Louis Morrisson (1888-1934)
On this day, January 30th, 1970, exactly thirty-six years ago, the world of opera singers lost one of its greatest singers, the tenor Louis Morrisson died at Antwerp on this date.
Louis Morrisson (pseudonym fir Ludovicus Moyson) was born at Antwerp, Belgium, on May 11th, 1888, in a middle-class family, which gave him the opportunity to study in the French language at the Malonne College (Belgian Ardennes). Predisposed to music and aspiring to a career in it, he became a pupil of the well-known composer Edgard Tinef at the Lemmens Institute, Malines, from 1901 to 1907, learning fugue, counterpoint and composition, as he wished to become an organist. It was his professor, Tinel, who discovered his beautiful tenor voice, which was completely formed at the age of thirteen and at (his time he regularly sang at the Christmas services in the cathedrals of Malines and Antwerp.
At this age too he had the honor of singing before their Royal Highnesses Prince Albert and Princess Elisabeth, who were both impressed with the magnificent tone of his voice. Completing his musical studies in 1907 he was due to leave for London, where he had a contract as organist at Westminster Abbey, when family circumstances obliged him to retract. Encouraged by his friends Morrisson finally decided to follow up the possibility of a vocal career and sang in some concerts in Antwerp and in Amsterdam where he aroused the interest of the art-director of the Rembrand Theatre. At this time the Rembrand Theatre was a house devoted entirely to opera, directed by an old Belgian tenor, Mr. Desirée Pauwels, who engaged Morrisson and his debut as an operatic tenor took place during the 1909-10 season on October 1st. The role was Manrico in Verdi's "Il Trovatore" and he sang it on eight successive nights, with co-artists Cato Engelen-Sewing, soprano, Irma Lozin, mezzo, Carl Butter, baritone and Joseph Orelio, baritone.
During his years at this theatre Morrisson sang a varied repertoire: apart from Trovatore; La Bohème, Les Huguenots, La Juive, Faust, Lucia di Lammermoor, Guglielmo Tell, Werther, Mignon, Tosca, La Favorita, Rigoletto, Aida, Madame Butterfly, Le Postillon de Lonjumeau, Herodiade, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, two works he customarily sang on the same evening throughout his career. He also sang in "La Traviata" and "Carmen" with the internationally famous Sigrid Arnoldson.
Swedish soprano, Sigrid Arnoldson - (1861-1943)
During his Netherlands Opera engagement Morrisson sang (in 1913 and 1914) several performances at the Antwerp Royal Opera, where a very enthusiastic public cheered him in Martha, Der Freischütz, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Quinten Massys, Eugen Onegin, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, etc., and where he created in the Dutch language "Alpenlied'', "Le Jongleur de Notre Dame" and "I Gioielli della Madonna". During the same season of the performances of this beautiful work of Wolf Ferrari at the Royal Flemish Opera, Leon Campagnola was singing the same role at the Antwerp Royal French Opera. In consequence opera lovers went from one theatre to the other, making comparisons, and despite the great and undoubted merit of M. Campagnola, at the time at the peak of his glorious career, both the critics of the time and the public were even more favourable to "this young tenor with his prodigal voice" as several wrote at the time. The two tenors went to see and hear each other. Fortunately they were introduced and eventually became good friends. This friendship between two exceptional artists grew during the 1914-18 war and remained as long as they lived.
One day, after a performance of I Gioielli della Madonna at which Campagnola was present to hear and cheer his young rival, Campagnola said, in an admiring and convinced voice, "My friend, if I had your voice and my experience, which is so much greater than yours can be by now, at this time my fame would be as great as Caruso's and, believe me, I'm convinced of what I'm telling you". This was in January 1914, a few months before the great disaster which not only had such dramatic consequences for the entire world, but seriously affected the career of our young tenor who a few weeks later, through a Berlin impresario, signed a five-year contract for the Chicago Opera, then managed by Dippel. This contract bound Morrisson for the seasons 1914 to 1919 in the tenor roles of Il Trovatore, Guglielmo Tell, La Juive, La Favorita, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, La Forza del Destino, Aida and Lucia di Lammermoor. Unfortunately owing to the explosion of the Great War this contract had to be annulled.
