Remembering EDMOND CLÉMENT, who died on this day in 1928.
Although he sang in choirs as a child, Edmond Clement began his university studies to become a civil engineer, but soon quit to enter the Paris Conservatoire where he studied with Victor Warot. He made his debut as Vincent in Gounod’s Mireille at the Opera-Comique in 1889. He remained a member of that company until 1910 and gave occasional guest performances there until 1916. Although he appeared in Brussels, London, Madrid, and Monte Carlo, his most renowned performances outside of Paris were in the United States. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Werther and later he sang Fenton in Falstaff under Toscanini, the roles of Des Grieux and Fra Diavolo. He sang with the Boston Opera Company where his most important roles were Werther, Des Grieux, Don Jose and Hoffmann. In 1913, he made an extensive tour of the United States and Canada. He returned to France in 1914 to join the French Army at the outbreak of fighting with Germany. He was wounded, but then continued to entertain the troops. In 1921, he returned to New York to give a recital, and in December, 1927, he gave his last recital, just three months before his death.
Blessed with a lovely lyric tenor voice, Clement sang nearly all of the French and Italian roles best suited to his voice. By carefully monitoring his vocal health, he was able to take on some of the heavier roles such as Hoffmann and Don Jose, but he was most famous as Des Grieux and Werther. He was a noted Rodolfo in La Bohème and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly as well as a Tamino in Die Zauberflote and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. Of course, all of these roles were sung in French. In 1893, he starred in Phyrne by Saint-Saëns and in 1907 he created the role of Armand in Massenet’s Therese. He also created roles in operas by Godard, Dubois, Bruneau, Erlange, and Dupont. Among his other important roles were Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Ernesto in Don Pasquale, and John Brown in Boieldieu’s La dame blanche. He was also highly regarded as a recitalist. The last decade of his career was spent giving recitals around the world.
The recordings of Clement, which have always been very highly regarded by collectors, are dominated by the 1905 Odeons and the Victor recordings from the early 1910s (Romophon 82002). His very first recording is Almaviva’s first aria from Barbiere di Siviglia where Clement displays his subtlety and flexibility to great effect. The Victor recordings includes a beautiful version of the famous duet from Bizet’s Pearl Fishers with Marcel Journet. The recording does not have the visceral impact of the Bjorling-Merrill recording, but the lovely soft singing and exemplary phrasing is much more in the French style. The stunning recording of the aria from La dame blanche by Boieldieu is from his later Pathe recordings (Romophon 82016). In this, he displays facility and control rarely encountered on later recordings and throughout he maintains a lovely sound. Edmond Clement provides a direct link to the great composers of the late nineteenth century and should be represented in the collection of all opera lovers.
Artist Biography by Richard LeSueur
Photo credit: AllMusic