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Edmond Clement (1867-1928).

  • Profession: Tenor.
  • Relation to Mahler: Worked with Gustav Mahler.
  • Correspondence with Mahler:
  • Born: 28-03-1867 Paris, France.
  • Died: 24-02-1928 Nice, France.
  • Buried: 00-00-0000
  1. 1911 Concert New York 03-01-1911.
  2. 1911 Concert New York 06-01-1911.
  3. 1911 Concert Brooklyn 08-01-1911.

Edmond Clément was a French lyric tenor who earned an international reputation due to the polished artistry of his singing. During his career he also taught singing privately. Among his notable pupils was the soprano Marie Sundelius.

Clément studied at the Conservatoire de Paris with Victor Warot, 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.

His career was not confined to Paris, however. He also sang in Brussels, Monte Carlo, Madrid and London, although he never appeared at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. The United States beckoned, and he joined the stellar roster of singers at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, where he performed in 1909-1910. Competition from the resplendent tenor voice of Enrico Caruso overwhelmed him, however, and he was not re-engaged by the Met's management. While in New York City he kept his voice in trim by taking lessons from the noted pedagogue Frederick Bristol.

He then sang in Boston from 1911 to 1913. Audiences at the Boston Opera House admired him for his stylish vocalism, exemplary diction and elegant stage presence during his engagement with the Boston Opera Company. Although his voice was not large, he was considered to be one of the leading Roméos and Don Josés of his era by dint of his musicianship.

Edmond Clement (1867-1928).

Clément returned to his homeland when the First World War erupted in 1914 and was wounded subsequently while serving with the French army. America heard him again during the early 1920s when he travelled across the Atlantic for concert and recital appearances. His last years were spent in semi-retirement in France. He gave his last recital at the age of 60 in 1927. He died on February 24, 1928 in Nice, France.

Edmond Clément was born in Paris in 1867.  As a young man, Clément entered the Conservatoire de Paris, where it quickly became apparent that he was possessed of a very beautiful high lyric tenor voice.  At the relatively young age of 22, Clément made his stage debut, as did so many artists, at the Opéra Comique, in Massenet’s Mireille.  He very quickly began to earn a reputation as a superbly elegant and polished singer.  He remained a leading tenor at the Opéra Comique for the next twenty years, until 1909. 

During this crucially important period, Clément perfected what was going to become the core of his essential repertoire, including Ottavio, Roméo, Werther, Hoffmann, Almaviva, Tamino,and, perhaps most importantly, des Grieux.  Also, given the era in which he sang, he had the opportunity to take part in première performances, including Falstaff, Butterfly and Saint-Saëns’ Hèléne.

By this time, when Clément was in his early 40’s, he began to spread his wings, as it were, and appear outside Paris.  While today we assume that it is natural to move abroad as opportunities present themselves, this was not always the case in the early years of the 20th century.  For one thing, travel was expensive and difficult then, and there is nothing like a transatlantic trip by steamer to wear one out.  Not everyone is constituted to be able to tolerate long trips by boat and rail.  It was common enough for artists who lived in Paris to have their entire careers and never leave Paris, even then considered by many, if not most, to be the world’s greatest city. 

However, for Clément it was off to Madrid, Monte Carlo and Brussels.  He did not sing at Covent Garden, but he did manage the big transatlantic trip to New York, to perform in the 1909-10 season at the Metropolitan Opera. This was, however, the heyday of Enrico Caruso, the star tenor of the Met’s roster, and verismo singers such as Enrico Caruso were all the rage at the time, and were basically polar opposites to elegant bel canto tenors such as Edmond Clément.  Clément and others certainly had their audience also, but it was not, shall we say, that of the Italophile Met and its New York Italian immigrant fan base.

Edmond Clement (1867-1928).

He found a very much more appreciative audience in Boston, at the Boston Opera House, where his extremely elegant and polished singing, coupled with his equally refined stage presence,  were greatly applauded. He was a natural Roméo, and a good Don José.  It should be mentioned at this point that  Clément was a superb musician, and a very handsome man, with considerable acting skills.

The year following his Boston triumph saw the outbreak of WWI and Clément, a patriotic Frenchman,  returned to his homeland and joined the Army.  While he did survive, he was  wounded, and was never quite the same after the war.  While he did sing a little, it was nonetheless a period of decline.  He gave a recital at age sixty and died in 1927,the following year, in Nice.  He is remembered, even today, thanks to his records, as one of the most precious and elegant of tenors, the very exemplar of French elegance.

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