Arthur Darmel


Picture of Arthur  Darmel
Darmel (born Arthur François) was born on March 20, 1879 at Bouverie (close to Jemappes) in Belgium. He was the elder of five children.

His father: François François (same first and last name), was for nine years and five months a miner. At thirty-three years, when he leaves the mine with two broken legs, without pension and illiterate, he learns how to read, write and count at the same time as his son Arthur, who helps him collect eggs, butter and fruits from nearby farms, then to manage a small grocery that his father and his mother Lucie succeeded in obtaining after ten years of hard work.

Darmel plays the cornet in the village band when he is fifteen years old. In 1898, his beautiful voice is noticed, and he is admitted at the Mons Conservatoire in the class of Mr Tondeur, who, in 1900, told him to transfer to the Bruxelles conservatory. He enters the conservatory in 1900 in the class of of Mr Demest. He received the first prize in 1903.

He is immediately hired by La Monnaie. During 1903 - 1907, he sings the Opéra and Opéra-Comique repertory , as baritone. Already, at that time, the well known singers Cléry and Caisso advise him to sing tenors, but Darmel does not want to leave a steady job for the unknown.

In 1907, Darmel tours the French province and Switzerland. Initially in Reims, where he meets Hélène Bardot, five year younger, Parisian mezzo-soprano (at the Paris Conservatory, she had won the 1st prize in solfeggio in 1906, 1st prize for art song in 1907, 1st prize for Opéra-Comique in 1908 and also the 3rd prize for piano).

During the 1908 summer, they marry, sing the season in Geneva; in 1909 they sing the season inTours, then in Limoges, Lausanne, Royan and Saintes.

Darmel, during all these seasons sings the roles of baritone and his wife the mezzo - Werther, les Noces de Jeannette, la troupe Jolicœur, Rigoletto, Therèse, La Navarraise, Le roi d'Ys, Hérodiade, Lohengrin, Samson et Dalila, Carmen, Faust, Mireille, and L'Africaine.

It was in Tours in 1909 that Campagnola heard him doing some exercises in the high register (their dressing rooms were next to each other). He leaps out of his dressing room and finds Darmel telling him: "If you do not sing tenor with this voice you are an ass". This energetic apostrophe of the tenor made him think. He consults in Paris the great tenor and professor Imbart de la Tour who told him he is a tenor. Darmel accepts the risk of not working for two years to study tenors in spite of an already solid baritone career.

He is rewarded for it because, in 1911, he is hired by Covent Garden to sing Faust under the name of Darmel with Melba (eight curtain calls) and Panizza as conductor; and Raoul with Tetrazzini (nine curtain calls) and Campanini as conductor.

Melba wants to hire him for Australia , however Covent Garden signs him up for 1912 and 1913.

Darmel did not want to separate from his wife who sang in London during the same season in Lakmé (Mallika) beside Tetrazzini and John McCormack with Panizza conducting.

In addition, Imbart de la Tour advised him not to yield to the mirage of the province and abroad, but to build a solid home base initially. Messrs Kufferath and Guidé offer him a three years contract for La Monnaie. He accepts and signs, he will be accompanied by his wife Hélène Bardot-Darmel hired as first mezzo-soprano.

Arthur Darmel made his debut at the Monnaie, during September 1911 in Samson and Dalila with an enormous success (cf. reviews in: Étoile belge – Le Soir – La Chronique – La Dernière Heure – Le National – Comedia).

After his debut, a crowd awaits him at the exit where he comes out with the conductor Otto Lohse, they are acclaimed. He recognized his father François François in the crowd, Darmel seeks him, the two men embrace each other.

On September 8, Hélène Bardot-Darmel sang in Louise, at La Monnaie, with Claire Friché.

They will sing both at the Monnaie until 1914. Darmel, after Samson and Dalila, sang Hérodiade and all the traditional opera repertory. He will create Déjanire, Roma, Pénélope, La fanciulla del West and finally Parsifal (January-February 1914, alternating with Hensel).

During the same period Hélène Bardot created Le chant de la cloche by Vincent d' Indy (role of the Mother).

On June 29, 1914, Darmel made his debut at the Opéra in Parsifal (he sang the two last performances in July 1914). Then he sang Les huguenots and Lohengrin; in 1916 he created Théodora (by Xavier Leroux); in 1918 Aida, Thaïs; Monna Vanna, in 1919 Otello, Hélène, Patrie (by Paladilhe) of which he sang the last performance.