Morrisson made his first recordings, commencing in 1910 in Berlin for Favorite Records, then in London for Columbia in 1911 and in 1913 in Paris for Pathe. The six vertical cut records he made there appeared first on 35cm. discs, then they were cut on 25cm. and still later they were re-recorded on to 25cm needle-cut. From 1918 to 1920 some recordings were made for the Polydor company (Reneyphone-Polyphon-Musola).
In 1919 Morrisson returned to Antwerp, then had a concert tour covering London, Manchester and other British cities, following which he visited the singing-pedagogue, M. Edmond Delit, another Belgian. At a much later press interview Morrisson stated, "Monsieur Delil gives his singing lessons following the old Italian methods of Emanuel Garcia, Pauline Viardot-Garcia and Blanche Marchesi. He has now settled as a singing master in Paris and today - here inserting shyly - thanks to the successes I have everywhere I'm singing in France today he is the professor who is consulted by almost all the artists of L'Opera and the Opera-Comique for instruction and for his wide knowledge of the science of voice-placing". M. Delit was not only Morrisson's teacher, but as impresario managed all Morrisson's contracts during his stay in France. In fact he settled in Paris from July 1919 - at Neuilly-sur-Seine - and made his opera debut for that country in the part of Eleazar, La Juive, on January 16th, 1920, at Le Havre. There is an interesting press interview report given the day following the performance. To a question from one of the reporters Morrisson answered, "What you were told, dear sir, is quite correct' The manager of your Lyric Theatre really was afraid about me. because at the 'Italienne' (short piano accompanied rehearsal) yesterday afternoon I sang in half voice and by-passed the long passages. So when I had returned to my hotel this gentleman said - about me - 'But good heavens, our first falcon soprano will certainly strike this gentleman, who doesn't even dare to let us hear his voice. Whatever will happen tonight! At the beginning of the performance last night - on hearing the baritone like notes of my first act entree as Eleazar 'et pourquoi pas, et pourquoi pas?' he cried. 'Do you hear, they have sent me a baritone, it's the biggest disaster of my life!' But I can assure you, after my encore of 'O, ma fille cherie' he came to me and kissed me, tears of joy and emotion in his eyes and told me what his first thoughts had been. I am not at all angry about this for he is not the first who made this error, misled by the baritonal 'grave' of my voice, but this way I can always say a lot for the performance, which generally comes as a great 'surprise' . . ."
And a current critic wrote, "We have often heard 'La Juive' but never felt the same emotions as we did last night, when we heard and saw the new tenor Louis Morrisson in the role of Eleazar. Have our senses played us false? We don't think so and have the firm conviction that Mr. Morrisson is a genuinely superior artist. How many famous tenors have we cheered in this role? Yet nevertheless, when we compare - and this is what we do instinctively - all those great artists did not reach the same peak of perfection. Mr. Morrisson possesses the required organ and musical science, and even when other singers have the same qualities, Morrisson has something the others usually lack, a real acting ability: a real scenic science. This science he translates through his voice, his mimicry, his gait and costume. His voice is really of a marvellous purity, very homogeneous with a splendid and easy attack. He portrays the role in an original manner and the character of his Shylock-like Jew is a remarkable one, growing from the first note to the end. Starting from his 'O ma fille cherie' the audience was in a really delirious mood and one 'Encore' after another sounded. The Passover scene of the second Act was of dramatic sobriety. Concerning the fourth Act we can only say that it brought the warmest 'bravo's', so that our tenor was absolutely obliged to sing a second time the famous, and so difficult, 'Dieu m'eclaire, fille chore' .... "
