Five French Divas

Gall, Yvonne

French soprano, 1885 - 1972

After graduating from the Paris Conservatoire she made her debut as a Rhinemaiden in a performance of Le Crépuscule des Dieux (Götterdämmerung) at the Opéra-Comique in 1908. Her first leading role was Mathilde in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell opposite Léon Escalaïs. She took part in a number of novelties. She sang in Bachelt’s Scemo in 1914, in Magnard’s Guercoeur opposite Marthe Chenal and Maria Kuznetsova. It was not until after the war that she became a principal at the Opéra-Comique. Her first appearance was as Marguerite. In due corse she sang, Manon, Antonia, Tosca, Louise, Donna Anna, Juliette and Daphne in Busser’s Les Noces Corinthiennes. In 1918 she was invited to the Teatro Colon at Buenos Aires, where she was heard as Thaïs, Juliette and Salomé in Massenet’s Hérodiade. She made her debut at the Chicago Opera as Thaïs the same year. There, she was called to undertake whatever the great Diva Mary Garden was unwilling or unable to sing. She was very successful in the first American performance of Ravel’s L’Heure espagnole. She greatly pleased as Tosca, Manon, Salomé and Mathilde. The remarkable Russian impresario Raoul Gunsbourg brought her to Monte Carlo for Thaïs, a French Tristan with Paul Franz and Ariane in Dukas’s Ariane et Barbe-Bleu.

Pathé- and Columbia recordings

Hers is a bright sounding lyric soprano voice of a typically “gallic sound” and full of dramatic energy.



Roméo et Juliette (Gounod):

Ah! - Je veux vivre dans le rêve qui m’enivre!

(rec. 1912)




Frozier-Marrot, Georgette

French mezzo-soprano, date of birth unknown

She was a member of the Grand Opéra Paris from 1924 to 1929, but she mostly made her career in the provinces (Toulouse, Bordeaux, Brussels, Gent and the Vichy Festival) where she appeared as Dalila, Ortrud, Maddalena, Amneris, Hérodiade, Fricka, Pâdmavatî, Adriano in Rienzi, Venus, La Reine in Hamlet, Utah in Sigurd and Fidès in Le Prophète. In 1928 she sang at Covent Garden opposite Fernand Ansseau and Marcel Journet. In 1929 she succeeded at the Opéra-Comique as Carmen, Margared in Lalo’s Le Roi d’Ys.

Rare Pathé- and HMV recordings

She is undoubtedly one of the most complete French mezzo-sopranos. We know by far too little of her. It seems that she never sang Didon on stage, but luckily we have her in a superb recording of the aria “Adieu, fière cité.”



Les Troyens (Berlioz):

Adieu, fière cité

(rec. 1930)



Balguerie, Suzanne

French soprano, 1888 - 1973

She was born in Le Havre and studied at the Conservatoire National de Paris. At the beginning of her career she spezialised in concert work and was particularly interested in contemporary music. It was not until 1921 that she appeared on stage. She made her debut at the Opéra-Comique as Ariane in Dukas’s Ariane et Barbe-bleu. She remained a member of this opera house for more than twenty years, but she also appeared at the Paris Grand Opéra. She sang leading roles in several contemporary French operas by composers such as Alfred Bachelet, Milhaud, Léo Sachs and Henri Rabaud. She was successful as Isolde at the Opéra-Comique. Her repertory also included Donna Anna, Contessa in Le Nozze di Figaro, Brünnhilde in Die Walküre, Antonia, Marguerite, Tosca and Pénélope (Fauré). She was admired by the French public in Paris, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Monte Carlo and rarely appeared outside France. She finished her career in 1950 (!) and became a renowned coach at the conservatory of Grenoble. She died in Grenoble in 1973.

Polydor- and Columbia recordings

She is a remarkable dramatic soprano,  comparable to Germaine Lubin.



Alceste (Gluck):

Divinité du Styx

(rec. 1928)


Tirard, Charlotte

French soprano, 1887 - 1971

She was born in Rouen and studied in Milano with Giulietta Vermes. In 1926 she made a late debut as an opera singer, as Helmwige in Die Walküre (she was 39 years old!). One year later she appeared as Aida opposite Giacomo Lauri-Volpi, as Marschallin in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, as Tosca and as Traviata. She was an admired Marguerite. She was also a great Thaïs and played the role opposite Thill and Vanni-Marcoux.  She was invited  to sing the first French performance of Aithra in Strauss’ Die Ägyptische Helena at the opera house of Monte Carlo. She often sang Wagnerian roles and enjoyed many of her greates successes in his music. In addition to her Elisabeth and Helmwige she also appeared in Parsifal and Rheingold. She was especially loved in the Puccini repertory (she was considered the greatest French Tosca). She was regularly invited by all French opera houses  She retired in 1939 and died in Paris, having lived in a retirement home for “Chanteuses et Comediennes”.

Odeon- and Polydor recordings (also duets with Miguel Villabella)

She demonstrates perfect French diction,  immaculate phrasing and a beautiful voice.

Cinq-Mars (Gounod):

Nuit resplendissante et silencieuse

(rec. 1928)


Laval, Jane

French soprano, 1894 - 1986

She was born Jane Santiard in Nizza. She studied with Hettich, Albers and Isnardon. She received the “Prix du Conservatoire Paris” in 1916. She made her debut at the Grand Opéra Paris in Rameau’s Castor et Pollux. She appeared at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires where she appeared as Siebel, Stéphano (Roméo et Juliette), Frasquita and Ellen (Lakmé). She was invited to sing Micaela and Nedda at the Opera of Monte Carlo. In 1921 she reappeared at the Grand Opéra where she sang the title-role in Franck’s Rebecca. She sang in operas such as Magnard’s Guercoeur, Bloch’s Brocéliande, Roussel’s Padmâvati, Emma in Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina, Ännchen in Weber’s Freischütz and Sophie. Later she added heavier roles to her repertoire (Elsa, Sieglinde, Nedda). She was one of the most celebrated French concert artists and sang at Fauré’s funeral. She made guest appearances at the opera houses of Buenos Aires, Barcelona and Covent Garden.

Vocalion-, Pathé- and Columbia recordings

Hers is a voice of remarkable purity of a rare luminous timbre.

Requiem (Fauré):

Pie Jesu

(rec. 1930)




18 Divas Françaises

Music memoria

Yvonne Gall: Gounod - Roméo et Juliette (Ruhlmann 1912/ Gall, Affre, Albers, Boyer, Journet)

Malibran  Marston

Yvonne Gall: Recital (Arias and songs by Berlioz, Gounod, Délibes, Charpentier, Puccini, Verdi, Massenet, Wagner, Georges, Delmet)


Charlotte Tirard: L’Opéra-Comique - La Direction d’Albert Carré, Vol. 1


Suzanne Balguerie: L’Opéra-Comique - La Direction d’Albert Carré, Vol. 2


Georgette Frozier-Marrot: Verdi - Aida (Gressier 1948 radio broadcast/ Luccioni, Vitale, Cambon, Philippe) “OPERA FROM PARIS”

Mike Richter CD-ROM

Jane Laval: Recital (Arias by Meyerbeer, Massenet, Mozart, Weber, Lully, Rameau, Lagerat, Franck)



Historically, many French singers have not sought the same type of international fame as their Italian or German counterparts. Perhaps due to their fierce French pride, they were content to remain in their home country, enjoying accolades of their countrymen alone. As a result of this, French singers are sometimes neglected in retrospectives of historic singers.


My warmest thanks to Anne Tissier and Mark Silbergeld