A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Duprez, Gilbert
DUPREZ, Gilbert, the 13th of the 22 children of a Paris perfumer, was born Dec. 6, 1806. Having completed his studies under Choron at the Conservatoire, he made his début (Dec. 1825) as tenor at the Odéon, where Castil-Blaze was producing his translations of the favourite operas of Rossini and Weber. His success was not great, and when the theatre closed in 1828 he went to Italy. At first he attracted little attention; but having altered his style and adopted the 'voix sombrée' he became speedily popular, and by his creation of the part of Edgardo in 'Lucia di Lammermoor' (Naples, 1835) placed himself at the head of the French dramatic singers of his time. He was engaged for the Grand Opéra in Paris, and made his first appearance (April 17, 1837) in 'Guillaume Tell,' when his novel and striking reading of his part contributed greatly to the revival of the opera. During the 12 years he remained at this theatre he created the principal tenor part in 'Guido et Ginevra,' 'Benvenuto Cellini,' 'Le Lac des fées,' 'Les Martyrs,' 'La Favorite,' 'La Reine de Chypre,' 'Charles VII,' 'Dom Sébastien,' 'Otello,' 'Lucie,' and 'Jérusalem' (a translation of 'I Lombardi'), as well as playing the parts created by Nourrit in 'La Muette,' 'Robert,' 'La Juive,' 'Les Huguenots,' and 'Stradella.' His physical appearance was against him, and he had a propensity to over gesticulation; but in spite of these defects he made his way as a tragedian, and was frantically applauded for his excellent declamation and the smoothness of his 'canto spianato.' His two most serious faults, the abuse of the notes 'sombrées,' so prematurely wearing to the voice, and a habit of dragging the time, which is as fatal to the interests of the composer as it is to all artistic interpretation, have materially affected French singing to the present day. Duprez was professor of singing at the Conservatoire from 1842 to 1850, and in 1853 founded an 'Ecole spéciale de chant,' which still exists, and has turned out many dramatic singers. He has composed romances, chamber music, two masses, and eight operas, of which the best are 'Joanita' 1848; 'La lettre au bon Dieu' (1851); and 'Jeanne d'Arc' (1857) though none of the eight have any originality. He has also published 'L'Art du chant' (1845) and 'La Mélodie' (1873), two Methods which deserve to be better known.
[ G. C. ]