M. Morrison sang "La Juive" more than 1,200 times during his career, with the famous falcon Mme. Mathilde Comes and the basses Paul Aumonier, Paul Payan, Albert Huberty, Henri Bloemgarten and M. Raybaud. In this role he was acclaimed at the Gaite Lyrique where he conquered all Paris on November 21st, 1921. The Press wrote the following morning: "The Gaite Lyrique has discovered a new tenor, Monsieur Louis Morrisson. This is an heroic tenor: he sings 'La Juive'. After the fourth Act he brought the whole audience to its feet! It was the enthusiasm of a great night'. The curtain was raised again and again and we had the honour to hear an encore. So M. Morrisson began again and could have sung for a third time his famous 'grand-air', as he did not give the least impression of tiredness or effort. He really is made for singing in large houses, because he has an astonishing, easy emission and his tones, every tone, really fill the house. He certainly will be acclaimed in the Opera Comique, but his real scene of action should be L'Opera. Let us hope (he managers of our lyric theatres will go to hear M. Morrisson, for we do not possess many heroic tenors and this one ranks amongst the greatest." The remainder of the cast that night were Mme. Madesky (Rachel), the bass Emil Roque (Brogni), Vina Bovy (Eudoxie) and M. Burdino (Leopold).
On December 21st, same year, the following criticism appeared in a Paris newspaper: "Last night there was a performance at L'Opera of 'I Pagliacci' with a new Belgian tenor in the title role, M. Morrisson. Here he was as good as Canio as he was last month at the Gaite Lyrique a good Eleazar. In this role he again displays his fine vocal and scenic gifts, portraying in a perfect manner the painful and fatal jealousy, bringing maximum effects to the pathetic situations. His vocal power and ease over the whole register from the highest to the lowest tones made of the grand air a 'lamento' of breathtaking dimensions; further M. Morrisson makes of the other famous and difficult pages really unique compositions, convincing by the life-like outbursts of passion. M. Morrisson gave an encore and won a very warm and intense ovation and the warmth of this increased in strength at the end of the opera."
A few months later Morrisson made his debut at the Opera Comique on May 15th, 1922, in "Cavalleria Rusticana" and this was another triumphant success for him. He carried the title of this
institution for the remainder of his life. The following day's report ran: "The main interest of the audience was especially excited by the appearance on stage of the new tenor, Morrisson, making his debut on our big lyrical stage. His mighty voice, incredibly easy in the highest notes, his acting intelligence as well as a young and warm conviction have given us a splendid and vibrant interpretation of Turiddu. The fullness of his notes throughout his entire register, as well as their long duration made us think immediately at the 'souvenir' of our most outstanding tenors. Considering the fact that he is not a Frenchman there is not a trace of foreign accent when he sings, articulating very intelligibly. Every word is understandable for the public, which brought him, of course, an enthusiastic ovation, almost without comparison, at the end of the night, making him repeat the 'Vive le vin qui petille' given in a really splendid manner, the high notes pealing above the chorus with an astonishing ease. After this night we are convinced that M. Morrisson has conquered all the real Parisian connoisseurs and we hope to see him often on the stage of our National Academy of Music."
During this period Morrisson appeared on all the great stages of France. Look what the critics wrote at Toulouse, to every great singer a most redoubtable town, after a performance of "II Trovatore".
"M. Morrisson, the tenor who was so appreciated by our citizens some time ago in 'La Juive', 'Guillaume Tell' and 'Les Huguenots' had naturally an enthusiastic welcome in the part of Manrico. We will not say again that M. Morrison has found a role that suits him, no, it was much better than that. By singing this part his stature has increased, if possible, because his Manrico, with its high notes, trumpeted with ease, sureness and unbelievable suppleness has filled the lovers of Grand Opera with Joy. His easy, mighty, full warm and well-limbered voice has astonished everybody once again. Firstly in his 'Serenade' in the first Act, then in the second Act duet with Azucena. He was obliged to sing the 'mal reggendo' and the famous 'Ah! che la morte ignore' of the Miserere scene twice; and concerning 'Di! quella pira' this grew into a delirious success with no less than three encores. An unforgettable night for lovers of grand opera and heroic tenors."
We find M. Morrison back, in "Guglielmo Tell" of Rossini at Marseilles on January 30th, 1921, when the press wrote the following about him: "He arrived here in Marseilles yesterday afternoon from Le Havre. In that town he had sung 'La Juive' the night before and last night he had to sing the part of Arnold. It was a real revelation, with each Act his success grew and it is true that yesterday's performance of this Rossini work was one that our stage had never seen previously. M. Morrison is not the traditional heroic tenor, he is a real 'mixed tenor' who must be marvellous in 'Gli Unonotti' or 'Faust' in which we should love to hear him. He triumphed in the 'fort' and all the top notes. The power of his voice unleashed stormy ovations, and in the indicated places this brilliant tenor presented some sublime mezzo-voce phrases, with which this brilliant tenor fills his hearers with ecstasy. Right from the first Act, after the 'Mathilde io t'amo d'amore' sung with love and emphasis, loud ovations resounded. The same was true for the duet with Mathilde, Mlle. Marguerite Charpentier, and the famous trio, Arnold, William, Walter, with Mss. Weber and Aumonier, caused a long continued ovation. The crown to this work was without doubt the encore given by M. Morrisson to the famous Act 4 air 'O muto asil', and the stretta 'Corriam, corriamo' brought a minute's long ovation. At no time did the histrionic Morrisson give way to the singer. Natural acting, expressive mimicry, the artist portrayed as well as is possible all the emotions of the character. M. Morrisson is incontestably one of the most remarkable artists we have seen here at Marseilles."
And a newspaper extract from Bordeaux, January 20th, 1922:
"The superior talents of M. Morrisson, a singer we have heard up to now in his successes as heroic tenor - La Juive, Les Huguenots, Guglielmo Tell etc.- gave us during yesterday's performance of 'Rigoletto' real life to the personage of the Duke of Mantua. The strength, purity and durability of his beautiful voice added to the beauty of the famous pages of this work. Especially the love-duet and the 'La donna e mobile' which he had to repeat of course. The interpreter of Rigoletto was Jean Note and Gilda was sung by Mlle. Duffan."
"M. Morrisson in Les Huguenots" is the heading to an article from an Avignon paper in 1922. "The Raoul of M. Morrisson alone justifies mounting the opera. With a tenor of such capacities and well-established fame, success was assured in advance. Not only was it a success, but a genuine triumph. To begin with. the 'Plus blanche que la blanche hermine' was sung in such a way, so homogeneous a voice, such superb high tones, that M. Morrisson had to repeat it. The 'o mon épée of the third Act was a triumph, but the climax we had all been waiting for was certainly in the fourth Act, the 'Ou vas-tu? - Laisse-moi' and the 'Oui, tu l'as dit'' which brought the most frenetic response from the public. The 'demi-teintes' were magnificent and the high tones, brilliant and of exactitude and purity; the stage acting was sober, measured and natural. Let us mark this night with a little white cross, because it was a brilliant one. In one word-unforgettable. M. Morrisson is certainly one of the most beautiful Raouls we have ever heard."
The immortal work of Massenet was also one which he much liked to sing: I mean "Werther", of which I reproduce here an article, one amongst many, from the town of Nimes in 1924. "It really happens very seldom that we can hear a voice like this of M. Morrisson, so strong, so homogeneous, as good in the low tones as in the medium and the high. Nevertheless this heroic tenor with his trumpet like high sounds makes this mighty voice supply lender in the marvellous melodical fiorituri of Werther. Last night M. Morrisson sang it for us, it is the first time we have heard him here in this part, in which he can vocally translate the melancholic psychology, with a voice that gave itself in an astonishing manner to the passages of tenderness and charm, but sounded like a trumpet in the 'Invocation a la nature' and the 'Couplets d'Ossian'. This really prodigal tenor will never cease to bring us from one surprise to another, and at each of his appearances, in each new part, he will keep us under his spell; for his sober, fine acting, full of contained passion, enveloped by a veil of melancholic sadness had kept us so during all this performance. The least we can say is that it was an immense success and the cheers at the end of the night were endless."
