Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reflections on Hugues Cuénod

Nearly three weeks after his death, on December 3 at the age of 108, it is worth looking back on the monumental achievements of the tenor's career.

  • Born on June 26, 1902 in the Swiss village of Corseaux-sur-Vevey, where his grandfather was mayor.
  • Made his operatic debut as early as 1928 (in Krenek’s entertainment Jonny spielt auf at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées).
  • In 1929 he appeared at His Majesty’s Theatre in London in Noël Coward’s Bitter Sweet, and stayed with the show (under the encouragement of Mary Garden) when it moved to Broadway in New York.
  • Stravinsky wrote the role of the auctioneer Sellem for him in The Rake’s Progress: after the premiere at Venice in 1951, he repeated it for his Glyndebourne debut in 1954 and continued singing the part for the next 30 years.
  • He took part in nearly 500 performances between 1954 and 1987 at Glyndebourne.
  • Is the oldest singer to make a debut at The Metropolitan Opera – aged 85, as the Emperor Altoum in Puccini’s Turandot in 1987.
  • Resided with his life partner, Alfred Augustin (41 years his junior), in the Vaud region of Switzerland. They lived in the Château de Lully, an 18th-century castle that belonged to his ancestors. In June 2007, when Cuénod was 105, he and Augustin entered into a civil union after changes in Swiss law gave same-sex couples many of the legal benefits of marriage.
Read more about the tenor at the New York Times, Financial Times and PlayBill Arts.

Purchase his recordings of mélodies by
Debussy, Poulenc, Fauré and more at Amazon France.

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