16 June 1902 Corseaux-sur-Vevey, Switzerland – 6 December 2010 Vevey
The notable Swiss tenor, Hugues (-Adhémar) Cuénod, received his training at the
Ribaupierre Institute in Lausanne, at the conservatories in Geneva and Basel, and
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).
In RA format
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
In RA format