Édouard de Reszke

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Édouard de Reszke o.jpg
Édouard de Reszke as Mefistofeles in Gounod's opera Faust

Édouard de Reszke, originally Edward, (22 December 1853 – 25 May 1917) was a Polish bass from Warsaw. Born with an impressive natural voice and equipped with compelling histrionic skills, he became one of the most illustrious opera singers active in Europe and America during the late-Victorian era.

Career[edit]

Édouard de Reszke was born into a well-to-do and cultured family in Warsaw, where he first learned to sing. He continued his voice studies in Italy with Giovanni Sbriglia, a leading pedagogue. Initially, he did not want to become an operatic performer but at the urging of his younger sister, Josephine (Józefina), he accepted an engagement with the Paris Opéra. He was chosen by the composer Giuseppe Verdi to make his debut in the first Paris performance of Aida on 22 April 1876, appearing under the composer's baton as the King of Egypt.

De Reszke's older brother was the renowned lyric-dramatic tenor Jean de Reszke (1850–1925), with whom he would sing often in Paris, London and New York City during the course of the next two decades. In 1887, for example, the brothers performed together in the 500th performance of Gounod's Faust at the Paris Opéra.

Josephine, Edouard and Jean's sister, also embarked on a career as an opera singer in Paris but she retired early from the stage after marrying an aristocrat while at the height of her powers. (Another sibling, Victor de Reszke, manifested more moderate talents as a vocalist.)

Between the start of 1880 and the end of 1900, Édouard de Reszke appeared on more than 300 occasions at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, performing a wide range of roles in French, German and Italian operas, including works by Wagner, Verdi, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Ponchielli, Gounod, Meyerbeer, Flotow and Mozart.

He was a huge favourite, too, with audiences at New York's Metropolitan Opera during the same era. (His only serious bass rival at the Met and Covent Garden was the elegant French virtuoso Pol Plançon [1851–1914]; but the Frenchman, unlike de Reszke, barely touched Wagnerian opera.) He also sang in Chicago in 1891 and, in 1879–1881, at La Scala, Milan. In 1903, he retired from the stage after his once superlative voice developed technical difficulties and went into a swift decline.

De Reszke taught singing for a while in London before returning to his estate in Poland, where he was adversely affected by the outbreak of World War I in Europe in 1914. Cut off from his brother by the fighting, he died on 25 May 1917 at a house in Garnek, near Częstochowa, Poland. His grave is to be found at Borowno in that country, but his fame lives on as one of the greatest basses in operatic history.

Recordings[edit]

A tall, genial man, de Reszke possessed a big, smooth, flexible and ripe-toned voice that matched his imposing physique and extroverted personality. He could sing masterfully at all dynamic levels, according to the opera critic Herman Klein, and was additionally blessed with a magnetic stage presence. During his prime, he was equally adroit at interpreting dramatic and comedic roles.

Regrettably he made only three, disappointing discs for the Columbia Phonograph Company in New York in 1903. By this date, as critic Michael Scott notes in Volume One of The Record of Singing (Duckworth, London, 1977), his voice was in a severe state of deterioration due to wear and tear caused by years of unstintingly hard use and the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle that had featured too much food, drink and conviviality. The best of his Columbia discs is considered to be the Porter Song from Flotow's Martha, performed in Italian, on which he delivers a fine trill.

De Reszke can also be heard singing briefly and dimly, but in seemingly more sonorous voice, on some of the crude Mapleson Cylinders that were recorded live at the Met at the dawn of the 20th century. All his extant recordings are available on CD re-issues.

Édouard de Reszke – Appearances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden[edit]

