Alice Verlet (Soprano) (Belgium 1873 - 1934 Paris)
She was a Belgian-born operatic coloratura soprano active primarily in France. She sang principal roles at the operas in Lyon, Nice, and Monte Carlo; at His Majesty's Theater in London; at La Monnaie in Brussels; and at the Paris Opera and Opera-Comique. In the United States, although not entirely absent from the operatic stage, she was known primarily as a concert singer and was a featured singer on Edison records.
Alice Verlet was born in 1873 as Alice Verheyden in the Flemish-speaking region of Belgium, where her father was an official. She commenced musical study at age 8 with lessons in piano and harmony; vocal training did not follow until age 16, when she studied under Mme. Moriani, then a respected voice teacher in Brussels. Within four years, in 1893, Verlet made her professional debut at Leuven, immediately after which she sang for the Belgian Queen and members of the nobility in Brussels.
Verlet made her debut at the Opera-Comique in 1894. as Philine in Thomas's Mignon On July 16, 1895, she appeared in England, participating in a concert at the Masonic Hall in Birmingham presented by Mme. Moriani to showcase her pupils. Two other participants, now long forgotten, had already made debuts in London, but with some prescience Mme. Moriani emphasized to the press that the Opera-Comique had recently engaged Verlet as prima donna.
From that point forward, Verlet enjoyed a successful career, particularly in Francophone Europe. Her debut at the Monnaie in Brussels took place on September 7, 1901 in Verdi's Rigoletto; she remained a member of that company for the balance of the season and later would make periodic appearances there. Her debut at the Paris Opera, as Blondine in a French-language production of Mozart's Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, came in 1903. She sang her first Rigoletto in that house on April 11, 1904; Adelina Patti, who was in attendance, conspicuously displayed enthusiasm for Verlet's singing and offered congratulations to Verlet's teacher, Mme. Moriani.
In 1905 and 1906, Verlet played the Naiad in the first modern revival of Gluck's Armide in Paris. Other cast members included Lucienne Breval, Agustarello Affre, Dinh Gilly, and Genevieve Vix. Two years later, she was at the Theatre de la Gaite-Lyrique for a run of Lakme with David Devries and Felix Vieuille.
Verlet assembled a company and undertook a tour of England in 1910. Other members included contralto Edna Thornton and pianist Mark Hambourg; the accompanist was Cyril Towsey of Wellington, New Zealand, who had carved out a career performing in such ad hoc groups. In July, Verlet returned to Birmingham, the scene of her English artistic "coming out" 15 years before, as a participant in daily concerts for the city's centenary fetes, although perhaps upstaged by a massive air show, not unmarred by fatal crashes of the then-novel machines. She was again in distinguished artistic company, organized and directed by Dan Godfrey: other participants included singers Nellie Melba, Agnes Nicholls, and Harry Plunket Greene; pianists Wilhelm Backhaus, Myra Hess, and Benno Moiseiwitsch; and violinist Mischa Elman. Verlet made her London debut one month earlier as a participant in the Thomas Beecham Opera Comique Season at His Majesty's Theater. As in her Paris Opera debut, the opera was Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, but now Verlet played Constanze opposite Maggie Teyte as Blonde and Robert Radford as Osmin, all under Beecham's baton.
Shortly after completing her first season at the Opera-Comique, Verlet sang at the residence of the American Ambassador to Belgium. The result was an invitation to make her first visit to the United States, which led to her US debut in August 1896. Among her early US engagements was at the sold-out May 10, 1897 inaugural concert of the Fanny Mendelssohn Society, a women's choral group founded and directed by J. Alfred Pennington, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Interspersed with selections for the chorus and for harpist Maude Morgan, Verlet sang two songs, "The Kiss" by Helmund and "Les Filles de Cadiz" by Lйo Delibes; two operatic excerpts, the Spinning Song from Wagner's Der fliegende Hollдnder and the Shadow Song from Meyerbeer's Dinorah; and, together with all the other artists assembled, including accompanist Charlotte Blackman, Horatio Parker's part song for women's chorus, composed only five years earlier, "The Fisher." Verlet's interpolation of a high concluding note in the Meyerbeer earned her a standing ovation and encore.
At the time of the Scranton performance, Verlet counted 25 operas in her repertoire; could sing fluently in French, Italian, and German; and planned to make her New York debut at Carnegie Hall on the following November 1 in a Damrosch concert. Some twenty-five years later, ending a concert tour on March 17, 1922, Verlet would revisit that hall to present a program including European operatic arias "from Mozart to Massenet" and songs by US composers including Henry Hadley and Thurlow Lieurance. Accompanying her were pianist J. Warren Erb and a young Spanish-born classical violinist from Cuba named Xavier Cugat, who soon would shift genres and go on to fame as the "rhumba king", the first leader of a successful Latin dance band in the United States.
Although primarily a concert singer in the United States, Verlet did perform some opera. In 1915 the Chicago Opera engaged her as Philene in several performances of Thomas's Mignon. Also in the cast were Conchita Supervia, Charles Dalmores, and Marcel Journet. She also performed with the Boston Opera.
The sort of elaborate ornamentation in which she excelled having fallen out of fashion, Verlet retired from performing in 1920. Thereafter, she taught voice until her death in Paris in 1934.
RECORDINGS FOR SALE
Faust: Le roi de Thule APGA 1070
Rigoletto: Au temple APGA 1057
Rigoletto: O doux nom APGA 1056
Hamlet: A vos jeux, mes amis G&T 33677 5375h
Serenata a Laura (Pons, words Caruso) Gramophone 7-53000 10245e
Laura, Hymne d'amour (Pons) Gramophone 2-033004 3143f
Rigoletto: Caro nome Edison 82080 3501-B
La vierge a la creche (Perilhou) Edison BA 28224 4297-C
Mireille: O legere hirondelle (Arietta) Edison 80750 3559-C
Nymphes et Sylvains (Bemberg) Edison BA 28229 4282-C
Rigoletto: Bella figlia dell'amore with Guido Ciccolini, Merle Alcockand and Arthur Middleton Edison 29006 5629-C
Les Huguenots: O beau pays Edison 82090 3553-C
La Brabanconne Edison BA 28266 4670-C
Hamlet: Doute de la lumiere with Orphee Langevin Edison 82265 4727-B
Stabat Mater: Quis est homo with Margaret Matzenauer Edison PA 29036 3689-A
Faust: Air des bijoux Edison BA 28237 3585-A
Carnival of Venice, pt 1 pt 2 (Benedict) Edison 83070 83070 3826-C 3855-A
Chanson d'amour (Hollman) Edison 82178 6336-A
Ernani: Ernani, involami Edsion BA 28245 4709-B
Romeo et Juliette Ange adorable with Ralph Errolle Edison 82211 5961-C
Les filles de Cadiz (Delibes) Edison BA 28264 4861-C
Le Crucifix (Faure) with Orphee Langevin Edison BA 28257 4712-B