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FALCON

Capucine_Chiaudani_Mezzo_Soprano_7Falcon is a very rare intermediate voice type between the dramatic soprano and the mezzo-soprano: a darker-colored dramatic soprano.

Falcon Soprano takes the name from the singer Marie – Cornélie Falcon.

Cornélie Falcon (28 January 1814 – 25 February 1897) was a French soprano who sang at the Opéra in Paris. Her greatest success was creating the role of Valentine in Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots. She possessed “a full, resonant voice” with a distinctive dark timbre and was an exceptional actress. Based on the roles written for her voice her vocal range spanned from low A-flat to high D, 2.5 octaves. She and the tenor Adolphe Nourrit are credited with being primarily responsible for raising artistic standards at the Opéra, and the roles in which she excelled came to be known as “falcon soprano” parts.

[ At the invitation of Nourrit she made her debut at the age of 18 at the Opéra as Alice in the 41st performance of Meyerbeer’s Robert le diable (20 July 1832). The cast included Nourrit and Julie Dorus (who had premiered the role in 1830). The director of the Opéra, Louis Véron, had made certain there was plenty of advance publicity, and the auditorium was packed. The audience included the composers Rossini, Berlioz, Cherubini, Halévy, and Auber, the singers Maria Malibran, Caroline Branchu, and Giulia Grisi.

Her first creation at the Opéra came on 27 February 1833 when she sang Amélie in Auber’s Gustave III. Luigi Cherubini asked Falcon to create Morgiana in his new 4-act tragédie lyrique Ali Baba, ou Les quarante voleurs (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves). The premiere was on 22 July 1833. Falcon’s next real opportunity to shine came with a new revival of Don Juan. This was a 5-act adaptation in French by Castil-Blaze, his son Henri Blaze, and Émile Deschamps of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. On 3 May 1834 Falcon sang Julia in a revival of Spontini’s La vestale which was a benefit performance for Adolphe Nourrit.

Falcon’s other creations at the Opéra included the roles of Rachel in Halévy’s La Juive (23 February 1835), Valentine in Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots (29 February 1836), the title role in Louise Bertin’s La Esmeralda (14 November 1836), and Léonor in Louis Niedermeyer’s Stradella (3 March 1837). She also appeared as the Countess in Rossini’s Le comte Ory and Pamira in Rossini’s Le siège de Corinthe (1836).

Having sung many of the important roles of early Grand Opera, Falcon was closely associated with the genre by contemporary audiences. The designation of the voice timbre “falcon”, a dramatic soprano with a strong lower register (and lighter upper register) reflects this. Castil-Blaze described her voice in 1832:

…A range of two octaves extending from b to d”’, and resonating at all points with an equal vigour. A silvery voice, with a brilliant timbre, incisive enough that even the weight of the chorus cannot overwhelm it; yet the sound emitted with such force never loses its charm or purity.

Berlioz’s admiration for the singer was considerable and he engaged her for one of his concerts which he organized that winter in the hall of the Paris Conservatory. It was the second in the series and was presented on 23 November 1834 with Narcisse Girard conducting. Falcon sang Berlioz’s new orchestrations of the songs La captive and Le Jeune Pâtrie breton, and earned an encore in which she sang an aria by Bellini. Falcon also appeared the following year in a concert on 22 November 1835 which was organized jointly by Girard and Berlioz, in which she again sang Berlioz’s Le Jeune Pâtre breton and an aria from Meyerbeer’s opera Il crociato in Egitto.

By 1835 Falcon was earning 50,000 francs/year at the Opéra, making her the highest paid artist there, earning nearly twice as much as Nourrit and three times as much as Dorus.

Roles for Falcon Soprano:

•Valentine (Les Huguenots)

•Rachel (La Juive)

•Eboli (Don Carlos)

•Venere (Tannhäuser)

•Kundry (Parsifal)

•Tigrana (Edgar, first version in 4 acts)

•Santuzza (Cavalleria rusticana)

Famous Falcon Sopranos:

-Jessye Norman

-Grace Bumbry

-Shirley Verrett

-Christa Ludwig

-Giovanna Casolla

-Anna Caterina Antonacci

-Capucine Chiaudani

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