Lucy Arbell

Lucy Arbell (née Georgette Gall, Georgette Wallace) (8 June 1878 – 21 May 1947), was a French mezzo-soprano whose operatic career was mainly centred in Paris and who was particularly associated with the composer Jules Massenet.[2]

Lucy Arbell
Lucy Arbell photographed by Paul Nadar.jpg
Carte de visite of Lucy Arbell by Paul Nadar[1]
Born(1878-06-08)8 June 1878
Died21 May 1947(1947-05-21) (aged 68)
OccupationOpera Singer

Life and careerEdit

Arbell reprising the title role of Jules Massenet's Thérèse (which she created) for the 1911 Paris première.

The father of Georgette was Edmond Richard Wallace (1840–1887), son of Sir Richard Wallace.

Arbell made her stage debut as Dalila at the Paris Opéra on 23 October 1903. She also sang there Amneris in Aida, Madalena in Rigoletto, Uta in Sigurd, Fricka in Die Walküre and Thérèse.[3]

Arbell in the role of Queen Amahelli at the Théâtre de l'Opéra (Palais Garnier), during the creation of Bacchus in 1909. Photograph by Paul Nadar.

She had a close relationship with the late operas of Massenet, creating roles in Ariane (Perséphone), Thérèse (title role), Bacchus (Queen Amahelli), Don Quichotte (Dulcinée) in Monte-Carlo and Paris, Roma (Postumia), and Panurge (Colombe).[2] She may have been a talented actor, but her voice was considered by some critics to be mediocre; the roles created for her included extensive passages of declamation, something not usually seen in the operas of the period.[4] The critic Rodney Milnes describes Arbell as "gold-digging": her blatant exploitation of the composer's honourable affections caused his wife considerable distress and even strained Massenet's devotion (or infatuation as Milnes characterises it). After the composer's death in 1912, Arbell pursued his widow and publishers through the law courts, seeking to secure herself a monopoly of the leading roles in several of his late operas.[5]

At the Opéra-Comique she sang Charlotte (Werther) up to the 1920s,[6] but fell into oblivion after Massenet's death.[4] As a singer she is described as having a strong, vibrant 'mezzo-contralto' and a vivacious personality.[2]


  1. ^ Paul Nadar on Getty Museum
  2. ^ a b c Forbes E. Lucy Arbell. In: The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Macmillan, London and New York, 1997.
  3. ^ Gourret J. Dictionnaire des Cantatrices de l'Opéra. Editions Albatros, Paris, 1987.
  4. ^ a b Branger, Jean-Christophe (2019). "'There Must Be Something There That We Don't Know About': Massenet and Lucy Arbell". Cambridge Opera Journal. 30 (2–3): 186–218. doi:10.1017/S0954586719000065. S2CID 203423662.
  5. ^ Milnes, Rodney. "Massenet, Jules" The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Oxford Music Online, Oxford University Press, retrieved 28 July 2014 (subscription required)
  6. ^ Wolff S. Un demi-siècle d'Opéra-Comique (1900–1950). André Bonne, Paris, 1953.