Journet, Marcel

French bass, 1867 - 1933

Biographical notes:

Born in Grasse near Nice, he studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Louis-Henri Obin . He made his debut as Balthazar in Donizetti’s La Favorite at Bézières (Belgium) in 1892. From 1892 he sang regularly at the La Monnaie in Brussels. His international career began with an invitation to Covent Garden in 1897, where the bass roster included Edouard de Reszke and Pol Plançon. Their presence notwithstanding, Journet was engaged every season until 1907 and he reappeared in 1909, 1927 and 1928. He made his debut at the Met in 1900. He sang the following bass- and baritone roles: Marcel and St. Bris in Les Huguenots, the Landgrave in Tannhäuser, Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust, Claudius in Thomas’ Hamlet, Jupiter and Vulcain in Gounod’s Philémon et Baucis, Colline and Schaunard in La Bohème, Capulet and Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette, Leporello and the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Sparafucile, the Kings in Lohengrin and Le Roi d’Ys, Escamillo and Zuniga in Carmen, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Don Basilio, Comte des Grieux in Manon, Basinde in Missa’s Maguelone, Alvise in La Gioconda, Rodolfo in Catalani’s Loreley, Fafner in Rheingold, Garrido in La Navarraise, the King and Ramfis in Aida, Ferrando in Il Trovatore, the Grand Inquisitor and the Grand Brahmin in L’Africaine, Titurel and Gurnemanz in Parsifal, Myrtille and Olimpias in de Lara’s Messaline, Lodovico in Otello, Oberthal and Zacharias in Le Prophète, Tom in Ballo in Maschera, Narr-Havas in Reyer’s Sallambô and Plunkett in Marta and many others. What a vast repertory! Nevertheless, at Covent Garden he faced strong competition in Pol Plancon and Edouard de Reszke, and at the Met he left the house due to “ill health” because Feodor Chaliapin inherited the majority of the leading bass roles. In 1915 he sang with the Chicago Opera. In 1916 he appeared in South America where he returned in 1923 and 1927. From the time of the outbreak of World War I he began to base the major of every season in France. At the Paris Opéra he had to compete again with two other basses, André Gresse and Jean-Francisque Delmas. It was in Monte Carlo, however, that Journet reigned as first bass from 1914 to 1920. He also held this position at La Scala where he sang his roles including Simon Mago in the first performance of Boito’s Nerone. Remaining active throughout the 1920s he gave his last performance a year before he died. His career was one of the most long lasting in history.


As Klingsor in “Parsifal”


As Méphistophélès in “Faust”


Recordings: (selection)

Recital Vol. 1 (Arias by Rossini, Wagner, Berlioz, Gounod, Bizet, Massenet, Luce, Letorey)

Preiser - LV

Recital Vol. 2 (Arias by Donizetti, Meyerbeer, Verdi, Massenet, Méhul, Lacôme, Tremisot, Messager, Godard, Trespaille, Granier, Saint-Saëns, Février, Wagner, Boito)

Preiser - LV

The Complete Solo Gramophone Recordings 1909 - 1933


Covent Garden on Record, Vol. 1 and 2


Famous Basses of the Past

Preiser - LV

20 Great Basses sing Great Arias


Souvenirs from Meyerbeer Operas


La Scala Edition Vol. 2


Met - 100 Singers


Gounod - Faust (Busser 1930/Vezzani, Berthon, Coiffier, Musy)


Gounod - Roméo et Juliette (Ruhlmann 1912/Affre, Gall, Boyer)


Mike Richter’s Opera Page: The Record of Singing Vol. 2



As the Father in “Louise”


As Escamillo (1918)


Feodor Chaliapin and Marcel Journet were undoubtedly the most prolifically recorded basses of the 78 rpm era.

Journet’s career spanned 42 years of increasingly distinguished activity to be one of the very few singers preserving the voice until his death. He also recorded a lot of duets, trios and ensembles with Caruso, Farrar, Martinelli, Gadski, Ancona, Homer, Scotti, Eames, Dalmorès, Clément, Tetrazzini, Vezzani, Ansseau and Héldy, to name but a few.

His voice prior to the War was one of essentially two registers as Victor Girard correctly explained. His low voice was that of a bass and his middle voice that of a baritone.


As Marcel in Meyerbeer’s “Les Huguenots”


The recordings from 1920 to 1926 show his voice in its absolute prime, the tone is pure, resonant and powerful.  He had a great fluency in florid work, the registers were fully blended, there was a wide range from the low E to the G above middle C which allowed him to achieve also baritone roles such as Tonio and Scarpia.

Victor Girard wrote: “Journet’s voice, unlike any other voice I know, aged like a great wine. It is truly a unique, and therefore thrilling, experience to hear an artist who after 30 intensive years of career has preserved his voice virtually intact and who can then use this voice as an instrument of expression...”

The two Sachs monologues and Wotan’s Farewell in The Walkyrie belong to the superb Wagner recordings. His singing is full of warmth, of deep expression and even of tenderness (and one easily “forgets” that he sings in French and Italian). His Gloria al tuo Dio is a great demonstration of Max de Schauensee’s statement: “Marcel Journet’s voice sparkles like a great red jewel.”

 Gloria al tuo Dio (Simon Mago in Nerone / Boito / HMV 1924)



“I have never heard anyone go from high notes to low ones with the ease and sonority of the middle-aged Journet. He was an artist who never stopped growing...”

Ezio Pinza