>Hughes Cuénod

>… recently passed away at the age of 108 (!) I knew his singing from a recording or two, and also had heard from Met singers that he was a brutal perfectionist as a French diction coach. (Language diction, something not taught here. On the other hand, many singers here tend to learn the language, just not the diction rules, so who has the better music educational system? In my opinion one needs both.)

Mr. Cuénod, who continued to sing publicly until he was in his early 90s, did not have a large voice or, as he cheerfully admitted, the world’s most beautiful. But it was those very attributes, he often said, that let him sing to so ripe an age.
“He never pushed the instrument,” Mr. White said in an interview on Tuesday. “He didn’t put it under strain and pressure, which a lot of singers do.”
Or, as Mr. Cuénod told The New York Times in 1987, “I never had a voice, so how could I lose one?”
That premise, however, was far from true. In his performances and many recordings, Mr. Cuénod was praised for his light, clean, almost ethereal tenor; refined musicianship; and faultless diction.

 I love that quote, by the way. Only someone absolutely sure of themselves and their place in the world could say that sincerely.

Joan Sutherland, Shirley Verrett, Peter Hofmann, Helen Boatwright… an opera generation is passing.

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4 Responses to >Hughes Cuénod

  1. Joe says:

    >The point about language diction piqued my interest – I'm curious about the pedagogical approach used, as I often hear about opera singers engaging languages coaches to help them with particular roles. Is the standard approach to pass on rules of pronunciation that singers can use even if they don't know the language, or is it pure imitation, e.g. the coach demonstrates what a piece should sound like and the students try to replicate the coach's example?I should note, too, that until fairly recently I assumed that many opera singers who perform internationally in multilingual repertoire necessarily had to have some command of the languages they used most often. That illusion was shattered for me when I heard Elina Garanca give an interview in connection with Met appearances in Carmen in which she admitted that she doesn't know French!

  2. Marcellina says:

    >Joe, to answer your question — it's rules, and each language has different ones. The best book out there is John Moriarity's "Diction", which discusses diction for Italian, French, German, and (church) Latin. Not that I can remember any of the individual rules themselves!I believe the imitation route is done more here in Europe, after all native speakers of any opera language are not all that far away. We did "Eugene Onegin" recently in Russian, and had coachings on it since many of us had had little to no experience with Russian.I need to add an important note here, rules for SUNG language are often quite different from SPOKEN language, especially French, but also in English!

  3. Astrid says:

    >I remember hearing M. Cuenod at the Met when he was about 90 or so – quite amazing! RIP… it really is a remarkable generation that's passing…

  4. Marcellina says:

    >Hi Astrid, nice to see your comment!Cuénod was the living example of all the necessary things to having a career singing opera, other than a big beautiful voice. Many people forget or never realize all the other things which are necessary to keep having that career and which can carry you on even if the voice isn't the most ideal.

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