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Forgotten Opera Singers
Leon Melchissedec (Baritone) (Clermont Ferrand 1843 - Paris 1925)
He was a French baritone who enjoyed a long career in the French capital across a broad range of operatic genres, and later made some recordings and also taught at the Paris Conservatoire. He played second violin in the Theatre de Saint-Etienne before coming to Paris to study. After classes with Alkan, Puget, Mocker and Levasseur at the Paris Conservatoire, where he won a first prize in 1865, he made his debut at the Paris Opera-Comique on 16 July 1866 in Cohen's Josй Maria.
Remaining at the Opera-Comique until 1877, Melchissedec’s repertoire included Les Absents, Le premier jour de bonheur, Lalla-Roukh, Robinson Crusoй, Les dragons de Villars, Le pre aux clercs, Fantasio, Mireille, Richard Cœur de Lion and Le Caid. In 1873 he became the first true baritone to sing the title role of Zampa (as opposed to a singer of mixed voice).
He moved next to the Theatre-Lyrique, singing in Dimitri, Le capitaine Fracasse and the premieres of Paul et Virginie and Le timbre d’argent. In 1879 he joined the Paris Opera, making his debut as Nevers in Les Huguenots on 17 November 1879. His repertoire there included Guillaume Tell, L'Africaine, La Favorite, Rigoletto, Faust, and he created roles in Le Tribut de Zamora, Tabarin, and Le Cid. Having sang Capulet in the first performance of Romeo et Juliette at the Opera-Comique in 1873, he sang Mercutio when it transferred to the repertory of the Opera.
Melchissedec left the Opera in 1891 but rejoined from 1905–12, having become a professor of declamation lyrique at the Paris Conservatoire in 1894. In 1913 he published a treatise on singing entitled ‘Pour Chanter : ce qu’il faut savoir’.
His recordings on APGA, Zonophone and Odeon included La Marseillaise (de Lisle) and excerpts from Les dragons de Villars, Faust and L'Africaine. However, due to his age at the time of recording, these may only give a partial impression of his singing.
Grove commends his “fine voice and magnificent technique”. After his death his wife left his archive to the Musee d'Art Roger Quilliot in Clermont Ferrand.
RECORDINGS FOR SALE
La Marseillaise (de Lisle) Zonophone X-2060-2