René Maison

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René Maison (24 November 1895 - 11 July 1962) was a prominent Belgian operatic tenor, particularly associated with heroic roles of the French, Italian and German repertories.

Career[edit]

Born in Frameries, Belgium, he studied in Brussels and Paris. He made his debut in Geneva in 1920, as Rodolfo in La bohème. He also appeared in Nice and Monte Carlo, before making his debut in 1927, at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, as Prince Dimitri in Franco Alfano's Risurrezione, opposite the soprano Mary Garden. His other roles there included Don José, Mylio, Werther, Canio, Cavaradossi, and Jean Gaussin in Massenet's Sapho.

He made his Paris Opéra debut at the Palais Garnier in 1929, in Henry Février's Monna Vanna. He sang there regularly until 1940, as Faust, Lohengrin, Radames, Siegmund and Samson. In 1934, he created there the role of Eumolphe in Stravinsky's Perséphone.

Maison also enjoyed a successful international career, appearing at the Chicago Civic Opera (1928–40), the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires (1934–37), the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in London (1931–36), and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. His Met debut occurred on February 3, 1936, as Stolzing in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. In eight seasons with the Met he sang Don José, Lohengrin, Samson, Julien, Florestan, Hoffmann, des Grieux and Herodes, among other roles.

In 1943, he began teaching at the Juilliard School in New York, and from 1957 until his death, at the Chalof School in Boston. Among his pupils was the baritone turned dramatic tenor Ramon Vinay.

Maison died in Mont-d'Or, France, aged 66. He was, in terms of birth dates, the middle member of a triumverate of outstanding Belgian operatic tenors who reached their peak in the period between the two world wars. The others were the lyric-dramatic tenor Fernand Ansseau (1890-1972) and the lyric tenor Andre D'Arkor (1901-1971).

Maison possessed a powerful and penetrating voice, capable of surprising nuance, and an impressive stage presence (he stood 6 feet 4 inches tall). Posterity is fortunate that he made some commercial, 78-rpm discs of French operatic arias which demonstrate his considerable merits as a singer.

His voice also can be heard on several important recordings of historic radio broadcasts. The best-known of these live performances are his marvelously funny, light-hearted Loge in Das Rheingold (conducted by Artur Bodanzky, 1937), his passionately dramatic Florestan in Bruno Walter's 1941 Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Fidelio, and as the tenor soloist in Arturo Toscanini's 1941 Buenos Aires performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Sources[edit]

  • Dictionaire des interprètres, Alain Pâris, (Éditions Robert Laffont, 1989) ISBN 2-221-06660-X