Oldest Tenor, Hugues Cuenod Dies At 108

Tenor Hugues Cuenod i i

Tenor Hugues Cuenod, photographed earlier this year, at age 107. Lodewijknapoleon/wikimedia commons hide caption

itoggle caption Lodewijknapoleon/wikimedia commons
Tenor Hugues Cuenod

Tenor Hugues Cuenod, photographed earlier this year, at age 107.

Lodewijknapoleon/wikimedia commons

Swiss tenor Hugues Cuenod has died. Various dates have been circulating as to the exact date of his passing — The Telegraph reports Dec. 3, other sources say as late as Dec. 6.

Cuenod, with his light, high lyric voice, seemed as ageless as the repertoire he chose to sing, which was both ancient, modern and in between. He was at the forefront of the revival of Monteverdi's operas, dating back to the late 1930s. But he also sang modern music, landing a role in the world premier of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress in 1951.

John Steane, in his book The Grand Tradition, describes Cuenod's "honeyed tone" with an "abundance of grace and vitality."

Vitality seems to be an understatement with Cuenod. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut at age 85. Anne Midgette, in The Washington Post, reports that he sang a role in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin at age 92. And on Norman Lebrecht's blog, he notes that the singer had entered a civil partnership with his long-term companion, Alfred Augustin, at age 104.

Cuenod was born in Corseaux-sur-Veyey, Switzerland on June 16, 1902. He studied in Lausanne, Geneva and Vienna, making his career as a recitalist, and his operatic debut in 1928 at the Champs Elysees in Paris in Ernst Krenek's Jonny Spielt Auf.

In 1976 the French government awarded him the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres.

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