Lebendige Vergangenheit - Armand Crabbé
|Title||Lebendige Vergangenheit - Armand Crabbé|
|Release Date||Monday, September 11, 2006|
|Genre||Classical > Choro|
|Copyright||© Preiser Records|
For over forty years Armand Crabbe appeared at almost all the world's most renowned opera houses with the leading singers of his time. That his name is little, if at all, known in Europe, or only as an interpreter of small character and comprimario roles, may be explained by the fact that he sang the big baritone roles almost exclusively in South America. Until the end of World War I he learnt his trade by starting from the bottom with small or even miniscule roles but in the company of great and inspiring operatic names. Thus he was spared the stony path through provincial theatres. Nature had endowed him with a solid but by no means extraordinary voice. It was a light and flexible high baritone voice - what the French call a "baryton-Martin". But this singer had two qualities which were of great value to every impresario: He was an excellent and thrilling actor and as a singer multilingual. - A versatile actor-singer par excellence. Like many great singers of the "French" school, Crabbe was born in Belgium, in St. Gilles near Brussels on April 23rd 1883. At the local music school he started his musical studies which he later was able to continue with the help of a scholarship at the Brussels Conservatory. As a mus1cian he was thoroughly trained: his voice teacher was the renowned Desire Demest, but Crabbe also was an excellent pianist and later became known as a composer of several songs. At the age of 20 he signed a contract with the Theatre de la Monnaie where he made his debut as the Watchman in "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg". Some weeks later he auditioned for Jules Massenet and immediately obtained the role of the musical monk in "Le Jongleur de Nötre Dame". His repertoire during his first years was wide ranging but hardly inspiring and his roles often were not more than giving cues: Horatio in "Hamlet", Wagner in "Faust", the high priest in "Herodiade", the notary in "11 Barbiere di Siviglia", the painter in "Louise", etc. Crabbe was proud to have appeared, while still a beginner, with such great singers as Frances Alda, Claire Croiza, Felia Litvinne, Charles Dalmores, Edmond Clement or Leon David. He remained at the Monnaie until 1908 but only in 1937/38 was he to return to the leading .opera house of his home country. Once again as the musical monk in "Le Jongleur" did Crabbe make his debut at Covent Garden in 1906 (Massenet seems to have used his influence in favor of the young singer). Together with truly impressive casts he continued to appear in small roles: Count Ceprano in "Rigoletto" (with Battistini, Melba, Caruso, Joumet) or Montano in "Otello" (with Zenatello, Melba, Scotti and McCormack as Cassio!), among others, but shortly before he left Covent Garden for the time being in 1914. he advanced to the role of Ford in "Falstaff'. Like many other American impresarios Oscar Hammerstein, too, was scouting the London theatres in 1907 for singers to engage for his Manhattan Opera. Hammerstein strongly relied on the French operatic repertoire and secured himself the performance rights for a good number of new operas (something the Met had failed to do) and introduced them to America. With these novelties he was able to hold his own against Gatti-Casazza (at least for some time). As far as his roles were concerned Crabbe's contract was not a major improvement, but he was able to appear in a number of American premieres, such as "Pelleas et Melisande", "Le Jongleur de Nötre Dame", "La Princesse d' Auberge" by Jan Blockx and also in Giordano's "Siberia" and as one of the two soldiers in Strauss's."Salome" (sung in French). Other roles included Escamillo, Valentin, Alfio, Lindorf and Schlemil in "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" and Frederic in "Lakme". When Hammerstein went bankrupt in 1910, the Chicago Opera Company had just been formed and its principal conductor Cleofonte Campanini took over a large number of singers, Crabbe among them. The highlight among the singer's appearances in Chicago surely was the world premiere of Victor Herbert's "Natoma" on February 25th 1911 with Mary Garden, John McCormack, Mario Sammarco, Carolina White and Crabbe in the role of Pico. After the outbreak of war the 1914/15 season was cancelled and Crabbe did not return to Chicago afterwards. World War I clearly was the turning point in the baritone's career. In December 1914 he made his debut at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan as Rigoletto. Although this rather lightweight Rigoletto was not exactly received with open arms by the Italian press and the public (direct comparison with Carlo Galeffi, with whom Crabbe shared these performances probably further increased this impression) but the sceptics soon won over by to be singer's superbly modelled interpretations and convincing performances as an actor. In the following season he was heard as Marcello in "La Boheme", in which he was coached by the composer himself (later, he also studied Scarpia and Gianni Schicchi with Puccini, although not for the Scala). In 1918 he was Lescaut in Massenet's "Manon" and returned as Beck messer in "Die Meistersinger" in 1928/29. He also took part in the world premiere of Giordano's "11 Re" (with Dal Monte, De Muro Lomanto, Cravcenco and Pasero) in 1929. In 1931, again, as Lescaut, he made his last appearance at La Scala which with the rise of fascism tended strongly to favor engaging Italian singers. Aside to his activities in Milan he, frequently appeared in Spain, Portugal and South America, especially at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, while in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo he was very popular. It was in South America that he sang most of his big roles such as Figaro in "II Barbiere di Siviglia", Rigoletto and the title role in Rabaud's "Maröuf' ...