Renaud, Maurice

French baritone, 1861 - 1933

Biographical notes:

He was born Maurice Arnold Croneau in Bordeaux. The year of his birth varies in different sources ranging from 1860 - 1862. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire, but soon changed to the Brussels Conservatory where he studied with Dupont and Gevaert. His debut took place at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in 1883, where he remained its leading baritone until 1890. He appeared successfully in the premieres of Reyer’s Sigurd (1884) and Salammbô (1890). The same year he joined the Opéra Comique in Paris, his first appearance on stage was as Karnac in Lalo’s Le Roi d’Ys. The following year he became a member of the Paris Opéra, where he made his debut as Nelusko in Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine. At the Paris Opéra, he was the leading baritone until 1902, succeeding in Wagner roles (Beckmesser, Wolfram and Telramund), as Don Giovanni and in many roles of familiar and unfamiliar French operas. He continued to perform as a guest artist at the Opéra until 1914. Maurice Renaud first toured the United States in 1893, appearing in New Orleans, Chicago and Boston. His debut at Covent Garden was as Wolfram in Tannhäuser opposite Emma Eames and Ernest van Dyck. Further performances included Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, Don Giovanni (a role he was entirely suited for) and many others. He sang with the leading artists and was considered as one of the most versatile singing actors of his day. Some names of his partners: Pol Plançon, Emma Eames, Lilli Lehmann, Lillian Nordica , Emmy Destinn, Mary Garden, Nellie Melba, Selma Kurz, Enrico Caruso and Marcel Journet. Renaud travelled extensively, making guest appearances in St. Petersburg, Berlin and Monte Carlo. At La Scala, he sang more than once under Arturo Toscanini. The Manager of the Metropolitan Opera House had signed a contract with Renaud, but various international conflicts prevented the singer from making his debut there, later his contract was voided. It was not until 1906 when Oscar Hammerstein signed him for the new Manhattan Opera House. He enjoyed enormous success opposite Nelly Melba and Mary Garden. One of his greatest achievements was Athanaël in Massenet’s Thaïs, appearing opposite Mary Garden in 1906. Other roles were Scarpia, Don Giovanni, the three villains in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Germont-père, and above all, Hérode in Massenet’s Hérodiade. Mary Garden described Renaud as “one of the greatest artists in the world.” It was not until 1910 that he finally joined the Metropolitan Opera, making his debut as Rigoletto with Nelly Melba, Florencio Constatino and Adamo Didur. During World War I, he gave concerts for the allied troops and was wounded at the front. His wounds left him an invalid. After the War Maurice Renaud was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government. In 1919 he retired from the stage appearing for the last time in a silent film in 1920.


As Zurga in Bizet’s “Les Pêcheurs de Perles”


“Maurice Renaud inherited the mantle of French baritones such as Jean Lassalle and Victor Maurel as a singing actor who achieved international renown.”

Harold Bruder, 1997


As Figaro in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”


As Scarpia


As Wolfram in “Tannhäuser”



The Complete Gramophone Recordings 1901 - 1908


The Baritones Vol. I - The French School


The Harold Wayne Collection Vol. 8


Souvenirs of Rare French Operas


Reyer - Sigurd: Excerpts by Various Artists


Covent Garden on Record Vol. I 1870 - 1904


Mike Richter’s Opera Page: Stars of David/The Record of Singing Vol. 1



Maurice Renaud in two of his greatest roles

As Hérode in Massenet’s “Hérodiade”


In the title role of Thomas’ “Hamlet”


Maurice Renaud made more than fifty discs for Pathé and Gramophone from 1901 to 1908 (many of them are duplicates). He recorded only sixteen arias and five songs (with one exception all in French), unfortunately there are no duet-/ensemble recordings. Nevertheless, his recordings belong to the most valuable baritone documents we have.

His was a evenly produced baritone voice of extraordinary resonance. He loved to sing with expressive “rubato.” Particularly in Vision fugitive or in Don Giovanni’s aria (!) you will hear the tendency of stretchening the vocal line. I agree with Harold Bruder, who said “that the tempo creates space within which Renaud modulates the vocal line to intensify the mood.” It may be true that his use of “messa di voce” is not as pronounced as of other singers of his time. But Renaud’s art is without doubt very imaginative and vividly communicated through his recordings. His ability to create a realistic portrayal of a character, with voice alone, is amazing. Listen to him in two of his finest recordings.

 Vision fugitive (Hérode in Hérodiade / Massenet / Paris, Black label G&T, 1908)