As children, Edmond Clément and his brother Georges (later a distinguished throat specialist) were choirboys in Chartres Cathedral. Edmond later studied to become a civil engineer but abandoned these plans when he was twenty: instead he entered the Paris Conservatoire as a pupil of the Belgian tenor Victor Warot. After two years’ study he won a first prize for singing and shortly afterwards made his operatic stage début as Vincent in Gounod’s Mireille at the Paris Opéra-Comique. Here Clément was to be the principal lyric tenor for more than twenty years, with an unassailable reputation for stylish, elegant and unforced singing, supported by a superlative technique. Highlights of his career at the Opéra-Comique included participation in many first performances, including those of Saint-Saëns’s Phryné (1893), Bruneau’s L’Attaque du Moulin (1893) and Erlanger’s Le Juif polonais (1900); singing in the first French performances of Falstaff (Fenton, in 1894, in the presence of the composer), Paris in Saint-Saëns’s Hélène (1905) and Pinkerton/Madama Butterfly (1906). Clément also took the rôle of Don José in the 1,000th Opéra-Comique performance of Carmen (1904) and of des Grieux in the 500th Opéra-Comique performance of Manon (1905).
He sang abroad, appearing in London in recital with Dame Nellie Melba and Pol Plançon in 1894, and in Brussels, Madrid, and Monte Carlo, where he created Armand in the world première of Massenet’s Thérèse (1907). In the autumn of 1909 he appeared with the Metropolitan Opera, New York, on the opening night of its short-lived season at the New Theatre, singing the title rôle in Werther alongside Geraldine Farrar, who in her memoirs described Clément as ‘an artist of the most exquisite taste and dramatic elegance’. He also sang in Lecoq’s La Fille de Madame Angot and in L’Attaque du Moulin. During the following season, 1910–1911, now at the Metropolitan Opera House, Clément appeared as des Grieux, Fra Diavolo, Werther and Fenton. His greatest successes in North America were with the Boston Opera Company, where he appeared for three successive seasons from 1911–1912 to 1913–1914. Of Clément’s des Grieux, Philip Hale in The Boston Herald wrote: ‘The purest bel canto singing heard since Bonci’s advent’.
After volunteering to serve in World War I Clément was wounded. Whilst recovering he sang charity concerts for his fellow soldiers, but by now he had passed his peak. Nonetheless he continued to sing in recital after the war and also taught, giving his final recital in Paris in 1926. The critic Max de Schaunsee, who was present, wrote: ‘At sixty, he was still extremely personable.’
Clément made three principal sets of recordings: for Odéon (1905), Victor (1911–1913, made in the USA), and Pathé (1916, 1919–1920, 1925). The repertoire for these was catholic, covering salon music, traditional folk songs, French chanson and German lieder, as well as the more expected operatic excerpts. All display the characteristics highlighted by Richard Aldrich writing in the New York Times about a recital which Clément gave in 1921: ‘…his tenderness and ardour, his fine-spun delicacy, and nicety of phrase’.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).
|CLEMENT, Edmond: Complete Odeon (1905) and Victor (1911-13) Recordings
|Opera, Vocal, Opera, Vocal, Opera, Vocal, Opera
|CLEMENT, Edmond: Complete Pathe Recordings 1916-1925
|Opera, Vocal, Orchestral, Vocal, Opera, Vocal, Operetta, Vocal, Opera, Vocal, Opera, Vocal, Opera, Vocal, Opera||