Gabriel Bacquier (born May 17, 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, 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, on October 17, 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 February 22, 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, 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, March 10, 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. 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, 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).
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.
Awards and Distinctions:
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.
The following is a selection of Bacquier's many recordings:
Mozart: Don Giovanni (Gabriel Bacquier (Giovanni), Joan Sutherland (Anna), Pilar Lorengar (Elvira), Werner Krenn (Ottavio), Donald Gramm (Leporello), Marilyn Horne (Zerlina), Leonardo Monreale (Masetto), Clifford Grant (Commendatore), Ambrosian Opera Chorus, English Chamber Orchestra). Conductor: Richard Bonynge. Decca 448 973-2,
Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann (Plácido Domingo, Joan Sutherland, Gabriel Bacquier (Lindorf, Coppélius, Dapertutto, Dr Miracle), Paul Plishka, Huguette Tourangeau, Hugues Cuénod, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande). Conductor: Richard Bonynge. Decca.,
Offenbach: Les Contes d'Hoffmann (Roberto Alagna, Natalie Dessay, Sumi Jo, Leontina Vaduva, Catherine Dubosc, José Van Dam, Michel Sénéchal, Ludovic Tezier, Gabriel Bacquier (Crespel), Doris Lamprecht, Gilles Ragon, Jean-Marie Frémeau, Benoit Boutet, Gérard Théruel, Juanita Lascarro, Orchestre & Choeur de L'Opéra de Lyon). Conductor: Kent Nagano. Erato 0630143302,
Massenet: Manon (Beverly Sills, Gabriel Bacquier (Comte des Grieux), Gérard Souzay, Michel Trempont, Nico Castel, 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.,
Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande (Gabriel Bacquier (Golaud), Michèle Command, Claude Dormoy, Monique Pouradier-Duteil, Roger Soyer, Jocelyne Taillon, Xavier Tamalet, Orchestre de Lyon). Conductor: Serge Baudo. Eurodisc.,
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 (Jeanine Micheau (Leila), Alain Vanzo (Nadir), Gabriel Bacquier (Zurga), Lucien Lovano (Nourabad), Chœur de la RTF, Orchestre Radio-Lyrique, Conductor: Manuel Rosenthal). Paris, June 25, 1959. GALA GL 100.504,
Rossini: Guillaume Tell (Gabriel Bacquier (title role), Monserrat Caballé, Nicolai Gedda, Mady Mesplé, Jocelyne Taillon, Louis Hendrikx, Kolos Kovacs, Gwynne Howell, Charles Burles, Ricardo Cassinelli, Nicholas Christou, Ambrosian Opera Chorus, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra). Conductor: Lamberto Gardelli. EMI.