Hugues Cuénod

16 June 1902 Corseaux-sur-Vevey, Switzerland – 6 December 2010 Vevey

Picture of Hugues Cuénod

The notable Swiss tenor, Hugues (-Adhémar) Cuénod, received his training at the Ribaupierre Institute in Lausanne, at the conservatories in Geneva and Basel, and in Vienna. Hugues Cuénod commenced his career as a concert singer. In 1928 he made his stage debut in Jonny spielt auf in Paris, and in 1929 he sang for the first time in the USA in Bitter sweet. From 1930 to 1933 he was active in Geneva, and then in Paris from 1934 to 1937. During the 1937–39 seasons, he made an extensive concert tour of North America. From 1940 to 1946 he taught at the Geneva Conservatory. In 1943 he resumed his operatic career singing in Die Fledermaus in Geneva. He subsequently sang at Milan's La Scala (1951), the Glyndebourne Festival (from 1954), and London's Covent Garden (1954, 1956, 1958).

Hugues Cuénod was a singer who sang everything, from Machaut to Igor Stravinsky. Among his finest roles were Mozart's Basilio, the Astrologer in The golden cockerel, and Sellem in The rake's progress. An outstanding sight-reader, with a flair for the unusual, he left a discographic heritage of the first order. Especially noted for his recordings of mélodies, Bach and Elizabethan songs, his performing career continued into an incredibly old age: he holds the record as the oldest person to make a debut at the Metropolitan Opera, singing the Emperor there in Turandot in 1987. His very last appearance on stage was in 1994, aged 92, when he sang Triquet in Evgenij Onegin at the Théâtre du Jorat in Mézières.

In an interview in 1997, Cuénod talked to pianist Graham Johnson, recalling pre-war Vienna and Paris, where he frequented aristocratic salons and worked with Nadia Boulanger. After the war, the new early-music boom relied heavily on his light, unmannered, natural sound, and Cuénod made several pioneering LPs – his 1950 recording of François Couperin's Lamentations prompted Stravinsky to ask him to sing in the premiere of The rake's progress. Opera has been a constant thread, but at the heart of Cuénod's repertoire was French song – he knew and worked with Arthur Honegger, Auric, Roussel, Francis Poulenc and others.
Copyright for picture and biography: Bach Cantatas

Hugues Cuénod sings Boris Godunov: Larmes répandez-vous, larmes douloureuses
In RA format

Hugues Cuénod sings L'hiver a cessé
In RA format

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