Marcelle Bunlet

Bunlet, Marcelle, Sopran, * 9.10.1900 Fontenay-le-Comte (Vendée), † 13.12.1991 Paris

(by Christophe Delhoume): Born in Fontenay-Le-Comte on October 10, 1900, Marcelle Bunlet made her debut first on the concert stage at the age of 26. Philippe Gaubert immediately contract her for his series of Concerts at the Conservatoire, where she appeared for the very first time on November 28, 1926, singing the Leonore aria from Fidelio as well as a excerpt  from REDEMPTION by Cesar Franck. Gaubert took Bunlet as his protégée, introducing her later  to Jacques Rouché at the Paris Opera. In the meantime, he gave her in concert, such big assignments as Ariane in ARIANE ET BARBE-BLEUE, or Brünhilde's immolation scene, which she sang under his baton in November 1927. The voice was already huge and powerful, which always made an amusing contrast with Bunlet's figure, being a rather small and discreet person.  In the meantime, she was introduced in the most important musical circles in Paris , where she met Honegger, Milhaud, Jane Bathori, Gustave Samazeuilh… During the 1927/1928 season, she performed Milhaud's AGAMEMNON, as well as vocal music by Florent Schmitt with Lina Falk and Hugues Cuénod. By then, she was already known, and with Gaubert's recommendation, ready to make her debut on the Opéra stage. Her debut at the Opera-Comique took place on January 5, 1928 as Ariane in Dukas' ARIANE ET BARBE-BLEUE, an opera she had already performed with Gaubert in concert, and which will remain very much associated with her. Bunlet will even record later the two Ariane arias “Voici la clef” and “l'air des Diamants”, a really risky choice at that time for a commercial recording. If the performance went well, Bunlet has not been a frequent visitor of the Opéra-Comique during the rest of her career, the voice being rather too big for the place and for the kind of repertoire presented usually at the Comique. Six weeks later, she did a most spectacular debut at the Grand Opera, singing nothing else that Brünnhilde GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG. Gaubert was at the pit, and she sang with Franz, Journet, Kettie Lapeyrette and Jeanne Campredon She gave five more GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG performances until April 14, 1928, singing in the meantime with Gaubert at the Concerts du Conservatoire on March 25 an exhausting programme including ARIANE ET BARBE-BLEUE's act 2 and TRISTAN act 1 with Franz and Madeleine Vitha, two fellow partners with whom she sang regularly during the next decade. Immediately after Paris , she made a sensational debut at La Monnaie in Brussels , where she performed Isolde for the very first time. She is, until then, a frequent guest of La Monnaie. Her friend, the French composer Gustave Samazeuil recommended her to the Wagners in Bayreuth , and she got contracted there for the 1931 Festival, as a Flower Maid in PARSIFAL under Toscanini. One night, Elisabeth Ohms being ill, and her cover Henny Trundt in the incapacity to sing, Marcelle Bunlet got the job and sang one single performance of Kundry. It went so well, that she was re-engaged  not only for the revival of PARSIFAL in 1933, but also for the RING where she appeared as Woglinde and Helmwige, and once as Sieglinde. This single performance being the acknowledgement of the Festival for the last minute replacement of 1931. The Parsifal performance of 1933 where conducted by Richard Strauss. He and Bunlet met one year before in Strasbourg , this meeting had been made possible by Samazeuilh again, and by Raoul Gunsburg, who was at that time trying to get the rights of ARABELLA for Monte-Carlo. ELEKTRA was created in Strasburg on November 29, 1932 with Dietez-Monin as Chrysothémis and Madeleine Vitha as Klytämnestra. Strauss was present in Strasburg for the last rehearsals, and conducted one performance. Later, Strauss himself recommended Marcelle Bunlet, for the creation of SALOME in Bordeaux . The season in Strasburg was particularly rich for Bunlet and Vhita, who also created after ELEKTRA, Dukas's ARIANE ET BARBE-BLEUE under the baton of Paul Bastide. 1934 was also a very important year in the artist calendar: Gunsburg finally scheduled Bunlet in PARSIFAL opposite Georges Thill, Beckmann and Lafont for two performances of PARSIFAL (February 8 and 11). In the meantime, she did appear at the Marseille Opera for performances of DON GIOVANNI where she sang Anna with Etienne Billot and André Gaudin (February 22), before to return to Monte-Carlo for the French premiere of ARABELLA on March 10. She gave three performances of ARABELLA, and never sang the part again. Late April, she sailed to South America , having been contracted there until beginning of August. Marcelle Bunlet made her debut at the Colon as Ariane for the local premiere of ARIANE ET BARBE-BLEUE in French (the piece having been given at the Colon