A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Garat, Pierre
GARAT, Pierre Jean, born at Ustaritz, April 75, 1764, died in Paris March 1, 1823, the most extraordinary French singer of his time. He was the son of an avocat, and destined for the bar, but early manifested a passion for music, which he studied under Franz Beck, composer and conductor at Bourdeaux. He seems however never to have gone deeply into the subject, for he was a poor reader, and owed his success to his natural gifts and the opportunity he enjoyed of hearing Gluck's works and of comparing the artists at the French and Italian operas in Paris. He possessed a fine-toned expressive voice of unusual compass, including both baritone and tenor registers, an astonishing memory, and a prodigious power of imitation, and may fairly be said to have excelled in all styles; but his great predilection throughout his life was for Gluck's music. Having been the favourite singer of Marie Antoinette, who twice paid his debts, he fled from Paris during the Terror, and with Rode took refuge at Hamburg, where the two gave very successful concerts. On his return to France he appeared at the 'Concert Feydeau' (1795) and the 'Concert de la rue Cléry' with such brilliant success that he was appointed professor of singing at the Conservatoire in 1799. Among his pupils were Roland, Nourrit, Despéramons, Ponchard, Levasseur, Mmes. Barbier-Walbonne, Chevalier-Branchu, Duret, Boulanger, Rigaut, and Mlle. Duchamp, whom he married when he was 55. He retained his voice till he was 50, and when that failed him tried to attract the public by eccentricities of dress and behaviour. He composed several romances, 'Bélisaire,' 'Le Ménestrel,' 'Je t'aime tant,' etc., extremely popular in their day, but now so monotonous and uninteresting as to make it evident that the style in which Garat sang them alone ensured their success.
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