Jean-Baptiste Faure  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Jean-Baptiste Faure (15 January, 1830 - 9 November, 1914) was a celebrated French operatic baritone and art collector of great significance. He also composed a number of classical songs, one of which, Les Rameaux (The Palms), is still famous in the English-speaking world.


Faure was born in Moulins. A choirboy in his youth, he entered the Paris Conservatory in 1851 and made his operatic debut the following year at the Opéra-Comique, as Pygmalion in Victor Massé's Galathée. He remained at the Opéra-Comique for over seven years, creating the Marquis d'Erigny in Manon Lescaut (1856) and Hoël in Le Pardon de Ploërmel (1859), among seven premieres at that house.

He debuted at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, in 1860 as Hoël, and at the Paris Opéra in 1861. He would sing at the Paris Opera every season until 1869 and then again in 1872-76 and 1878. In addition, he continued to perform off and on in London until 1877 at venues such as Her Majesty's Theatre and the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

Among the many operas in which he appeared in Paris were Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Don Giovanni as well as Le Pardon de Ploërmel, L'Etoile du Nord, Les Huguenots and La Favorite.

He also made history by creating several important operatic roles written by such prominent composers as Giacomo Meyerbeer, Giuseppe Verdi and Ambroise Thomas. They included the leading baritone parts in L'Africaine, Don Carlos and Hamlet (in 1865, 1867 and 1868 respectively). His last stage appearances are recorded as taking place in Marseilles and Vichy in 1886.

Faure possessed a dark, smooth yet flexible baritone voice which he used with impeccable skill. He was a sophisticated interpretive artist, too, and all these accomplishments combined to make him one of the most significant figures to have appeared on the French musical stage during the 19th century. He wrote two books on singing, La Voix et le Chant (1886) and Aux Jeunes Chanteurs (1898) and also taught at the Paris Conservatory from 1857 to 1860.

In addition, Faure composed several enduring songs, including a "Sancta Maria" as well as Crucifix and, of course, Les Rameaux. (These latter two songs were recorded by the tenor Enrico Caruso, among others.)

An avid collector of impressionist art, Faure sat for multiple portraits by Édouard Manet and owned 67 canvases by that painter, including the masterpiece Le déjeuner sur l'herbe and the Fife Player. He also owned Le pont d'Argenteuil and 62 other works by Claude Monet. Part of his collection (which also contained paintings by Degas, Sisley, Pissaro, Ingres and Prud'hon) was kept at a villa near Étretat, whose famous cliffs he tried painting himself.

Faure died of natural causes in Paris in 1914, during the early months of World War One. According to his obituary in the New York Times, he had been made an officer of the Legion of Honour. He was married to the singer Constance Caroline Lefèbvre (1828-1905).

The greatest of Faure's French heirs were the lyric bass Pol Plançon (1851-1914), who modelled his vocal method directly on that of Faure, and Jean Lassalle (1847-1909), who took up Faure's mantle as principal baritone at the Paris Opera. Both Plançon and Lassalle made recordings in the early 1900s. Their cultivated performances on these acoustic discs and cylinders undoubtedly preserve echoes of Faure's singing style and technique.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Jean-Baptiste Faure" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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