French Opera Great Crespin Dies at 80

The Associated Press
Thursday, July 5, 2007; 9:50 PM

PARIS -- Regine Crespin, the French opera great who took her personal magnetism and soprano voice to the world's leading stages, died Thursday. She was 80.

Crespin died at Paris hospital, her record company EMI said; no cause of death was given.

With her luxurious voice, the seductive soprano stood out among opera singers as a leading lyrical artist.

She sang on the top stages, from Paris, Vienna and Berlin to Covent Garden in London. She performed at the Metropolitan Opera for 25 years, unusual for a French artist.

Crespin was "a great French voice" whose talent, generosity and humor made her the "grand (ambassador) of French culture," said President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Born Feb. 23, 1927 in Marseille, southern France, Crespin came to singing late, taking her first lessons at age 16. She blossomed and went to Paris to study at the Music Conservatory, winning top prizes in singing, opera and comic opera.

She made her debut in 1948 in the Champagne town of Reims in the role of Charlotte in Massenet's "Werther." Other early roles were in Wagner's "Lohengrin" and "Tannhauser," and Bizet's "Carmen."

Crespin had her international debut in 1958 at Germany's Bayreuth Festival as Kundry in "Parsifal," then moved on to stages around the world. Her Met debut was in 1962.

One of her best known roles was the Marschallin in Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier."

"Regine Crespin was a diva," said French Culture Minister Christine Albanel.

Crespin started teaching in 1976 at France's National High Conservatory for Music, and did so until 1992.

A generous, open character and sensual aura added to Crespin's effortless singing style.

In her candid autobiography, the singer recounts sometimes bawdy tales of backstage life, as well as her passion on stage.

The book, originally published in 1982 as "La Vie et l'Amour d'une Femme" (The Life and Love of a Woman), the French name for a song by Schumann, was later revised and expanded in an English version published in 1997 as "On Stage, Off Stage: A Memoire."

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