In 1920, he sang Pagliacci, which was not given at the Opéra since 1902 (but that he sang at the Opéra-Comique during 1915 - 1918), Salammbô, The legend of Saint-Christophe; in 1921, die Walküre and La damnation de Faust.

His wife, Hélène Bardot-Darmel, began on November 3, 1918 at the Opéra with Thaïs, then Guillaume Tell, Rigoletto, Roméo et Juliette; in 1919 Faust, 1920 Samson and Dalila; in 1921 Die Walküre; on March 14, 1921 she created Antar (by Gabriel Dupont) in the role of the Mother.

During his tenure at the Opéra, Darmel sang at the the Opéra Comique, starting on August 15, 1915, with Aphrodite (as Démétrios), then Carmen, Julien, Jean in Les quatre journées (by Alfred Bruneau), Tosca, Maréchal Lefèvre in Madame Sans-Gêne and Werther.

But especially, during those three years, he will be the main Canio in Pagliacci that he sang for the 50th performance on May 31, 1917, with Henri Albers as Tonio and André Baugé as Silvio.

In 1921, in spite of the support of the director of the Opéra Jacques Rouché, Darmel must leave the Opéra, victim of a quota (French affirmative action) system that eliminates foreign singers. He will be naturalized French in 1925. His wife had to leave too since she had married a Belgian!

Darmel and his wife continued a beautiful career in the province and abroad. Meanwhile there had three sons in 1910, 1913 and 1920. This explained the interruption of career of his wife between 1914 and 1918, in 1920 she sang Dalila at the Opéra, eight months pregnant.

In 1921, 1922, 1923, Darmel has brilliant seasons in Geneva. Darmel concentrates more on Wagner but kept his repertory. In 1924, he is at the Liceu; in 1927 in Algiers (Samson et Dalila, Lohengrin). His wife accompanied him and would sing at his side. In 1929, Darmel sang in the Ring at the Bordeaux festival (last in France before the war of 1939).

In 1930, Darmel retired, settled close to Paris, at Maisons-Laffitte, and taught singing at the Paris Conservatory, his wife also being a professor. He gave also private lessons and only appeared on stage for charity concerts in France, Belgium (Lambrechies' disaster) and Switzerland.

During 1939-1940 the war delivered a severe blow, his two oldest sons are taken prisoners, while his youngest is mobilized.

In 1942 Darmel is stricken by a cancer of the digestive system. After two years of ordeal and four successive operations he died on May 1, 1944 with serenity, because his three sons were at his side with his wife who never left him during his career. She will die, also from a cancer, on March 20, 1954, she was born on March 12, 1884.

Arthur Darmel singsSigurd: Esprits gardiens
In RA format

Darmel as a baritone

Picture of Darmel when he was young
Picture of Darmel when he was young

Picture of Darmel as Morales
Darmel as Morales in 1903

Picture of Darmel as Benoit
Picture of Darmel as Benoit in 1904

Picture of Darmel as Mordred
Picture of Darmel as Mordred

Picture of Darmel as Mercutio
Darmel as Mercutio

Picture of Darmel as Valentin
Darmel as Valentin

Picture of Darmel as Polonius
Darmel as Polonius in Hamlet

Picture of Darmel as Le moine peintre
Darmel as Le moine peintre

Picture of Darmel as Un jeune officier
Darmel as Un jeune officier in Le prophète