  • 1880 — Royal Italian Opera Season from 13 April to 17 July
  • 1881 — Royal Italian Opera Season from 19 April to 23 July
  • 1882 — Royal Italian Opera Season from 18 April to 20 July
    • as Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville (4)
    • as Walter in Guillaume Tell (2)
    • as St. Bris in Les Huguenots (1)
    • as Giorgio in I puritani (1)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (1)
    • as Count Rodolfo in La sonnambula (2)
    • as Senon in Velléda (3)
  • 1883 — Royal Italian Opera Season from 1 May to 21 July
    • as Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville (2)
    • as Dalando in The Flying Dutchman (2)
    • as Walter in Guillaume Tell (2)
    • as Alvise in La Gioconda (7)
    • as St. Bris in Les Huguenots (3)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (2)
    • as Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro (2)
    • as Giorgio in I puritani (1)
    • as Count Rodolfo in La sonnambula (3)
  • 1884 — Royal Italian Opera Season from 29 April to 26 July
    • as Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville (2)
    • as Czar Peter in L'étoile du nord (3)
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (5)
    • as Alvise in La Gioconda (3)
    • as St. Bris in Les Huguenots (4)
    • as The Prefect in Linda di Chamounix (1)
    • as (illegible data) in Lucrezia Borgia (2)
    • as Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro (4)
    • as (illegible data) in Semiramide (1)
    • as Hagen in Sigurd (3)
  • 1888 — Royal Italian Opera Season from 15 May to 21 July
    • as Don Pedro in L'Africaine (2)
    • as Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville (1)
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (7, shared)
    • as Walter in Guillaume Tell (2)
    • as St. Bris in Les Huguenots (4)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (6)
    • as Sarastro in The Magic Flute (1)
    • as Mefistofele in Mefistofele (1)
  • 1889 — Royal Italian Opera Season from 18 May to 27 July
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (7, shared)
    • as Walter in Guillaume Tell (2)
    • as St. Bris in Les Huguenots (3)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (6, shared)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (7)
    • as Count Rodolfo in La sonnambula (2)
  • 1890 — Royal Italian Opera Season from 19 May to 28 July
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (6, shared)
    • as St. Bris in Les Huguenots (6, shared)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (5)
    • as Zacharie in Le prophète (5)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (5)
    • as Count Rodolfo in La sonnambula (1)
  • 1891 — Royal Italian Opera Season from 6 April to 27 July
    • as Leporello in Don Giovanni (5, shared)
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (12, shared)
    • as St. Bris in Les Huguenots (8)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (9)
    • as Plumketto in Martha (2)
    • as Mefistofele in Mefistofele (2)
    • as Zacharie in Le Prophète (3)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (8, shared)
  • 1892 — Royal Italian Opera Season from 16 May to 28 July
    • as Leporello in Don Giovanni (2)
    • as L'Eremite in Elaine (5)
    • as Dalando in The Flying Dutchman (1)
    • as St. Bris in Les Huguenots (1)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (5, shared)
    • as Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro (2)
    • as Zacharie in Le prophète (1)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (3)
  • 1893 — Royal Opera Season from 15 May to 29 July
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (6, shared)
    • as Dalando in The Flying Dutchman (2)
    • as St. Bris in Les Huguenots (2)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (6, shared)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (7, shared)
  • 1894 — Royal Opera Season from 15 May to 29 July
    • as Ramfis in Aida (2)
    • as L'Eremite in Elaine (2)
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (7, shared)
    • as The Roundhead Colonel in The Lady of Longford (2)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (4)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (7)
  • 1896 — Royal Opera Season from 11 May to 28 July
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (6, shared)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (5, shared)
    • as Plumketto in Martha (2)
    • as Mefistofele in Mefistofele (2, shared)
    • as Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (5)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (8, shared)
    • as King Mark in Tristan und Isolde (4)
  • 1897 — Royal Opera Season from 10 May to 28 July
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (7)
    • as Marcel in Les Huguenots (5, shared)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (7)
    • as Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger (3)
    • as Almaviva in 'The Marriage of Figaro (2)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (6, shared)
    • as Der Wanderer in Siegfried (4)
    • as King Mark in Tristan und Isolde (3)
  • 1898 — Royal Opera Season from 9 May to 16 July
    • as Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville (1)
    • as Leporello in Don Giovanni (1)
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (7, shared)
    • as Hagen in Götterdämmerung (3)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (7, shared)
    • as Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger (4)
    • as Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro (2, shared)
    • as King Mark in Tristan und Isolde (4, shared)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (at least once)
  • 1899 — Royal Opera Season from 8 May to 24 July
    • as Leporello in Don Giovanni (3)
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (8, shared)
    • as St. Bris in Les Huguenots (2, shared)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (6, shared)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (5, shared)
    • as King Mark in Tristan und Isolde (4)
  • 1900 — Royal Opera Season from 14 May to 30 July
    • as Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville (1)
    • as Leporello in Don Giovanni (2)
    • as Méphistophélès in Faust (8, shared)
    • as Marcel in Les Huguenots (2)
    • as Heinrich in Lohengrin (6, shared)
    • as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette (5, shared)
    • as Ramfis in Aida (at least once)

Gala performances by Jean and Édouard de Reszke[edit]

at Covent Garden and Command Performances at Windsor Castle:

  • 2 July 1889 — Gala in honour of the Shah of Persia:
    • Éduoard as Mephistofele in Act I of Mefistofele and as Mefistofele in Act 4 of Faust
    • Jean as Faust in Act 4 of Faust
  • 8 July 1891 — Visit of the Emperor and Empress of Germany
    • Éduoard as Enrico in Act 1 of Lohengrin, as Laurent in Act 4 of Roméo et Juliette and as San Bris in Act 4 of Les Huguenots
    • Jean as Lohengrin in Act 1 of Lohengrin, as Romeo in Act 4 of Roméo et Juliette and as Raoul in Act 4 of Les Huguenots
  • 4 July 1893 — Gala in honour of the marriage of the Duke of York and Princess Mary of Teck
    • Éduoard as Laurent in Roméo et Juliette
    • Jean as Romeo in Roméo et Juliette
  • 23 June 1897 — 60th Anniversary of Queen Victoria's accession
    • Éduoard as Laurent in Act 3 of Roméo et Juliette
    • Jean as Romeo in Act 3 of Roméo et Juliette
  • 27 June 1898 — Command Performance at Windsor Castle (no data on programme)
  • 24 May 1899 — Command Performance at Windsor Castle
    • Éduoard as Enrico in Lohengrin
    • Jean as Lohengrin in Lohengrin
  • 16 July 1900 — Command Performance at Windsor Castle
    • Éduoard as Mefistofele in Faust

References[edit]

  • List of appearances after the Royal Opera House database.