So nobody will be astonished to learn that this prodigal "mixed tenor" won brilliant success in "Faust", this is what the Marseillians wrote in 1923: "Last night there was a full house for the repeat of the ever-young masterwork of Gounod, with Mrs. Morrisson and Huberty in the parts of the Doctor and Mefistofeles.
"The talented tenor Louis Morrisson, who we cheered last year in ... sang this work for us; with his splendid, gripping and powerful voice obtaining, of course, the lion's share of the night's success. From the first scene the bravo's sounded, and grew, if possible, after the masterly interpreted duet. On hearing the famous cavatine by this singer, one is moved to the soul and the 'encores' obliged the great tenor to repeat this difficult aria. In the final trio 'Anges purs, anges radieux' his brilliant and prodigal voice was marvelously beautiful; this voice that by its smoothness, in the high as well as the low register is one of the most beautiful we know and is fascinating to the most discerning of listeners."
And a commentary on "La Favorita" at Toulouse, May 1923:
"Last night we had 'La Favorita' on the play bill, with M. Morrisson, the famous tenor of the Opera Comique. This part, one of the most difficult that exists requires a vocal sumptuousness that very few tenors have at their disposal. The air of the first Act 'Un ange, une femme inconnue' sung in a perfect mezza-voce, finished in such a brilliant manner, unleashed such enthusiasm from the public that a repeat was an obligation, as well as the air from the fourth act 'Ange si pur, que dans un songe' that was sung in a marvellous manner. M. Morrisson is not distinguishing himself solely by his voice with the prodigal timbre, but also by his acting, always adapted to the situation and by his facial expression. Numerous recalls at the end of the evening confirm our personal opinion: M. Morrisson is an exceptional heroic tenor, in the full meaning of the word; a tenor, we hope, we will hear again very soon in our town of Toulouse."
At Bordeaux the same year we find in a newspaper article about "Carmen": "Too many tenors confound Des Grieus, Werther and Don Jose. There is nevertheless a vast difference between them and we could easily find all the depths of this difference in the interpretation by M. Morrisson of this legendary personage, the 'bandit-for love', this wild and sad human being. The conception of Mr. Morrisson remains very close to reality. First he is the simple plebeian, full of distrust for Carmen, the seductress, and it is only by the carnal desire that overwhelms him completely that he will be vanquished and follow her. His mimic art rends completely all the feelings that made him act so, consequently it was a very convincing Don Juan we had the opportunity to cheer, rousing, conquering his public in a really extraordinary manner. The voice of M. Morrisson is of a purity, a warmth and an exactness in all the registers, in the flower-song it unchained an unparalleled ovation and the following encore ended on a real storm of applause. It was an immensely successful opera night thanks to the participation of this magistral tenor M. Morrisson."
Again in a Toulouse newspaper dated December 1923 I find an eulogy of his Radames interpretation: "After a few months absence we meet again on our bill - and this with great pleasure - the name of Louis Morrisson of the Opera Comique, the tenor who is so highly appreciated by our Toulouse public and who, certainly, is one of the very few tenors holding the attention of the world of the theatre. After the 'Celeste Aida' a tremendous ovation obliged him to repeat this famous aria which he gave with his large and vibrant voice, this voice of an incomparable suppleness and endurance that borders on the impossible, and which he projects very easily, from the lowest to the very brilliant, thrilling highest tones, with a style and exactness which compel unlimited admiration and show possession of a most sure singing-method. It is true that after having pampered us here in La Juive, Les Huguenots and Guglielmo Tell we didn't expect less in this part. But once again his success was immense, a real triumph, and the recalls at the end of the night were unique in the annals of our theatre."