already in 1912, but in Italian). She gave four performances of Ariane along with Cravcenco as the Nurse, Panizza conducting, and staged by Lothar Wallenstein. She also appeared as ALCESTE with René Maison, for five performances directed by the same team: Panizza and Wallenstein. She gave at the same times a series of recitals in Buenos Aires before to reach Paris again, where she sang for the beginning of the 1934/1935 season, revivals of SALOME and SIEGFRIED with De Trevi as Siegfried (November 19) and with Melchior for a single performance (December 1 st ). At the same time, as a recitalist, she gave the first audition of songs by Roussel: COEUR EN PERIL in December 1934, and L'HEURE DU RETOUR (the melody is especially dedicated to her), on January 1935. In March 1935, Marcelle Bunlet made her debut at the Theâtre du Capitole in Toulouse , in a gala performance of LOHENGRIN with Madeleine David and Georges Thill, under the baton of the young Belgian-born conductor: André Cluytens. This performance was a great event in the Toulouse and the “hit” of the season, bringing the box-office up to 22.640 French Francs! Her other Paris appearances that years included ARIANE ET BARBE BLEUE again, as well as a WALKÜRE performance on August 9, 1935 with De Trevi, Cabanel as Wotan, Marisa Ferrer, and her dear friend Eliette Schenneberg (Madame Samazeuilh!) as Fricka. If her name remain present on the roster, Marcelle Bunlet had to face a severe concurrence with Germaine Lubin, a favourite of Monsieur Rouché, and established long before in the Wagnerian repertoire at the Paris Opera. In 1936, Paris Opera offered Bunlet a revival of LES HUGUENOTS where she sang Valentine, more performances of WALKÜRE with Ferrer and De Trevi in January and February, and her first TRISTAN performance at the Grand Opera with Soyer, De Trévi and Endrèze, conducted by Paul Paray. She also appeared at the Nancy Opera on March 7 th 1936, with Laure Tessandra, Charles Cambon and Georges Thill in a LOHENGRIN performance. A new role for the Paris Opera, will be Marguerite in LA DAMNATION DE FAUST that she performed in the fall of 1937. That same year, she appeared for the first time at the Nizza Opera, singing Brünhilde in a whole RING production, and Leonore in FIDELIO opposite Joseph Rogatchewsky Other performances included Tristan and Brünhilde  for La Monnaie in Brussels Marcelle Bunlet had been introduced to the composer Olivier Messian shortly before. He had been her accompanist in many occasions. Naturally, Messian dedicated a lot of his composition to Bunlet and their first collaboration took place in April 1937, when she created his POEMES POUR MI and on Juanuary 23, 1939, she created his CHANTS DE TERRE ET DE CIEL at the Concerts Triton in Paris . During War World II, she kept doing many concerts, such as NOCES by Strawinsky for the Conservatoire on March 2 nd 1941, and created the MESSE POUR LE JOUR DE PAIX by Jolivet, a piece for soprano organ and tambourine, given for the first time on March 25 1942, with Messian as the organist. She also gave the first execution of Louis Vierne's BALLADE DU DESESPERE at the Paris Salle Pleyel on April 8, 1945 with the Orchestre Lamoureux , conducted by Eugène Bigot.  During the war, Bunlet remained very active on the operatic stage. Further to Strauss's recommendation, she gave three performances of SALOME at the Grand Théâtre in Bordeaux , on May 21, 25 and June 1 st 1941 under the direction of André Cluytens. At the end of the season, she was at the Opera de Lyon for two TRISTAN performances with Georgette Frozier-Marot, Ferdinand Faniard and Pierre Nougaro (December 18 and 21).She repeated Isolde again, opposite Faniard as Tristan on the 11 th of November 1942 in Toulouse . On the same afternoon, the Wehrmacht troops did their entrance in Toulouse . After the WW-II, Bunlet got more concentrated on her concert and recital activities. Established in Strasburg where she appeared regularly at the Opera House (her repertoire there included not only Wagner but also Brünhilde in SIGURD, Aïda, Leonore in TROVATORE, Valentine and even Norma), she start teaching. She created for Messian the HARAWI cycle on June 24, 1946, and gave at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées the Psalms 47 by Florent Schmitt as well as the GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG final scene with Cluytens in October 1948. As a recitalist, Marcelle Bunlet performed until the mid 50's. It exists a recording of GUERCOEUR by Magnard, made in March 1951 where she sang Vérité  and her recital at the Vichy Opera in 1954 with Messian at the piano, has been issued on CD by INA Mémoire Vive. In 1953, Marcelle Bunlet sang a last ELEKTRA performance for the Sarrebrücken Opera. She taught privately in her apartment  in Paris, Avenue Niel for long time. Eliane Lublin was one of her pupils, and died in Paris on October 9, 1900.

