Michel Dens (1911-2000) ranks with Robert Merrill and Pavel Lisitsian as one of the great lyric baritones of the period after the Second World War. Born in Roubaix in northern France, he studied the violin as a boy and planned to go into the textile business, but was urged to take his singing seriously, studied at the local Conservatoire and made his début in 1934 at Lille as Wagner in Faust. He learned his craft in such cities as Bordeaux, Grenoble, Toulouse, Marseille and Monte Carlo. Taken prisoner in 1940, he was held in Germany, but succeeded in escaping and joining the Toulouse Company (1942). His Parisian début in June 1947 at both the Opéra was as Albert in Werther, followed by Rigoletto, Iago, Valentin (Faust), Athanæl (Thaïs) and Rossini’s Figaro. His rôles at the Paris Opéra-Comique included Escamillo (Carmen), Frederic (Lakmé), Lescaut, Ourrias (Mireille) and Zurga (Les pêcheurs de perles).
As a guest artist he sang at many opera houses in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada and North Africa. Gifted with a high-lying voice of great beauty and flexibility, he was equally at home in the French repertoire and in such Italian rôles as Rigoletto and Figaro. He was also a wonderful singer of both French and Viennese operetta, and could even handle Tauber’s rôles in Lehár’s works convincingly. Dens had a long career and was still singing well at the age of eighty. Fortunately he made a vast quantity of recordings.