At San Sebastian, Spain, in August 1921, where some days earlier he had sung "Pagliacci" with Marcel Journet in the part of Tonio and Mme. Rizzini as Nedda, a description of "La Boheme" runs: "The performance of 'La Boheme', which was given last night with the same interpreters as in 'Pagliacci' last Thursday was one that will certainly linger long in memory. The tenor Louis Morrisson, of Belgian origin, drew us the personage of Rodolfo in a manner that was excellently true to life, with all the ardent passion as well as the necessary tenderness of love, infinitely poignant and human. It is an impersonation in flesh and bones, as was his Canio some days ago, in a different manner. After his great aria of the first Act the ovations broke loose and he was obliged to repeat. M. Morrisson possesses a very rare solid and caressing 'timbre' at the same time. His notes are produced with perfect purity. His register is one of the widest we know and he moves within it with unusual ease. Yes, M. Morrisson is really a beautiful tenor and a great artist, I should even say: 'A perfect artist, a complete one' . . ."
And so we can say that the great reputation of M. Morrisson triumphed on all the great French lyrical stages, from Paris to Marseilles and from Biarritz to Strasbourg, through Toulouse, Bordeaux, Montpelier, Le Havre, Avignon, Grenoble, Monte-Carlo, Nancy and many other towns. It is in France, in the part of Eleazar of 'La Juive' that this singer obtained a world-wide reputation in a record time. In Spain, at Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian he roused public enthusiasm in La Juive, Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, La Boheme, Les Huguenots, Guglielmo Tell and many other roles.
In north Italy, at Turin, Genoa, Aosta, Biella and Asta during a gala cycle of French performances he went from one triumph to another in La Juive, Les Huguenots, Faust, Hérodiade, Romeo et Juliette, Carmen, Sigurd, Lakmé, Werther, Les Pêcheurs de Perles and Louise.
In Switzerland, at Geneva and Lausanne, to which he returned every season during his stay in France, he had, as everywhere else, a lasting success in his specialities-those mentioned above for Italy and Spain, plus Rigoletto, Tosca, Werther, II Trovatore and La Favorita.
In Belgium, at Antwerp's Opera Royal Francais, Liege, Verviers, Namur, Ghent, Mons, Charleroi, he sang all his great operatic successes. A proverb has it "No man is a saint in his own country", but Morrisson was the exception that proves the rule. The least we can say is that he was carried on people's shoulders in triumph.
In Germany our singer received ovations everywhere he appeared during his concert-tours in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Dresden and Leipzig. In England he sang in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Northampton, Nottingham and Southampton.
The Netherlands, where he had made his debut and had stayed during the Great War, public continued to acclaim him in La Juive, II Trovatore, Faust, Carmen, etc., etc. but at the same time he created, in Dutch, a great number of operettas of French and Viennese origin:
Les Saltimbanques, Gri-Gri, Rip-Rip (which ran for months). La Mascotte, Les 28 Jours de Clairette, Der Bettelstudent, Der Rastel-binder, Die Geisha, Vendetta and many others. M. Morrisson had, and still has, numerous enthusiastic admirers there, and faithful friends who clamoured continuously for him, and so, even during his Paris sojourn, he returned regularly to Amsterdam, to have triumphs at each opera evening in La Juive, Les Huguenots, Pagliacci, Cavalleria Rusticana, etc.
In 1918, during the time he remained in Holland, Morrisson signed a very advantageous "exclusive" contract for a period of five years with the Homocord Company, but during the time of his great triumphs in France, the recordings were made, less a couple, in both the French and Dutch languages. In this way a double clientele could be satisfied.
During this five-year period several other recording companies asked for M. Morrisson, but had to remain unsatisfied owing to the contract. However, at the end of 1923 the Gramophone Company (H.M.V.) made a proposition, but not very satisfied with the contract offered, with the assistance of a legal adviser, he made propositions to this company that wanted him. The discussions were long and difficult and lasted until January 12th, 1925, as evidenced by the voluminous correspondence, and on that date a first five-year contract was signed. M. Morrisson obtained what he desired, the contract fixing certain advantageous conditions, especially that which obliged the company:
1. (a) To pay a high and fixed remuneration for each piece recorded, and (b) to pay 5 per cent on the sale of each record, made by the company, for the duration of his life.
2. Should M. Morrisson die during the five-year period of the contract the company would continue to pay this percentage, under the same conditions, to his heirs and successors, for a period of ten years commencing at the date of decease.
These conditions granted him have not been obtained by any other artist, no matter how famous, in this period by the company. On January 12th, 1930, by mutual agreement, the contract was renewed on the same terms for a further period of five years.
An inexplicable and unfortunate sequel was that during the period of the second contract, covering the period January 12th, 1930, to January 11th, 1935, M. Morrisson died on January 30th, 1934, during the period of its validity. The heirs found to their surprise that the company put an embargo on his records the day after his decease, stopping every delivery and sale. Why? remains a mystery that has not been explained up to this day.
But to find out what kind of person our artist was, in a newspaper we read: "The short but very brilliant appearance of the loved tenor gives us the opportunity to chatter for an hour with this great artist, who in spite of his splendid triumphs and ever-increasing fame, remains one of the world's most modest and simple men. He has kept intact his independent and sincere character, a trait of which he can be proud. This outspoken, frank character won him some solid sympathetic friends, but also some bitter animosity, for the theatrical world tends to prefer those who feign and flatter-hypocrites; and the struggle to reach the top is certainly not less in the case of a world-famous tenor."
In his correspondence we find everywhere indications of a man who was very sensitive to the misfortunes of others, full of goodwill to everyone he met. Those with whom he was personally acquainted certify that he had a golden heart, always ready to assist his fellow men. He was easily excited, but rapidly gained control of himself. He was a very kind, frank and loyal character. Even at the peak of his career he remained simple with no trace of condescension to his less gifted colleagues, or others.
And his pastimes? When he had any free days in Paris his favourite diversion was to make a tour of the antique dealers there, to visit the sale-rooms, as his great passion was the collection of period furniture and paintings by the early masters. He possessed a large collection of pictures in his Paris residence, as well as in his villa - called "Il Trovatore" in memory of his opera debut - and where he spent his annual vacation.
Musical composition too was one of his preferred pastimes, he left some very nice pieces, very attractive by their musical intensity or most appropriate text; he wrote under the nom-de-plume "Somoye", see the following records;
La Marche a Venus (No, 3) Favorite Records, for this he wrote both lyrics and music.
Heil! Heil' Mannen van den Yser (No. 146) Homocord Records and
Madeliefke 'n bloemke (No. 171) H.M.V. Records for which he wrote the lyrics, but the music in co-operation with Van den Eynde.
L'amour, toujours l'amour (No. 184) H.M.V. for which he wrote the French translation of the English lyrics.
Song of songs (No. 187) and Sweet mystery of life (No. 190), two H.M.V. records for which he wrote the Dutch translation of the English lyrics.
O Scheldestad (No. 191) and 'Ce sont tes grands yeux noirs' (No, 192) two H.M.V. records for which he wrote the lyrics, but co-operated with Neef for the music.
