OPERA NEWS - Solange Michel, 98, Incomparable Post-War Carmen, Has Died
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7 January 2011

Solange Michel, 98, Incomparable Post-War Carmen, Has Died

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Solange Michel
Paris, France, November 27, 1912 — Bourges, France, December 15, 2010

One of most popular Carmens active in post-World War II France, Michel studied at the Paris Conservatoire before beginning her career as a concert and recital singer in the 1930s. She made her debut at the Opéra Comique in 1945, in the title role of Ambroise Thomas's Mignon. She was soon established as an important mezzo-soprano at that company, as well as at the Paris Opera; her plummy, contralto-ish timbre and crisp, witty delivery of text enlivened all of her specialties, which ranged from Carmen — undoubtedly her signature role, with more than 600 performances to her credit — to Charlotte in Werther, Dalila, Geneviève in Pelléas et Mélisande, Gluck's Orfeo and Marguerite in La Damnation de Faust. The best-known of Michel's recordings is the 1950 EMI-Pathé Carmen, in which spoken dialogue (rather than recitative) is delivered with incomparable panache by a superbly chosen cast, many of them Opéra Comique veterans. Stylishly paced by André Cluytens and recorded at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, Michel's Carmen is sly, sexy and authoritative, testifying to her long association with Bizet's Gypsy.

Other Michel recordings included Ernest Bour's 1947 recording of L'Enfant et les Sortilèges, in which she sang the roles of La Bergère and L'Ecureuil (The Squirrel); Louise's Mother in Jean Fournet's 1956 performance of Louise; and Geneviève in Désiré-Emile Ingelbrecht's 1962 Pelléas. In 1963, Michel created the role of the Maharani in the world premiere of Menotti's The Last Savage at the Opéra Comique. Although she was active principally in France, she appeared as a guest at Covent Garden, La Scala, Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Teatro Liceo in Barcelona, Royal Flemish Opera and Teatro Colón, among other theaters. She retired from singing in 1978. spacer 

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