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Louis Cazette, French lyric tenor

By March 20, 2022March 19th, 2023No Comments

Louis Cazette, was born in 1887, and died April 29, 1922 in Paris. He made his debut 1920 at the Paris Opéra-Comique, and his career was very promising. He died from tetanus following an on-stage accident that had him wounded.

Once again, this is a lyric tenor from the French School of the early part of the 20th century. Listen for his legato (connecting one note to next), the sensitivity that he brings to the worlds, the resonant sound that he produces (as opposed to squeezing the swallowing muscle and squeezing the throat to product a sound, and his messa di voce. (if you don’t know what this term means, we’ll do a post about it).

Massenet, Manon, Ah! Fuyez douce image!

Je suis seul!
Seul enfin!
C’est le moment suprême!
Il n’est plus rien que j’aime
Que le repos sacré que m’apporte la foi!
Oui, j’ai voulu mettre
Dieu même
Entre le monde et moi!

Ah! fuyez, douce image, à mon âme trop chère;
Respectez un repos cruellement gagné,
Et songez, si j’ai bu dans une coupe amère,
Que mon coeur l’emplirait de ce qu’il a saigné!
Ah! fuyez! fuyez! loin de moi!
Ah! fuyez!
Que m’importe la vie et ce semblant de gloire?
Je ne veux que chasser du fond de ma mémoire…
Un nom maudit! ce nom… qui m’obsède et pourquoi?

J’y vais!
Mon Dieu!
De votre flamme
Purifiez mon âme…
Et dissipez à sa lueur
L’ombre qui passe encor dans le fond de mon coeur!
Ah! fuyez, douce image, à mon âme trop chère!
Ah! fuyez! fuyez! loin de moi!
Ah! fuyez! loin de moi! loin de moi!

Massenet, Manon, Ah! Flee sweet image

I am alone!
Finally alone!
It is the supreme moment!
There is nothing more that I love
May holy rest bring faith to me!
I wanted to put
God Himself
Between the world amd me!

Ah! Vanish sweet memory too dear to my heart;
respect a calm won through much suffering,
and remember that if I have tasted of a bitter cup,
my heart could fill it full with the blood it has shed!
Ah! Vanish, vanish, go far from me!
Life itself and sham glory mean nothing to me.
I want only to expel from the depths of my memory…
A cursed name!… this name… which obsesses me, and why?

I’m on my way… Heavenly Father!
With Your fire
purify my soul!
and by its light dispel
the shadow that still lurks in the depths of my heart!
Ah! Flee, sweet memory
Ah! Flee, Flee! far from me.
Flee, vanish, go far away from me! etc.

André Messager, Fortunio, J’aimais la vielle maison grise

J’aimais la ville maison grise,
Où j’ai grandi près du foyer,
Les jours y coulaient sans surprise,
Sous les branches du vieux noyer,
Les chose m’y sont familières,
Elles m’accueillaient doucement,
Et dans leurs réseaux, ivy,
En laçaient mon âme d’enfant.

Hélas! mon âme s’est prise,
D’autre pensers m’ont envahi,
Déjà s’efface dans l’oubli,
Ma pauvre vielle maison grise!

André Messager, Fortunio, I loved the old gray house

I loved the Old Gray House
Where I grew up near the hearth
The days flowed along without surprise
Under the branches of the old walnut tree
Things are familiar to me
They welcomed me gently
And Ivy tangled all around
While piercing my child’s soul

Alas, my soul has understood
Other thoughts have invaded me
Already fades into oblivion
My poor old gray house!

Cazette was born Victor Louis Camille Peault in Nantes. His family moved to Paris when he was quite young and received early musical training in Paris. He enlisted in the army but pursued his musical studies. He entered the Paris Conservatory in 1912 where he received vocal instruction by Emile Engel and Albert Saléza. His last teacher was the Dutch bass Jan Reder. He received three prizes in 1914 and after his graduation he was contracted by the Opéra-Comique. World War I broke out, and he had to serve in the army. Upon demobilization in 1919, he was almost immediately called to the Opéra-Comique, where he made his debut on June 14, 1919, as Le Noctambule in Charpentier’s Louise. The first major role there was that of Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly. In early 1920, Cazette sang small roles in operatic premieres, opposite Vanni-Marcoux and other famous singers. At the time competition among the tenors was rather high. Léon Beyle, David Devriès, Léon David, René Lapelletrie and Emile Marcelin appeared at the Opéra-Comique. His first great success was in Così fan tutte as Ferrando, conducted by Messager.

Louis Cazette rarely performed outside Paris. In 1922 he participated a in a performance of Don Giovanni. Yvonne Gall was Donna Anna, Aline Vallandri was Donna Elvira and Vanni-Marcoux sang the title role. Cazette was the only singer who gained a big success. His final new role was Des Grieux in which he appeared on March 9, 1922 for the first time. His last performance took place on April 28, 1922, in a performance of Don Giovanni, opposite Suzanne Balguerie and Vanni-Marcoux. The following afternoon he complained of a stiff neck (torticolis) and explained that he was unable to perform in the following performance of Mireille. The next day he was dead, aged 34. The offical version of his death was “suffering agony from having contracted tetanus.” According to Cazette’s daughter-in-law, Cazette was accidentally cut by a trident which was held by one of his colleagues, the baritone André Baugé. The tetanus infection set in and within a few days Cazette was dead.