This week, French tenor Gilles Ragon works through Don José's aria, "La fleur que tu m'avais jetée", from Carmen with us. We concentrate on the letter "e" and how to tell whether it's the open epsilon [ɛ], the closed lower case [e] or the schwa [ə]. We talk about the accent grave (è) and accent circonflex (ê) which both open the vowel to [ɛ] and the accent aigu (é) which closes it to [e].
The libretto for Carmen can be found at the Opera Guide. Make sure to click on L for libretto and F for French (because it seems to default back every time, and in that order, because it will keep reverting!) and then scroll down to No.17 Duo--the aria is just a little beyond that indication.
The diction book I mentioned in this episode is the second edition of Jason Nedecky's French Diction for Singers: A Handbook of Pronunciation for French Opera and Mélodie, available from the University of Toronto bookstore. It's a great resource, which includes a list of common spellings and their pronunciations as well as over 7,000 proper names with their phonetic transcriptions!
The YouTube that I promised to post is this one, of Gérard Souzay singing "Clair de lune" with Jacqueline Bonneau on the piano. Please feel free to comment below, I would love everyone's opinion as to whether or not you think he is singing "les" open or closed (there are a whole bunch of "les" starting at about 1:55)