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 Obituary, Huguette Tourangeau (1938-2018)

Huguette Toureangeau

The French-Canadian mezzo Huguette Tourangeau, particularly renowned for her collaborations with Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge during the 1960s and 70s, has died aged 79.

Tourangeau was born in Montréal on 12th August 1938 and studied at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal, making her operatic debut as Mercédès (Carmen) under Zubin Mehta in 1964. (Just months afterwards, she graduated to singing the title-role on a 56-city tour of the opera with the Metropolitan National Touring Company after successfully competing in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions).

It was whilst singing Cherubino that same season that she came to the attention of Richard Bonynge, who saw Tourangeau’s full-bodied but agile voice as the perfect foil for his wife Joan Sutherland and encouraged her to explore bel canto repertoire rather than the dramatic roles which seemed to be beckoning her at the time. The three collaborated on a regular basis for the next fifteen years, both in the opera-house and the studio: Sutherland and Tourangeau appeared opposite one another as Norma and Adalgisa, Lakmé and Mallika, Maria Stuarda and Elisabetta (which they recorded for Decca in 1975, with Luciano Pavarotti as Leicester), and Lucrezia Borgia/Orsini, among others. Tourangeau was also instrumental in Bonynge’s championing of French rarities such as Massenet’s Esclarmonde (which received its Metropolitan Opera premiere in 1976, with Sutherland in the title-role and Tourangeau as her sister Parséïs, and was recorded for Decca the previous year), Le roi de Lahore, and the short two-act opera Thérèse: Tourangeau sang the title-role on the work’s first-ever recording in 1973.

Tourangeau excelled in both French Romantic and coloratura roles; aside from the roles previously mentioned, her repertoire included the title-roles in Carmen, Ambroise Thomas’s Mignon and Handel’s Giulio Cesare, as well as Dorabella (Così fan tutte), Zerlina in Don Giovanni, and Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus. Her remarkable range and agility are heard to astonishing effect on the 1970 recital-disc Arias from Forgotten Operas (featuring excerpts from works including Auber’s Le cheval de bronze, Bizet’s Djamileh, and Vaccai’s Giulietta e Romeo): the closing track, from Aimé Maillart's opéra-comique Les Dragons de Villars, showcases a high E worthy of Sutherland as well as the formidable chest-voice which won her success in contralto roles such as Rossini’s Arsace (Semiramide) and Handel’s Bertarido (Rodelinda). (Bonynge, who conducted the recording, had devised bespoke ornamentation to highlight her unusually strong lower register, as he had also done for the 1969 recording of Messiah which featured both Sutherland and Tourangeau).

Tourangeau retired from the stage aged just 40 (her final operatic role was Charlotte in Werther, in Lyon), but made several recordings over the following few years (including an acclaimed account of Falla’s El amor brujo with Charles Dutoit) and taught privately in her native Montréal from the mid-1980s onwards. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Université Concordia in Montréal in 1994, and made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1997. She died on 21st April 2018.

Huguette Tourangeau, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Richard Bonynge

Available Formats: MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Colette Boky (soprano), Huguette Tourangeau (mezzo-soprano) Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Charles Dutoit

Available Formats: Presto CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Joan Sutherland (Antonia/Stella/Giulietta/Olympia), Plácido Domingo (Hoffmann), Gabriel Bacquier (Villains), Huguette Tourangeau (Nicklausse), Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Richard Bonynge

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Joan Sutherland (Maria Stuarda), Huguette Tourangeau (Elisabetta), Luciano Pavarotti (Leicester), Roger Soyer (Talbot), James Morris (Cecil), Margreta Elkins (Anna) Bologna Teatro Comunale Orchestra, Richard Bonynge

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Huguette Tourangeau (Thérèse), Ryland Davies (Armand de Clerval), Louis Quilico (André Thorel); New Philharmonia Orchestra, Richard Bonynge

Available Formats: Presto CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Joan Sutherland (Marguerite), Martina Arroyo (Valentine), Huguette Tourangeau (Urbain), Anastasios Vrenios (Raoul); New Philharmonia Orchestra, Richard Bonynge

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Joan Sutherland (Gilda), Luciano Pavarotti (Il Duca), Sherrill Milnes (Rigoletto), Huguette Tourangeau (Maddalena), Martti Talvela (Sparafucile); London Symphony Orchestra, Richard Bonynge

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC