Text Box: Composer autographs

Phone: 212-860-5541  *  Fax: 917-677-8247


Price: $400.00



Three page autographed letter signed regarding the Swedish soprano Sigrid Arnoldson who was the toast of the Opera Comique, mentions his librettist Philippe Gille, dramatist Georges Boyer and the influential Parisian music journal “Le Ménestrel”, c. 1887.  We offer with a 5” x 7” second state, matte, double-weight developed photograph of the composer


Saturday night




Here is a copy of the dispatch that praised her this evening when she came home from dinner, too late to take it to Gille.


I gave it to her, however, begging her to communicate it to Boyer. This dispatch and praise for the young Sigrid above all is too much publicity as the fire fades or is sent to the certain furnace.


Would you agree - to send it from your coachman to Georges Boyer? and to the loyal fan? …………..Unfortunately for Mènestrel he makes us wait a week, bad luck, done for the best.


By 1887 Délibes (1836-1891) was a wealthy man from his success as a composer for the stage.  He had his day job teaching at the Conservatoire which would include long “leisurely” lunches with many of his young female Conservatoire pupils.  He also had a heart condition which at times precluded his work and his recreation.  His 1883 hit “Lakmé” was making its’ rounds at opera houses throughout Europe and America and he was looking for a new project.  In early 1885 he found Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s erotic novella Frinko Balaban published in his first volume of The Legacy of Cain in 1874. He began developing an opera about the young gypsy girl in the story named Kassya and the plot occurs in the middle of the 1846 Galician Peasant Rebellion.  The composer announced the project and contracted his usual librettist Philippe Gille (1831-1901) and added the well known librettist Henri Meilhac (1830-1897) as co-author.  The composer was convinced this would be his masterpiece.  The Hungarian Academy invited him to Budapest in the Summer of 1885 and he took a Danube River trip gathering folk songs and other music he heard along the way.  His interest in Sigrid Arnoldson (1861-1943) for the title role of “Kassya” would be keen at this point as she was the “it” soprano in Paris at that time.  She made her debut in the title role of Ambroise Thomas’s “Mignon” to rave reviews, Le Ménestrel described her performance as “the true illusion of Mignon” which may be the review he discusses here.  She did not sing in any Délibes operas up until that point, nor did she sing in any during that first season in Paris, which also included the Theatre Lyrique.  Délibes certainly would have known her prior to 1887, as she was a long time prize pupil of Mathilde Marchesi and Desiree Artot de Padilla and her husband Mariano, the two of the most prominent vocal teachers in Paris, who were a direct feed to the opera houses in Paris.  Arnoldson left Paris to sing as a guest in Denmark and then on to Drury Lane in London where she was heralded as the  third coming of Jenny Lind after Christine Nilsson.  She was a regular guest in London from 1888 to 1890 when her husband who managed her made an error in judgment in royal protocol when he loudly announced his displeasure with the fact that she had not been introduced to the Princess of Wales after a command performance at Windsor Castle.  A letter of apology came along with a brooch, but her contracts in London were not renewed.  An early teacher Maurice Strakosch was leading a touring opera company for the 1890 season and hired her to go with the company to the United States.  Also in 1890, with “Kassya” still in the works, Délibes was planning for the 100th performance of Lakmé in May, 1891 and he selected Arnoldson who had signed for 2 season with the Opera Comique to make her role debut.  All was to come to naught as Délibes collapsed and passed away of a massive heart attack in January 1891 and Arnoldson was ill on the day of the performance and was replaced.  That said, the role of Lakmé was to become one of her signature roles that she sang internationally.  “Kassya” was unfinished at the time of the composer’s death.  Initially the American born, French opera composer Ernest Guiraud (1837-1892) was given the project, but he also died at 54 in 1892 and left the opera incomplete.  Massenet completed the orchestration for performances at the Opera Comique in 1893, it ran for eight.  Unfortunately the libretto was clumsy, though the music was praised.


Georges Boyer (1850-1931) was a playwright, librettist and the Secretary General of the National Academy of Music in Paris.  Though Boyer did not collaborate with the composer on any project that came to fruition, he did write the libretto to Massenet’s “Manon” and also wrote libretti for: Theodore Dubois, Gabriel Fauré, Ernest Reyer, Camille Saint-Saëns and Ambroise Thomas among others.

An interesting later letter by the composer and gives a loose framework for the thinking that went along with his writing/casting an opera.