Raveau, Alice

French contralto, 1884 - 1951

Alice Raveau was considered the successor of the great contralto Marie Delna


BORN: Alice Raveau, 8 August 1884, Paris (?).

DIED: 13 May 1945, Paris.

STUDIED: She studied at the Conservatoire National de Paris with August Dubulle who was a student of the great Louis-Henri Obin.

DEBUT: In the title role of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice (Opéra-Comique, 1908).

ROLES: Title role Orphée et Eurydice (Gluck); Title role Carmen (Bizet); Title role Solange (Salvayre); Diana Léone (Rousseau); Eurycleia Pénélope (Fauré); title role Macbeth (Bloch); title role Yato (Labori); Charlotte Werther (Massenet); Title role Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saëns); title role Le Sauteriot (Lazzari).

COMPANIES & VENUES: Opéra-Comique, Paris; Grand Opéra, Paris; Operas of Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux; Arena d’Orange. Tours to Scandinavia, Belgium and the Netherlands (1934).

FIRST PERFORMANCES: Solange (Opéra-Comique, 1909); Léone (Opéra-Comique, 1910); Macbeth (Opéra-Comique, 1910); Pénélopé (Opéra Monte Carlo, 1913); Le Sauteriot (Opéria-Comique, 1920); Yato (?).

ALSO NOTEWORTHY: From 1929 Alice Raveau concentrated more and more on recitals performing songs by Debussy, Chausson, Duparc, Tomasi, Fauré and a number of other French composers. She was to become one of the most important interpreters of French mélodies.


The role which was to remain most closely associated with her - Gluck’s Orpheus


Orfeo ed Euridice - Orphée et Eurydice

Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)

The two versions of Gluck’s reform opera

Italian Version

French Version

Orfeo ed Euridice

Orphée et Eurydice

Libretto: Raniero de’ Calzabigi

Libretto: Pierre-Louis Moline after Calzabigi

First performance: Vienna, 5 October 1762

First performance: Paris, 2 August 1774

Gluck composed the title role for the alto castrato Gaetano Guadagni , one of the greatest singers of the day. In a revival of the opera in 1769, the role was transposed up for the soprano castrato Giuseppe Millico.

Gluck revised the opera for performances at the Académie Royal de Musique, adapting the title role for the ‘haute-contre’ Joseph Legros (the type of voice usually used for heroic roles in French opera). The composer also altered the orchestration to make the opera larger and grander.


Oh what sweet and melting songs, what ravishing harmonies! These tenderest of accents have disarmed us and charmed us. Let him descend into the underworld! The way is open. Everything gives way before the sweetness of his captivating art; He has conquered!


The most famous female singer interpreter of the role was the contralto  Pauline Viardot-Garcìa , for whom Hector Berlioz made his edition of the opera in 1859. Basically he followed the 1774 French score, rearranging it in four acts. He also restored much of the key scheme and some of the original, more subtle orchestration of the Italian version.



Samson et Dalila

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)


Remember thou thy servant from whom they have taken away his sight! Deign for a brief moment, Lord, to give me back my old strength! Let me avenge myself and thee, o God, by destroying them here in this place!


RECORDINGS (selection):

Orphée et Eurydice - Excerpts (Tomasi/Raveau, Féraldy, Delille)


Recital (Arias by Gluck, Saint-Saëns, Massenet, Bizet. Schumann songs)

Hamburger Archiv



Alice Raveau recorded excerpts from Orpheus in 1935. It is a famous set and for many people it defined the art of Gluck singing before period movement came up. Raveau’s singing is of great beauty and purity, but I find the conductor’s slow tempi rather irritating. Raveau’s  success on opera stages was based more or less on four roles: Orpheus, Charlotte, Carmen and Dalila.  Enjoy listening her in Dalila’s aria  “Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix”. The tones are accurate, the words are lively and her voice is more of a limpid than of passionate quality. Raveau’s performance is probably the most subtle version on records.

 Quel nouveau ciel pare ces lieux! (Orphée / Act 2  / Gluck / 1935)

 Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix (Dalila in Samson et Dalila / Saint-Saëns / 1928)