Lucy Arbell


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(b Paris, Sept 1882; d Paris, 1947). French mezzo-soprano. She made her début in 1903 at the Paris Opéra as Delilah, then sang Amneris, Maddalena (Rigoletto), Uta (Sigurd) and Fricka (Walküre). In 1906 she sang Persephone in Ariane, the first of six roles that she created in operas by Jules Massenet, and in which she made a great impression. The others were the title role of Thérèse (1907, Monte Carlo), a role perfectly suited to her strong, vibrant mezzo-contralto and vivacious personality, Queen Amahelli in Bacchus (1909, Opéra), Dulcinée in Don Quichotte (1910, Monte Carlo), Postumia in Roma (1912, Monte Carlo) and Colombe in Panurge (1913, Gaîté, Paris). She was renowned for her interpretation of Charlotte (Werther) at the Opéra-Comique, where in 1924 she appeared as Dulcinée for the last time. Her warm, clear voice and sparkling personality inspired Massenet to continue composing operas in the last years of his life, but according to eye-witnesses, her demands on the composer tested even his infatuation, and after his death in 1912 she pursued his widow and his publishers with lawsuits over exclusive rights to his posthumous oeuvre, delaying the premières of Cléopâtre (1914) and Amadis (1922). The term mezzo-contralto, indicating an affinity with both the mezzo-soprano and the contralto, was applied to her voice with its wide range and weight of tone.

From The Grove Book of Opera Singers in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Opera.

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