Picture of Darmel as Panthé
Darmel as Panthée

Darmel as a tenor

Picture of Darmel as Canio
Picture of Darmel as Canio with Baugé and Albers

Picture of Darmel
Darmel as Samson

Picture of Darmel in Lohengrin
Darmel as Lohengrin

Picture of Darmel in Fanciulla del West
Darmel as Johnson

Picture of Darmel in la fiancée vendue
Darmel as Micha in Prodaná nevěsta

Hélène Bardot, Darmel's wife

Bardot in Werther
Madame Bardot in Werther

Bardot in Carmen
Madame Bardot as Carmen

Bardot in Werther
Madame Bardot as Orphée

Darmel as Samson


As baritone under the name Arthur François, 1903-7
Le roi Arthus (Mordred) – Brussels, Monnaie, 30 November 1903
Tosca (Géolier) – Brussels, Monnaie, 4 February 1904
Le jongleur de Notre-Dame (Moine peintre) – Brussels, Monnaie, 25 November 1904
Alceste (Hérault) – Brussels, Monnaie, 14 December 1904
Martille (Jerôme) – Brussels, Monnaie, 3 April 1905
Princesse Rayon de Soleil (Un scalde) – Brussels, Monnaie, 8 September 1905
Armide (Aronte) – Brussels, Monnaie, 7 November 1905
Résurrection (Un paysan) – Brussels, Monnaie, 18 April 1906
Madame Chrysanthème (Un gabier) – Brussels, Monnaie, 9 November 1906
La prise de Troie (Panthée) – Brussels, Monnaie, 26 December 1906
Les troyens à Carthage (Panthée) – Brussels, Monnaie, 27 December 1906
La fiancée vendue (Micha) – Brussels, Monnaie, 23 January 1907
Salome (Soldat) – Brussels, Monnaie, 25 March 1907
Le crépuscule des dieux (Alberich) – Brussels, Monnaie, 1907
Werther – between 1907-1909
Rigoletto – between 1907-1909
Thérèse – between 1907-1909
Le roi d'Ys – between 1907-1909
Samson et Dalila – between 1907-1909
Carmen – between 1907-1909
Faust – between 1907-1909
Mireille – between 1907-1909
L'Africaine – between 1907-1909
Lohengrin – between 1907-1909
La Navarraise – between 1907-1909
Hérodiade – between 1907-1909
Les noces de Jeannette – between 1907-1909
La troupe joli-coeur – between 1907-1909

From 1911, as tenor under the name Darmel
Faust – London 1911
Les huguenots – London 1911
Thaïs – London 1911
Dejanire (Hercule) – Brussels, Monnaie, 6 December 1911
Hérodiade – Brussels, Monnaie, 1911-1914
Robert le diable – Brussels, Monnaie, 1911-1914
Fidelio – Brussels, Monnaie, 1911-1914
Lohengrin – Brussels, Monnaie, 1911-1914
Roma (Lentulus) – Brussels, Monnaie, 15 January 1913
La fille du Far West – Brussels, Monnaie, 17 March 1913
Pénélope – Brussels, Monnaie, 1 December 1913
Parsifal – Brussels, Monnaie, 1911-1914
Samson et Dalila – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
Théodora (Andréas) – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
Aida – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
Monna Vanna – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
Otello – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
Hélène (Pâris) – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
Patrie – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
Paillasse – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
Salammbô – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
La légende de Saint-Christophe – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
La Walkyrie – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
La damnation de Faust – Paris, Opéra, 1914-1921
Aphrodite (Demetrius) – Paris, Opéra-Comique, 1915-1918
Louise – Paris, Opéra-Comique, 1915-1918
Paillasse – Paris, Opéra-Comique, 1915-1918
Tosca – Paris, Opéra-Comique, 1915-1918
Les quatre journées – Paris, Opéra-Comique, 1915-1918
Madame Sans-Gêne – Paris, Opéra-Comique, 1915-1918
Werther – Paris, Opéra-Comique, 1915-1918
Carmen – Paris, Opéra-Comique, 1915-1918
Armide – Gand, Opéra Royal, 1924/5
Tannhäuser – Rouen, des Arts, 1925
Sang probably more Wagner roles in Genève between 1921-3.

Darmel as Siegfried

Odéon, Paris 1914 ?
X  111869  Sigurd: Esprits gardiens (and 1 unpublished take)
X  111870  Hérodiade: Air de Jean  (xp 6935) (and 3 unpublished takes)
X  111871  Samson et Dalila: La meule  (xp 6936) (and 1 unpublished take)
X  111872  Tannhäuser: Reine d'amour (and 1 unpublished take) 
X  111873  Samson et Dalila: Duo with Bardot  (xp 64010)
X  111874  La fille du Far West: Elle me croit
X  111875  Les huguenots: Plus blanche (and 1 upublished take)
Faust: Salut demeure (2 unpublished takes)

Discography of Hélène Bardot-Darmel
X 111876 Werther: Air des larmes (xp 6402)
Darmel as Raoul
Darmel as Raoul


As Dick Johnson
Darmel as Johnson
Reference: Les grandes voix du Hainaut à l'époque du 78 tours., Belgium, 1985.
Reference: Richard T. Soper: Belgian opera houses and singers, The Reprint Company, Spartanburg, South Carolina, 1999.
Additional discographical information comes from the collection of the late André Fildier.
I wish to thank Alain François for the additional pictures of his grandfather and grandmother in Lohengrin, Fanciulla del West, Werther, Siegfried, Samson et Dalila, les Huguenots, in private attire and as a baritone.

Go Home