Frédéric Jean Edmond Clément was born in Paris on March 28, 1867. He spent the final months of his military service at the caserne “Nouvelle France” on the rue du Faubourg-Poissonière, a remarkable military establishment essentially created for students of the arts, which enabled them to perform their onerous military service and, at the same time, pursue their studies.
In the concours of 1889, Clément won first prize in singing. That same year, on September 30, he made his debut at the Opéra-Comique (“O-C”) in Mireille. He remained at the theater as a member of the troupe, with only brief periods elsewhere, until 1910, and thereafter as a “guest” until at least 1916.
Clément appears to have sailed through the traumatic years that followed the death of director Léon Carvalho in 1897 and the succession of Albert Carré. From 1876, the troupe at the O-C had served under the genial and paternalistic direction of Carvalho, himself a graduate of the Paris Conservatory and a former professional bass. The troupe had weathered with him the disastrous fire of 1897 that destroyed the old house, had suffered with him when he was scapegoated by the French government and sent to prison because of the fire and had rejoiced when he was acquitted of wrongdoing and returned to the house in 1891. Carré, on the other hand, had been a sometime actor who had little knowledge of or appreciation for music. Unlike the paternal Carvalho, Carré ruled the O-C as a tyrannical boss for 15 years and was wholeheartedly disliked.
As his career progressed, Clément found himself with fewer and fewer rivals in the standard lyric tenor roles. By 1907, he reigned supreme at the O-C and was its highest paid singer, earning 7,500 francs per month. During his first ten to eleven years at the O-C, Clément was, like every other debutant, assigned to smaller roles, and performed in a number of major revivals and world premieres. After the turn of the century, Clément appeared in no further new works, falling back instead on the standard repertory of the time.
From 1902 to 1906, Clément sang sporadically at the Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie in Brussels. He appeared at the Paris Théâtre Lyrique in 1899 and at the Théâtre de la Gaité, also in Paris, in 1900-01, 1910, and 1913. From December 1909 to March 1910, he performed at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Many engagements took Clément to London, and he was a frequent performer in all the major opera houses in France,
From the First World War until his death, Clément reduced his public performances. He died in Nice on February 23, 1928 at the age of 60.