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.
Life and career
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. 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.
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 and La Scala Milan. From 1964 he appeared at the Royal Opera House in London, where roles included I puritani (1964, Sir Richard Forth), Le nozze di Figaro (1965, Count Almaviva), Tosca (1966, Baron Scarpia), Don Pasquale (1973, Doctor Malatesta), Il barbiere di Siviglia (1975, Doctor Bartolo) and Pelléas et Mélisande (1982, Golaud), as well as a televised Royal Silver Jubilee Gala in 1977.
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. 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 in Lakmé 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, 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.
In 1975 a critic in describing his performance in L'elisir d'amore commented that "broad humour is quite foreign to Bacquier's nature... his doctor [Dulcamara] is a serious Archie Rice type, no caricature but a real man weighed down by his own charlatanism and basically sad that mankind is so gullible".
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. In May 1980 he created the title role in the premiere of an opera Cyrano de Bergerac by Paul Danblon, as part of the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the state of Belgium, in Liège at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie. He sang in the premieres of two operas by Jean-Michel Damase, L'as-tu revue? and L'Escarpolette, and in Les Bals de Paris by Émile Desfossez, and Le Capitaine et la mort by Maurice Fouret.
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.
Bacquier appeared in the 1976 film La Grande récré (Caruso), and in a cameo singing role in the wedding scene of the 1986 film Manon des Sources. He also starred in the 1979 film of Falstaff directed by Götz Friedrich (sound recorded Vienna 1978, filmed Berlin 1979) and the studio film of The Love for Three Oranges in 1989.
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 songwriter Pierre Louki, directed by Jacques Bolognesi. He is featured as one of the interviewees in the book by Sylvie Milhau Doucement les Basses ossia Dîner avec Gabriel Bacquier, José van Dam et Claudio Desderi.
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.
Awards and Distinctions
Bacquier has received numerous awards and distinctions in his native France, such as Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, Officier de L'Ordre national du Mérite, Officier de L'Ordre national du Mérite Européen, Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France) and Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Principauté de Monaco).
Several recordings in which he sang have won the Prix du Disque (L'Heure espagnole, DGG, 1967; Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Decca, 1972) and Oedipe (EMI, 1984) won a Grand Prix du Disque et Prix de Ministère de la Culture. In 2004 he was awarded an Orphée d'Or Herbert von Karajan for his career, and in the same year a Lauréat des Victoires de la Musique. He also received a Médaille de la Ville de Paris.
The following is a selection of Bacquier's many recordings:
- Bizet: La jolie fille de Perth. June Anderson, Alfredo Kraus, Gino Quilico, José Van Dam, Gabriel Bacquier (Glover), Margarita Zimmermann, Nouvel Orchestre Philharmonique. Conductor: Georges Prêtre. EMI 7475598
- Bizet: Les pêcheurs de perles. Janine Micheau, Alain Vanzo, Gabriel Bacquier (Zurga), Lucien Lovano, Chœur de la RTF, Orchestre Radio-Lyrique, Conductor: Manuel Rosenthal. Paris, 25 June 1959. GALA GL 100.504
- Chabrier: L'Étoile. Georges Gautier, Gabriel Bacquier (Siroco), François Le Roux, Colette Alliot-Lugaz, Ghyslaine Raphanel, Opéra de Lyon. Conductor: John Eliot Gardiner. EMI, 1984.
- Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande. Gabriel Bacquier (Golaud), Michèle Command, Claude Dormoy, Orchestre de Lyon. Conductor: Serge Baudo. Eurodisc.
- Donizetti: Don Pasquale. Gabriel Bacquier (Don Pasquale), Barbara Hendricks, Gino Quilico, Luca Canonici, Opéra de Lyon. Conductor: Gabriele Ferro. Erato, 1990.
- Massenet: Manon. Beverly Sills, Gabriel Bacquier (Comte des Grieux), Gérard Souzay, Michel Trempont, New Philharmonia Orchestra. Conductor: Julius Rudel. Deutsche Grammophon 247002
- Massenet: Thaïs. Anna Moffo, Gabriel Bacquier (Athanaël), José Carreras, Justino Diaz, Ambrosian Chorus, New Philharmonia Orchestra. Conductor: Julius Rudel. RCA Red Seal.
- Massenet: Don Quichotte. Nicolai Ghiaurov (Don Quichotte), Gabriel Bacquier (Sancho), Régine Crespin (Dulcinée), Radio Suisse Romande. Conductor: Kazimierz Kord. Decca, 1978.
