Gabriel Bacquier, the most famous post-World War II French baritone who shone on the stage of the biggest opera houses, died Wednesday at 96, his wife announced to the AFP. The mezzo-soprano Sylvie Oussenko did not specify the reasons for the death, which occurred at his home in Lestre in La Manche.
His scenic elegance and his intelligence of roles
Great ambassador of French song thanks to his perfect diction, he was also sought after for his scenic elegance and his intelligence of roles, especially in Mozartian operas, praised for his “Don Giovanni” or his count Almaviva in “Les Noces de Figaro”.
He sang alongside legendary sopranos like Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Birgit Nilsson and Régine Crespin and on the biggest stages in the world, the Metropolitan Opera, the Royal Opera House in London, the Paris Opera and the Opera from Vienna.
Born in Béziers on May 17, 1924, he studied at the Conservatoire in Paris in 1950 and, after performing in cabaret and in cinemas, he joined the troupe of the Royal Theater of La Monnaie in Brussels.
He then joined in 1956 the Opéra-Comique and then the Paris Opera which still owned a troupe at the time, “to which Gabriel Bacquier says he owes everything”, reports his wife who is also his biographer.
The baritone impressed the public in the worrying role of the police chief Scarpia in Puccini’s “Tosca” or in that of Golaud in “Pelléas et Mélisande” and made him laugh in “Don Pasquale” by Donizetti or by embodying the character of Doctor Bartolo in the “Barber of Seville”.
His career launched in 1960
He was noticed by Gabriel Dussurget, founder of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and artistic director of the Paris Opera, who entrusted him with the title role of Don Giovanni in 1960 during a television performance, which launched his career international.
Gabriel Bacquier excelled in the Italian and French repertoire, made numerous recordings, and received, among others, the Orphée by Or Herbert von Karajan from the Academy of Record.
In an interview with France music in 2019, he had fun saying that “All French singers put Italian accents where it was not necessary” and confided his regret for not having approached the German repertoire.
He remembered in this interview his meeting with the great French composer Francis Poulenc: “He said to me: I heard you, it was not good, but simply admirable.”