Obituary: Legendary Baritone Gabriel Bacquier Passes At 95

By David Salazar

Legendary baritone Gabriel Bacquier passed away on May 13, 2020, four days short of his 96th birthday.

Bacquier, who was born Béziers, France on May 17, 1924, would show great interest in music from an early age and would enter the Paris Conservatoire in 1945, graduating in 1950.

His opera career would get started when he joined the company of José Beckmans before becoming a member of La Monnaie in Brussels. It was during his time at La Monnaie that he would develop his talent in the French repertoire.

He would debut at the Opéra Comique in 1956 before heading to the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 1960. In 1962, he would make his Paris Opera debut, which was then followed by appearances at the Vienna State Opera and La Scala the following year. The Royal Opera House would follow in 1964.

A successful career would follow with the baritone heading first to the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company, and then the Metropolitan Opera. He was one of few French singers to manage a lengthy career at the Met, appearing in 18 consecutive seasons.

In addition to being one of the great interpreters of the French repertory (though he resisted being typecast as a “French baritone”), especially the role of Golaud in “Pelléas et Mélisande,” Bacquier also appeared in a number of new operas, including “Pour un Don Quichotte,” “La Véridique Histoire du Docteur,” and Paul Danblon’s “Cyrano de Bergerac,” among others.

He received several honors throughout his career including the status as Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

Bacquier left an extensive discography that emphasizes his varied repertoire with noted recordings of “Otello,” Don Giovanni,” “Le Nozze di Figaro,” “Manon,” “Thaïs,” and “Les Contes d’Hoffmann,” among others. Several of those recordings took home major prizes including the Prix du Disque for “L’Heure Espagnole” and “Les Contes d’Hoffmann.”

Here he is in duet with Marilyn Horne.