Gabriel Bacquier

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Gabriel Bacquier (born 17 May 1924) is a French operatic baritone. One of the leading baritones of the 20th century and particularly associated with the French and Italian repertories, he is considered a fine singing-actor equally at home in dramatic or comic roles.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Gabriel Bacquier was born in Béziers, France and as a child was fascinated by everything to do with singing — records, broadcasts and photos of singers.[2] After beginning studies in Montpellier as a commercial artist, and doing national service on the railways during the Occupation, he found a singing teacher, took classes at the Music School and in 1945 entered the Paris Conservatoire, graduating in 1950. He joined the opera company of José Beckmans from 1950 to 1952, and then became a member of La Monnaie in Brussels from 1953 until 1956. There he sang both the French repertory, opera (Faust, Lakmé, Manon, Werther) and operetta (Angélique, La belle Hélène, Les Cloches de Corneville, Miss Heylett, Monsieur Beaucaire); as well as Puccini (La Boheme, Madame Butterfly), the Barber of Seville and the Bartered Bride.[3]

He made his debut at the Opéra-Comique in 1956, as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, and at the Palais Garnier in 1958, as Germont in La traviata, followed by the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 1960, as Don Giovanni. The same year he stood in at short notice to sing Rigoletto at the Paris Opera leading to his engagement at that house, making his debut proper there in Tosca opposite Renata Tebaldi. That was the start of his international career. He was invited at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1962, as Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro. From 1963, Bacquier sang regularly at the Vienna State Opera, La Scala, the Royal Opera House in London.

Bacquier made his American debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1962, as the High Priest in Samson et Dalila, which was also his debut role at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, on 17 October 1964, where he was one of the few French singers to sing there for 18 consecutive seasons.[4] He also sang frequently at the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company between 1963 and 1968, making his debut on 22 February 1963 as Zurga in Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles with Ferruccio Tagliavini as Nadir and Adriana Maliponte as Leïla. His other roles in Philadelphia included Nilakantha inLakmé opposite Joan Sutherland in the title role, Germont with Sutherland as Violetta and John Alexander as Alfredo, Iago in Otello, Scarpia in Tosca, and Escamillo in Carmen. He made his debut at the San Francisco Opera in 1971 as Michele in Il tabarro.

Though closely associated with the French repertory, especially Golaud in Pelléas et Mélisande,[5] Bacquier resisted being typecast as a 'French baritone' and added many Italian roles to his repertory, such as Renato in Ballo in maschera, Melitone in Forza del destino, Posa in Don Carlos, Scarpia in Tosca, as well as comic roles such as Bartolo in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Don Pasquale, Falstaff, Leporello in Don Giovanni, Alfonso in Cosi fan tutte, etc. Many of his roles are preserved in an impressive discography.

He also created the title roles of Jean-Pierre Rivière's Pour un Don Quichotte (La Scala, 10 March 1961) and Daniel-Lesur's Andréa del Sarto (Opéra de Marseille, 1969), as well as singing in the world premieres of Maurice Thiriet's La véridique histoire du Docteur and Gian Carlo Menotti's Le Dernier Sauvage at the Opéra-Comique.[6] He retired from the stage in June 1994 (final performance as Don Pasquale at the Opéra-Comique).

In the field of mélodie, he made recordings of songs by Ravel, Déodat de Séverac, Poulenc and others. Two live recitals from 1961 and 1972 were issued on CD in 1987 on the Vogue label. He may be seen singing six Poulenc songs accompanied by Jacques Février in June 1964 on a DVD.[7]

Bacquier appeared in the 1976 film La Grande récré, and in a cameo singing role in the wedding scene of the 1986 film Manon des Sources.[8] He also starred in the 1979 film of Falstaff directed by Götz Friedrich (sound recorded Vienna 1978, filmed Berlin 1979).

Bacquier has also been active as a teacher, first at the vocal school of the Paris Opera, and later at the Paris Conservatory and since 2001 the Académie de Musique de Monaco where he has directed student productions. In 2007 Gabriel Bacquier recorded for CD thirteen songs by actor and song-writer Pierre Louki, directed by Jacques Bolognesi.

He was one of the lead signatories to a petition in 2008 Appel à la Refondation des Troupes de Théâtre Lyrique to defend and promote French singing.[9]

Awards and Distinctions[edit]

Bacquier has received numerous awards and distinctions in his native France, including Officier de L'Ordre national du Mérite, Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur.[6]


The following is a selection of Bacquier's many recordings:


  1. ^ Rosenthal, Harold and John Warrack. (1979, 2nd ed.). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera. London, New York and Melbourne: Oxford University Press. p. 27. ISBN 0-19-311318-X.
  2. ^ Segalini S. People 130: Gabriel Bacquier. Opera, June 1982.
  3. ^ 'Computerised Archival Retrieval in Multimedia Enhanced Networking' - The digital opera archives of La Monnaie. accessed 11 September 2008.
  4. ^ MetOpera database
  5. ^ Loppert M. Golaud - Gabriel Bacquier. Opera 'In character' Vol 2, London, 2006.
  6. ^ a b Biography of Gabriel Bacquier at the Théâtre d'Opérette de Lyon
  7. ^ 'Francis Poulenc & Friends'. EMI Classics 'classic archive', 2005. DVB 31020009.
  8. ^ Rencontre avec Gabriel Bacquier et Ruggero Raimondi on ODB website, accessed 10 December 2008.
  9. ^ ClassiqueNews, L'appel de Michel Sénéchal et de Gabriel Bacquier, 28 May 2008. Accessed 6 November 2008.

Further sources

  • Alain Pâris, Dictionnaire des interprètes et de l'interpretation musicale au XX siècle (2 vols), Ed. Robert Laffont (Bouquins, Paris 1982, 4th Edn. 1995, 5th Edn 2004). ISBN 2-221-06660-X
  • D. Hamilton (ed.),The Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia: A Complete Guide to the World of Opera (Simon and Schuster, New York 1987). ISBN 0-671-61732-X
  • Roland Mancini and Jean-Jacques Rouveroux, (orig. H. Rosenthal and J. Warrack, French edition), Guide de l’opéra, Les indispensables de la musique (Fayard, 1995). ISBN 2-213-59567-4
  • Opera News, William V. Madison, July 2007.
  • Sadie, Stanley and Christina Bashford. (1992). The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. London: Macmillan Publishers Ltd. Vol. 1, p. 272. ISBN 0-935859-92-6.
  • Sadie, Stanley and John Tyrrell,(2001). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London: Macmillan Publishers Ltd. Vol. 2, p. 450-1. ISBN 0-333-60800-3.
  • Warrack, John and Ewan West. (1996 3rd ed.). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 28. ISBN 0-19-280028-0.

External links[edit]