Louis Morrison als Eleazar in Halévy's La Juive (The Jew)
About 1930 Morrisson retreated with his family to his property 'Il Trovatore" as he had to undergo a very serious and urgent operation, carried out at Amsterdam by a German specialist. After a slow recovery, as soon as he was able to resume his activities, we find him back in 1931 in his part of Eleazar in La Juive. In the meantime, due to a misunderstanding, the newspapers had announced his death, news soon given the lie, and all agreed that the voice of M. Morrisson had by no means lost any of its quality through this surgical intervention; on the contrary his timbre seemed to have gained in velvetness and range. So his first reappearances in La Juive at Liege, Antwerp and Verviers became triumphs. His enthusiastic public wailed for him at the stage-door and bore him on their shoulders round the theatre buildings, as they did with victorious heroes in ancient times. It appeared as if the crowd, full of joy, were restoring on his pedestal an idol they had feared to lose forever,
Le Havre, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Marseilles and many other towns were again cheering "La Juive" this season and he was received wherever he went with the bid enthusiasm and success.
In July the Antwerp Opera asked him to create, for Belgium, in the Dutch language Léhar's "Land of Smiles". He agreed and on October 22th, 1932, the public could admire him in the part of Prince Sou-Chong. The critics; "Nobody will deny the tenor Louis Morrisson possesses a rare magnificent voice. A voice that is not bound by the rules for common mortals, for this is a gift of God that penetrates right to the heart of its listeners. The artist has such a convincing faith in all he brings us that he manages always, without apparent effort, to convince the most sceptical and oblige them also to believe in what he brings, just as we do. The success of M. Morrisson in this new presentation of the 'Land of Smiles' was like a whirlwind, breath-taking and grandiose. He makes an admirable composition of the role of Prince Sou-Chong, through his fine acting some scenes were carried to tragic-peaks. One cannot find words enough to describe how he sang 'You are my heart's delight', which he was obliged to repeat twice and how he arrived all alone on this large stage, to fill the vacuum, with all the accents of his sorrow, his love and the fatalism which found an echoing response in the hearts of all his listeners. His first interpretation was like a prayer; the second was the expression of infinite tenderness and his third an unreserved explosion of a great passion. It was splendid, delirious, a striking unlimited success.''
On April 18th, 1933, he re-created this role at Liege, this time in French and the following day's report read: "Louis Morrisson, the Eleazar of La Juive, Raoul of Les Huguenots, Manrico of Il Trovatore, through his splendid voice, so rich in subtle nuances, brought us, in the role of Prince Sou-Chong, one of his greatest creations, showing us what a great artist he is and always has been. This great tenor, coupled with his incomparable acting has made of this part a composition one can call unique and remarkable, indicating a very deep study of the type and race. The inexhaustible capabilities of the singer and actor created an intensity of concentrated expressions which it is impossible to resist. To adopt these accents and attitudes seems childishly easy to him, for M. Morrisson is a complete artist in all the branches of his art, which he must love intensely, to bring out the power he does to reach such rarely attained perfection."
From October 22nd, 1932, to December 12th, 1933, more than two hundred performances followed, with unparalleled success. There were occasions when M. Morrison, forced by the innumerable encores, was obliged to sing his famous "You are my heart's delight" six, seven, even eight times and always he submits, without apparent effort, to the exactingness of his admirers, for his voice never seemed to tire and the disease he suffered had no effect on its extraordinary richness.
But, alas, the sickness undermined his physique and finally the singer was obliged on December 12th, 1933, to interrupt during its full success the run of an exceptional career. After a few weeks of painful suffering he died at his Antwerp residence on January 30th, 1934.
The funeral service of the tenor had to be delayed as so many friends and admirers wanted to come and pay final respects to this admirable tenor, who in his forty-five years had achieved so much and died at the peak of his career. The cortege was so large that the tramway services had to be stopped to give it passage and one could sense in the hushed atmosphere the sincerity and regret of all present.
Ernest Reyer, Sigurd: 'Non! si ma force ... Esprits gardiens', recording 5 september 1928
Source: Record Collector, June 1970, LOUIS MORRISSON by Franck Haesen, edited by J.L.
There remains memories and ... the records.