Edmond Clément, French tenor

Edmond Clément (March 28, 1867, Paris – February 24, 1928, Nice) was a French lyric tenor who earned an international reputation due to the polished artistry of his singing.

Clément studied at the Conservatoire de Paris , and made his stage debut at the Opéra-Comique in 1889, as Vincent in Mireille. He remained first tenor at that theatre until 1909, appearing as Ottavio, Tamino, Almaviva, Georges Brown, Fra Diavolo, Gérald, des Grieux, Werther and Hoffmann, among other roles.

He also took part in the first performances of Le juif polonais by Camille Erlanger and Hélène by Camille Saint-Saëns, and sang in the Parisian premieres of Falstaff and Madama Butterfly.

Ah! lève-toi, soleil! fais pâlir les étoiles,
Qui, dans l’azur sans voiles,
Brillent aux firmament.

Ah! lève-toi! Parais!
Astre pur et charmant!
Elle rêve, elle dénoue
Une boucle de cheveux
Qui vient caresser sa joue.
Amour! Amour! porte-lui mes voeux!
Elle parle! Qu’elle est belle!
Ah! Je n’ai rien entendu!
Mais ses yeux parlent pour elle!
Et mon coeur a répondu!

Ah! arise, sun! make the stars pale
Who, in the azure without veils,
Shine in the firmament.

Ah, arise! Appear!
Star- pure and charming!
She is dreaming, she unties
A lock of hair
Which comes to caress her cheek.
Love! Love! take my vows to her!
She speaks! How beautiful she is!
Ah! I haven’t heard anything!
But her eyes speak for her!
And my heart has responded!

Nadir
Au fond du temple saint
paré de fleurs et d’or,
Une femme apparaît !
Zurga
Une femme apparaît !
Nadir
Je crois la voir encore !
Zurga
Je crois la voir encore !
Nadir
La foule prosternée
La regarde, étonnée,
Et murmure tout bas :
Voyez, c’est la déesse
Qui dans l’ombre se dresse,
Et vers nous tend les bras !
Zurga
Son voile se soulève !
Ô vision ! ô rêve !
La foule est à genoux !
Both
Oui, c’est elle !
C’est la déesse
Plus charmante et plus belle !
Oui, c’est elle !
C’est la déesse
Qui descend parmi nous !
Son voile se soulève
Et la foule est à genoux !
Nadir
Mais à travers la foule
Elle s’ouvre un passage !
Zurga
Son long voile déjà
Nous cache son visage !
Nadir
Mon regard, hélas !
La cherche en vain !
Both
Oh oui, jurons de rester amis !
Oui, c’est elle ! C’est la déesse !
En ce jour qui vient nous unir,
Et fidèle à ma promesse,
Comme un frère je veux te chérir !
C’est elle, c’est la déesse
Qui vient en ce jour nous unir !
Oui, partageons le même sort,
Soyons unis jusqu’à la mort !

At the back of the holy temple,
decorated with flowers and gold,
A woman appears!

A woman appears!

I can still see her!

I can still see her!

The prostrate crowd
looks at her amazed
and murmurs under its breath:
look, this is the goddess
looming up in the shadow
and holding out her arms to us.

Her veil parts slightly.
What a vision! What a dream!
The crowd is kneeling.

 

Yes, it is she!
It is the goddess,
more charming and more beautiful.
Yes, it is she!
It is the goddess
who has come down among us.
Her veil has parted
and the crowd is kneeling.

But through the crowd
she makes her way.

Already her long veil
hides her face from us.

My eyes, alas!
Look for her in vain

Oh yes, let us swear to remain friends!
Yes, it is she, the goddess,
who comes to unite us this day.
And, faithful to my promise,
I wish to cherish you like a brother!
It is she, the goddess,
who comes to unite us this day!
Yes, let us share the same fate,
let us be united until death!

Puisqu’on ne peut fléchir ces jalouses gardiennes,
Ah! laissez-moi conter mes peines
Et mon émoi !

Vainement, ma bien aimée,
On croit me désespérer :
Près de ta porte fermée.
Je veux encore demeurer !

Les soleils pourront s’éteindre,
Les nuits remplacer les jours,
Sans t’accuser at sans me plaindre,
Là je resterai toujours !

Je le sais, ton âme est douce,
Et l’heure bientôt viendra,
Où la main qui me repousse.
Vers la mienne se tendra!
Ne sois pas trop tardive
A te laisser attendrir !
Si Rozenn bientôt n’arrive,
Je vais, hélas mourir!

Since these jealous retainers will not be softened
ah, let me tell you of my suffering
and my emotion!

In vain, my beloved,
do they think they can put me off:
close by your shut door
I am determined to stay!

The stars may fade,
nights replace days,
without blaming you and without complaining
I shall stay here forever!

I know what a sweet soul you are,
and the hour will soon come
when the hand which now pushes me away
will reach out towards mine!
Do not take too long
to allow yourself to melt;
If Rozenn does not appear soon,
Alas, I shall die!

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.