Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

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stenka razin
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Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by stenka razin » Wed Dec 08, 2010 11:42 am

From The New York Times, 12/07/2010. :( :( :( :(

Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108; Versatile, Light-Voiced Tenor
By Margalit Fox

Hugues Cuénod, a Swiss tenor who dazzled critics in his Metropolitan Opera debut a quarter-century ago, not only because he sang extremely well but also because he was nearly 85, the oldest person to sing there before or since, died on Monday [December 3, 2010, —Ed.] at his home in Vevey, Switzerland. He was 108 and also had an ancestral chateau nearby in Lully.

His death was confirmed by the American tenor Robert White, a friend of many years.

Mr. Cuénod (his given name is pronounced “oog,” in an umlauted way — say “eeg” with lips rounded — his surname “kweh-NOH”) was originally a concert singer. He added opera to his portfolio in the late 1920s and had a long, distinguished international career before making his Met debut on March 12, 1987, as the Emperor Altoum in Puccini’s “Turandot.”

The production, which also starred Plácido Domingo and Eva Marton, was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and conducted by James Levine. Writing about it in The New York Times, John Rockwell said Mr. Cuénod “remains the best Emperor this writer has heard.”

Mr. Cuénod’s only Met appearances were in the role, which he sang a total of 14 times in 1987 and 1988.

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.

He was also known for his breathtaking musical ecumenicalism: a champion both of early music and 20th-century fare, he performed the work of composers as diverse as Monteverdi, Stravinsky and Noël Coward.

If it took Mr. Cuénod six decades to find his way to the Met, it might have been, at least in part, because he simply did not have time:

He was an active participant in the early-music revival of the 20th century, singing on seminal 1930s recordings of Monteverdi led by Nadia Boulanger.

He sang the role of Sellem in the world premiere of Stravinsky’s opera “The Rake’s Progress” in Venice in 1951. He also appeared on the stages of La Scala, Glyndebourne, Covent Garden and the Opera Society of Washington, as the Washington National Opera was then known.

He taught at the Geneva Conservatory and gave master classes worldwide. He gave recitals in cities around the globe, including New York. He even sang on Broadway.

Hugues-Adhémar Cuénod, familiarly known as Huguie, was born in Corseaux-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, on June 26, 1902, to a family of bankers. He studied voice in Lausanne, Geneva, Basel and Vienna — he began as a baritone but with training became a tenor — before embarking on a concert career. As a recitalist, he became renowned as an interpreter of French song.

Mr. Cuénod made his operatic debut in 1928 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris in “Jonny Spielt Auf” (“Jonny Strikes Up”), an opera about a jazz violinist by the Austrian composer Ernst Krenek.

The next year, he appeared on Broadway, singing a small role in “Bitter Sweet,” an operetta with book, music and lyrics by Coward that ran for 159 performances.

His recordings include the work of Bach, Couperin, Haydn, Brahms, Schubert, Debussy, Satie and Honegger.

Mr. Cuénod is survived by his companion, Alfred Augustin, with whom he entered into a civil union in 2007, when he was 104 and Mr. Augustin about 64.

When Mr. Cuénod finally took the stage at the Metropolitan Opera House, “Turandot” seemed an unlikely vehicle to bring him there. His Swiss training had emphasized musical restraint; for him and his compatriots, he said, Puccini’s emotional excesses were unpalatable.

“I didn’t like the music,” Mr. Cuénod told The Times in 1987. “People would compete with each other to say ‘Puccini, bah.’ ”

But something about Mr. Zeffirelli’s “Turandot” — which, like most Zeffirelli productions, was itself a thing of abundant excess — tempted him, so much so that he turned down a competing offer to sing with the Geneva Opera.

Mr. White was in the audience for Mr. Cuénod’s Met debut. Sitting beside him was the philanthropist Alice Tully, born, like Mr. Cuénod, in 1902.

