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Two years ago last month, the great French (bass-)baritone Gabriel Bacquier died just four days short of his 96th birthday. At that time I offered a brief memorial tribute which opened my eyes to aspects of his artistry and voice with which I had been previously unfamiliar. Like his near-contemporary, the Italian baritone Tito Gobbi, Bacquier was one of the supreme actors of the operatic stage, whose voice coarsened somewhat over the course of his long career, even as his mastery as an actor and interpreter increased. By the time he retired, his repertoire consisted almost entirely of buffo parts. But in the earliest years of his career (and also like Gobbi), he possessed a baritone of velvety beauty that might surprise those who know only his later comic roles. This episode, which commemorates the second anniversary of Bacquier’s death as well as his (posthumous) 98th birthday, focuses on the three different musical genres in which, in those early years, from 1953 through 1968, he excelled in equal measure: opera, of course, but also mélodie and operetta. The operatic portrayals represented include the title roles in Don Giovanni and Orphée et Eurydice; Zurga in Les Pêcheurs de perles; the Count in Le nozze di Figaro; Iago in Otello; Golaud; and his incomparable Scarpia, which he sang opposite every great Tosca of the 1960s with the exception of Callas. Complementing these live and studio recordings are recordings of melodies by Duparc, Fauré, Debussy, Ravel, and Poulenc; and operetta arias by Sigmund Romberg, Franz Lehár, Johann Strauss II, and Reynaldo Hahn, all deliciously sung in French. Vocal guest stars include Mirella Freni; Alain Vanzo; Bernard Demigny; Janine Ervil; Yvonne Gall, with whom Bacquier studied at the Conservatoire de Paris; and the late Renate Holm, the renowned German soubrette who died in April at the age of 90. In all this repertoire, Bacquier, who insisted on the appellation “acting singer” rather than “singing actor,” displays his commitment to clear yet full projection of text, which serves as a mirror into the music and not the other way around.
Countermelody is a podcast devoted to the glory and the power of the human voice raised in song. Singer and vocal aficionado Daniel Gundlach explores great singers of the past and present focusing in particular on those who are less well-remembered today than they should be. Daniel’s lifetime in music as a professional countertenor, pianist, vocal coach, voice teacher, and journalist yields an exciting array of anecdotes, impressions, and “inside stories.” At Countermelody’s core is the celebration of great singers of all stripes, their instruments, and the connection they make to the words they sing. By clicking on the following link (https://linktr.ee/CountermelodyPodcast) you can find the dedicated Countermelody website which contains additional content including artist photos and episode setlists. The link will also take you to Countermelody’s Patreon page, where you can pledge your monthly support at whatever level you can afford. Bonus episodes available exclusively to Patreon supporters are currently available and further bonus content including interviews and livestreams is planned for the upcoming season.