Arias from Herodiade, La damnation de Faust, Carmen, Les Troyens, Joseph en Egypte, Alceste, Iphigenie en Tauride, La Juive, L’Africaine, Les Abencerages, Tosca, I pagliacci, Cavalleria rusticana, and La traviata.
Guy Chauvet, tenor, Orchestra Conducted by Jésus Etcheverry.
MALIBRAN MR 566. F (AAD?) TT: 76:23


French tenor Guy Chauvet was born in Montluçon 2 October 1933. In 1954 he was co-winner of a tenor competition in Cannes, along with Alain Vanzo, Gustave Botiaux, Tony Poncet, and Roger Gardes—a pretty impressive assemblage of talent! Chauvet made his Paris Opéra debut in 1959, starting with comprimario parts, finally advancing to lead roles. He soon established himself as an important presence, both in France and, ultimately, in many of the world’s other major opera houses. He sang numerous roles in the French and Italian repertoire, and became particularly well-known for such heroic parts as Aeneas and Samson.

Guy Chauvet was without question a talented singer, and one who filled a pressing need during a time when the grand tradition of the French heroic tenor was in decline. Nevertheless, I’m not entirely certain that the path of Chauvet’s career was ideally suited to his vocal talents. I’ve always considered him a singer whose vocal weight leaned more toward the lyric than the dramatic. And while Chauvet coped quite well with the demands of heroic repertoire, I suspect it may have been at the expense of vocal freshness, beauty and flexibility. These suspicions are inspired by this recent reissue by Malibran of recordings Guy Chauvet made for the Vega label early in his career. Chauvet sings all of the selections, including those from Italian opera, in French. Typical of this singer’s work in general, the diction is idiomatic and crystal-clear. What sets these Vega recordings apart from Chauvet’s later work is the gorgeous vocal quality and the wide variety of colors at the tenor’s disposal. The sweetness of the young Chauvet’s timbre is something to savor. In addition, Chauvet displays all of the other qualities that are the heart and soul of great French tenor singing—a seamless legato, a masterful application of the mixed voice, and an ideal balance between elegance and passion. It’s also quite impressive to hear Chauvet demonstrate an ease and mastery of style and technique in music ranging from the 18th century to verismo. And if all of these attributes inspire comparison to Chauvet’s great predecessor, Georges Thill, the singing on this disc justifies such comparisons.

The CD sounds as if it is a straight transfer from LP to CD. The sound is good mono, with occasional light surface noise, and, here and there, a slight bit of distortion. In short, the sonic quality is more than sufficient to hear some absolutely first-rate French tenor singing. Highly recommended.

K.M. (September 2004)