Paul Cabanel was born in Oran. After studies of law he trained as a singer at the local conservatory and at the Conservatoire National de Paris. During military service he was severely wounded at the Verdun battle in 1916 and was not able to continue his studies until 1919. He made his debut as Hérode in Massenet’s Hérodiade at Kairo where he also appeared in Manon, Faust and Thaïs. Until 1932 he sang at various provincial opera houses also making some guest appearances in Belgium and Switzerland. He was engaged at the opera of Bordeaux during seven seasons as well as at the opera of Vichy. It was not until 1932 (!) that he made his debut at the Opéra-Comique as Scarpia where his singing was immediately warmly received. The following year he succeeded at the Grand Opéra as Méphistophélès in Berlioz’ La Damnation de Faust which became his most famous role. Cabanel became an admired member at both opera houses. His further repertory included Leporello, the High Priest in Samson et Dalila, Escamillo, Tonio, Figaro, Nikalantha, Basile, Colline, the four villains in Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Papageno, Frère Laurent and Arkel in Pelléas et Mélisande including a number of Wagnerian roles. He appeared as Mephistophélès in Gounod’s Faust more than 1000 times! The artist was engaged at the operas of Rio de Janeiro, the Teatro Colón, the Teatro Liceo Barcelona and at Amsterdam. He was particularly admired at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels where he sang Boris at the end of his career in 1954. From 1942 to 1958 he was a sought-after singing coach at the Conservatoire National de Paris.
Charles Cambon, Paul Cabanel and Hélène Bouvier, rehearsing “Samson et Dalila”