Many thanks to Christophe Delhoume!)

In German (resumee):

1926 Konzertdebüt in einem Straram-Konzert in Paris, darauf sogleich an die Opéra-Comique Paris engagiert, wo sie im Januar 1028 in der Titelrolle der Oper »Ariane et Barbe-bleue« von Dukas debütierte. An der Grand Opéra Paris sang sie dann im Februar 1928 die Brünnhilde in der »Götterdämmerung«. Sie sang dort wie auch am Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brüssel eine Vielzahl von Partien aus dem hochdramatischen Fach; in Brüssel u.a. in der Saison 1928-29 die Isolde im »Tristan«, 1930 und 1937-38 die Brünnhilde im Nibelungenring. An der Grand Opéra trat sie als Valentine in Meyerbeers »Hugenotten«, als Marguerite in »La damnation de Faust« von Berlioz, als Salome von Richard Strauss und als Brünnhilde im Ring-Zyklus (1931) auf. Sie gastierte an den großen französischen Operntheatern wie Lyon, Marseille, Nizza, Nantes und noch nach 1945 am Opernhaus von Bordeaux, auch in der Schweiz. Toscanini wählte sie für die Bayreuther Festspiele 1931 als Kundry aus; trotz großen Erfolges übertrug man ihr 1933 in Bayreuth nur zwei kleine Partien. 1934 Auftreten am Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires als Ariane in »Ariane et Barbe-bleue« von Dukas (eine ihrer großen Kreationen) und als Alceste in der gleichnamigen Oper von Gluck. 1935 sang sie die Arabella in der französischen Erstaufführung der Richard-Strauss-Oper in Monte Carlo. Sie trat später vorzugsweise in Straßburg auf, wo sie 1945-70 als Pädagogin am Konservatorium unterrichtete. Als Konzertsängerin hatte u.a. in Antwerpen, Rom, Athen, Genua und in Südamerika große Erfolge. Ihre Karriere dauerte bis 1950. Neben Germaine Lubin die bedeutendste französische hochdramatische und Wagner-Sängerin ihrer Epoche. Aus ihrem Repertoire sind die Gräfin in »Figaros Hochzeit«, die Donna Anna wie die Donna Elvira im »Don Giovanni«, die Leonore im »Fidelio«, die Elsa im »Lohengrin«, die Elisabeth im »Tannhäuser«, die Eva in den »Meistersingern«, die Senta im »Fliegenden Holländer«, die Aida, die Leonore im »Troubadour«, die Tosca, die Butterfly, die Louise von Charpentier und die Mélisande in »Pelléas et Mélisande« nachzutragen.

Von ihr existiert je eine Schallplatte auf HMV und eine auf Polydor.


as Isolde Monnaie 1928 (Collection G&K)
as Isolde 1928 (by courtesy of John H. Mueller)
as Isolde 1930 (by courtesy of John H. Mueller)
as Brünnhilde Monnaie
as Kundry Bayreuth 1931
as Kundry Bayreuth 1931 (by courtesy of John H. Mueller)
as Kundry Bayreuth 1931
as Arabella Buenos Aires
as Elektra with Strauss a.o. Strassburg 06. Dec. 1932
Portrait 1928
Portrait (by courtesy of John H. Mueller)
Portrait Bayreuth 1931