As Mr. White recalled on Tuesday, Miss Tully turned to him and said, “Bobby, Huguie may be the oldest one on that stage, but he’s the only one whose words I can hear clearly.”
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Re: Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by Lance » Wed Dec 08, 2010 4:09 pm

Very sorry to hear about this. At 108, Cuénod must have been one of the oldest living people in the world.
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Re: Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by John F » Wed Dec 08, 2010 10:04 pm

And at 105, he may have been the oldest person ever to get married.
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Re: Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by jbuck919 » Wed Dec 08, 2010 10:13 pm

his given name is pronounced “oog,” in an umlauted way — say “eeg” with lips rounded
I don't know what is more embarrassing--that the most literate paper in the country would print that, or that any other paper in the same country would probably (if the name came up at all) suggest "yoog." Oh well, I have to remember that most Germans pronounced my name (Brosseau) broh-SAY-ow.

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Re: Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by Wallingford » Wed Dec 08, 2010 10:59 pm

One LP I once had was his Satie Socrates....affecting work.

My official intro to the art of Mr. Cuenod was the all-time-classic Ansermet recording of Ravel's L'enfant et les sortileges, in which Cuenod essayed the three roles for tenor: the frog, the Wedgewood teapot, and Father Arithmetic. Awesome job, in both the old and the new senses of the word.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

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Re: Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by Lance » Thu Dec 09, 2010 12:29 am

Yes, I caught that. And it's probably true. Maybe we should check out the Guiness Book of Records?
John F wrote:And at 105, he may have been the oldest person ever to get married.
I did find this, but neither partner was 105 years of age at the time of their marriage, so it seems Hugues Cuénod WOULD be the oldest person to get hitched at 105 years of age.

From Guinness Book of Records:

Karl Dølven (Norway, b. 31 August 1897) married Gudrun Haug (Norway, b. 14 October 1900) at Hole, Norway, on 4 June 1927. They remained married until Gudrun's death on 24 April 2004. At this time Gudrun was aged 103 years 193 days and Karl was 106 years 237 days - an aggregate age of 210 years 65 days .
Lance G. Hill
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When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by Chalkperson » Thu Dec 09, 2010 3:00 am

I have many of his recordings on Dante/Lys, the true Grand Old Man of Song...RIP...
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Re: Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by val » Thu Dec 09, 2010 3:36 am

I deeply admired Hugues Cuénod. He had a unique talent to characterize, in a few words, a situation. I remender him singing Dowland Songs or Satie's Socrate, but also his incredible performance as Linfea in Cavalli's opera La Calisto.

Perhaps his best recording was the one with Debussy's Melodies, on poems of Baudelaire, Verlaine and Mallarmé, with Martin Isepp (NIMBUS).

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Re: Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by stenka razin » Thu Dec 09, 2010 6:23 am

The most surprising revelation was that the distinguished Mr. Cuenod, was in the original Broadway cast of Norl Coward's 'Bitter Sweet' in 1929, no less! :mrgreen: :shock: :D :D :D :D
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Re: Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by Istvan » Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:15 am

jbuck919 wrote:
his given name is pronounced “oog,” in an umlauted way — say “eeg” with lips rounded
I don't know what is more embarrassing--that the most literate paper in the country would print that, or that any other paper in the same country would probably (if the name came up at all) suggest "yoog." Oh well, I have to remember that most Germans pronounced my name (Brosseau) broh-SAY-ow.
Moreover, Cuénod is pronounced "Kéno" not "Kwéno".
Cheers

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Re: Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by John F » Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:40 am

Istvan wrote:Moreover, Cuénod is pronounced "Kéno" not "Kwéno".
I'm not deeply familiar with Swiss French spelling and pronunciation, but I've never ever heard that.
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Re: Hugues Cuénod Dies at 108

Post by piston » Thu Dec 09, 2010 8:46 am

It's true that his surname is not pronounced like "kwé" but it is not pronounced like "ké" either! The "e" in "Cuénod" is virtually silent, as far as I can hear in the English interview below. I am afraid that the phonetic equivalent I can only think of is in French; nothing comes to mind in English. Again, that uncomfortable French "u" can be heard as the host of the interview struggles to be accurate:
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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