a 19th century print, ca. 1851.

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    3 - French tenor Gilbert Duprez (1806-1896) and daughter soprano Caroline Duprez (1832-1875) posing together in a 19th century print, ca. 1851.

    Duprez was the creator of many roles and invented the tenor’s chest voice high C. Caroline was gifted with an agile but diminutive voice and studied with her father. Like Marguerite Gauthier and Violetta in "La Traviata", she died of tuberculosis, aged 43.
    Duprez was the creator of many roles and invented the tenor’s chest voice high C. Caroline was gifted with an agile but diminutive voice and studied with her father. Like Marguerite Gauthier and Violetta in "La Traviata", she died of tuberculosis, aged 43.
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    4 - French soprano Caroline Miolan-Carvalho (1827-1895) for Parisian weekly “Camées artistiques”, posing as an "ingénue" Marguerite (“Faust”).

    A pupil of Gilbert Duprez, she was a coloratura soprano who fiercely negotiated cadenzas and embellishments with composers so that her “vocal fireworks” (her own words) would stun her audience! Married to French baritone and opera director Léon Carvalho.
    A pupil of Gilbert Duprez, she was a coloratura soprano who fiercely negotiated cadenzas and embellishments with composers so that her “vocal fireworks” (her own words) would stun her audience! Married to French baritone and opera director Léon Carvalho.
    4 - French soprano Caroline Miolan-Carvalho (1827-1895) for Parisian weekly “Camées artistiques”, posing as an "ingénue" Marguerite (“Faust”).
  • 5 - French bass-baritone Hippolyte Belhomme (1854-1923) as a farcical Biju in Adolphe Adam’s opera « Le Postillon de Longjumeau », Monnaie, Brussels, 1907.

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    5 - French bass-baritone Hippolyte Belhomme (1854-1923) as a farcical Biju in Adolphe Adam’s opera « Le Postillon de Longjumeau », Monnaie, Brussels, 1907.

    A favorite at the Opéra-Comique, he was endowed with a diminutive but alluring presence and a resounding voice. He enjoyed paying funny tricks to his colleagues and as shown here, he had a strong comic talent! He left a recording legacy.
    A favorite at the Opéra-Comique, he was endowed with a diminutive but alluring presence and a resounding voice. He enjoyed paying funny tricks to his colleagues and as shown here, he had a strong comic talent! He left a recording legacy.