Michel Béal

Michel Béal singsFaust: En vain j'interroge (rehearsal)
In RA format

Michel Béal singsLa Juive: Ô Dieu, Dieu de nos pères, with unknown soprano

Michel Béal singsLa Juive: Ah! j'implore en tremblant ta clémence, with Henri Médus
In RA format

Michel Béal singsLa Juive: Rachel, quand du Seigneur
With repetition! You must be positively crazy to do that...

Michel Béal singsLa Juive: Dieu, m'éclaire
In RA format

Michel Béal singsGuillaume Tell: Asile héréditaire ... Amis, amis, secondez ma vengeance
In RA format

Michel Béal singsIl trovatore: Di quella pira
In RA format
French singers are generally terribly ill-documented since almost nobody in France takes pains to cherish their memory in any form; but Michel Béal is a special case indeed – an incredibly mysterious tenor even for French standards. Although he was roughly a contemporary of Pavarotti, only very few facts are known about him.

In 1960, he sang Éléazar in Constantine, Algeria, then still a French province. Some excerpts from that performance have survived: the accompaniment is bizarre (not exactly "orchestral", more like piano-with-string-quartet), but in the cast is no less a Brogni than Henri Médus, at the time a famous basso who had been at the Paris Opéra until 1958.

I remember that François Nouvion said, when I asked him about Béal, that he had sung a lot in French Algeria; whether this was knowledge, or a deduction from that Constantine Juive, I cannot say. In any case, Béal never sang in Algiers proper (the history of the opera theater there is, unlike most other French theaters, well-documented).

In July 1984, he sang Faust in Rouen... but in the 24 years in between? One French collector, who tried hard to find out anything about Béal, posted on the internet that he found several Béal performances in Bastia (Corsica). All in all, that seems scarce for a career of at least 24 years... but above all for a singer with such an excellent voice and musicality. He sure has his shortcomings (his intonation is sometimes painfully poor, and the voice wasn't likely very big), but he produces a very beautiful sound, has an extraordinary top, and a flair for the music he sings, with a laudable (never histrionic) sense for dramatic effect. To sum it up, above all in his time, lots of singers who were not half as good as Béal made world careers – he sang in Constantine, Bastia and Rouen... something seems definitely wrong here. Is this an example of just how arbitrary fame in music can be, or did he not, for whichever reason, pursue a continuous career? Or did he, after Constantine 1960, primarily sing in concerts (all other recordings are with piano only)? A mystery.

Béal is said to have made a noncommercial LP with Maria Lanza songs and Broadway hits (if anyone happens to own that LP, please don't hesitate to share it with Historical Tenors!!).

Final piece of this largely incomplete puzzle: in the 1988 Bohème film whose soundtrack José Carreras recorded before coming down with leukemia, and where young Luca Canonici acted to Carreras' singing, they introduced a character unheard of in Puccini's opera: an innkeeper – of the inn where Marcello paints "quei guerrieri sulla facciata" in act 3, a silent role. And that innkeeper was played by a certain Michel Béal. Can that be "our" tenor?

Is this by any chance...

"our" Michel Béal?

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