- Mozart: Don Giovanni. Gabriel Bacquier (Giovanni), Joan Sutherland, Pilar Lorengar, Werner Krenn, Donald Gramm, Marilyn Horne, Ambrosian Opera Chorus, English Chamber Orchestra. Conductor: Richard Bonynge. Decca 448 973-2
- Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro. Geraint Evans, Reri Grist, Gabriel Bacquier (Conte Almaviva), Elisabeth Söderström, Teresa Berganza, New Philharmonia Orchestra. Conductor: Otto Klemperer. EMI, 1970.
- Mozart: Così fan tutte. Pilar Lorengar, Teresa Berganza, Jane Berbié, Ryland Davies, Tom Krause, Gabriel Bacquier (Alfonso), London Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Georg Solti. Decca, 1973.
- Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann. Plácido Domingo, Joan Sutherland, Gabriel Bacquier (Lindorf, Coppélius, Dapertutto, Dr Miracle), L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Conductor: Richard Bonynge. Decca, 1971.
- Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann. Roberto Alagna, Natalie Dessay, Sumi Jo, Leontina Vaduva, Catherine Dubosc, José Van Dam, Michel Sénéchal, Gabriel Bacquier (Crespel), Orchestre & Choeur de L'Opéra de Lyon. Conductor: Kent Nagano. Erato 0630143302
- Offenbach: La Périchole. Teresa Berganza, José Carreras, Gabriel Bacquier (Don Andrès), Orchestre & Choeurs du Capitole de Toulouse. Conductor: Michel Plasson. EMI, 1981.
- Puccini: Tosca (in French). Jane Rhodes, Albert Lance, Gabriel Bacquier (Scarpia), L'Opéra de Paris. Conductor: Manuel Rosenthal. Vega, 1960.
- Rossini: Guillaume Tell. (Gabriel Bacquier (title role), Montserrat Caballé, Nicolai Gedda, Mady Mesplé, Jocelyne Taillon, Louis Hendrikx, Ambrosian Opera Chorus, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Lamberto Gardelli. EMI.
- Verdi: Otello. Carlo Cossutta, Margaret Price, Gabriel Bacquier (Iago), Wiener Staatsoper & Philharmoniker. Conductor: Georg Solti. Decca, 1977.
- Verdi: La forza del destino. Leontyne Price, Sherrill Milnes, Plácido Domingo, Fiorenza Cossotto, Gabriel Bacquier (Fra Melitone), John Alldis Choir, London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: James Levine. RCA, 1976.
- 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.
- Segalini S. People 130: Gabriel Bacquier. Opera, June 1982.
- 'Computerised Archival Retrieval in Multimedia Enhanced Networking' - The digital opera archives of La Monnaie. http://carmen.demunt.be/ accessed 11 September 2008.
- Royal Opera House Performance Database "Gabriel Bacquier", retrieved 4 January 2017.
- MetOpera database
- Loppert M. Golaud - Gabriel Bacquier. Opera 'In character' Vol 2, London, 2006.
- Pitt, Charles. Report from Aix-les-Bains. Opera 1975 vol 26, p74.
- Biography of Gabriel Bacquier Archived 2007-11-20 at the Wayback Machine at the Théâtre d'Opérette de Lyon
- Belgium : International Conference on Lyric Theatre; cast listing. Opera, Vol 31 No.5, May 1980 p461.
- Oussenko, Sylvie. Annexe in Gabriel Bacquier - le génie de l'interprétation. MJW Fédition, Paris, 2011, (p. 109).
- 'Francis Poulenc & Friends'. EMI Classics 'classic archive', 2005. DVB 31020009.
- Rencontre avec Gabriel Bacquier et Ruggero Raimondi on ODB website http://odb-opera.com/modules.php?name=Content&file=print&pid=148, accessed 10 December 2008.
- Milhau, Sylvie. Doucement les Basses ossia Dîner avec Gabriel Bacquier, José van Dam et Claudio Desderi. Editions Canaïma, ISBN 978-2-9536769-0-7.
- ClassiqueNews, L'appel de Michel Sénéchal et de Gabriel Bacquier, 28 May 2008. Accessed 6 November 2008.
- Oussenko, S. Gabriel Bacquier, le genie de l'interpretation. MJW Fédition, Paris, 2011. (Section Distinctions et récompenses, p116).
- Alain Pâris, Dictionnaire des interprètes et de l'interpretation musicale au XX siècle (2 vols), Éditions 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.
- Gabriel Bacquier Discography (Brian Capon's Lists of Opera Recordings)