Thanks to her unique voice and to her exceptional diction, Régine Crespin remained one of the greatest French opera singers. She marked all the great roles that she performed throughout her long career with her personality.
Régine Crespin took her first singing lessons at the age of 16. In 1946, she won a contest organised by the magazine Opéra. She studied at the Paris Conservatory with Georges Jouatte and Suzanne Cesbron-Viseur. There she won three first prizes: one Opéra prize, one Opéra comique prize and a singing price. Her first professional debut is in Reims in 1949, in Jules Massenet’s Werther, then in 1951 she was offered a contract by the Paris Opéra, where she mainly sang roles of the dramatic soprano repertoire: Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites and Hector Berlioz’s Troyens (The Trojans). During the 1950s, she sang in the French provinces earning an extensive repertoire of French roles. Once she was back in Paris, in 1956, she played one of the most emblematic characters of her career: the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’ Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose).
In 1958, Crespin portrayed the role of Kundry in Richard Wagner's Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival, under the direction of André Cluytens, which she would later perform under the direction of Hans Knappertsbusch. In 1962, she made her first appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, where she sang Strauss' Knight of the Rose, thus starting a glorious career in America. In the 1970s, she gradually approached major mezzo-soprano roles, such as Giulietta in Jacques Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann, or the countess in Pyotr Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades. She also focused more and more on melody. Her recordings of Les nuits d'été (Summer Nights) by Hector Berlioz, of Shéhérazade by Maurice Ravel, but also of works by Duparc, Fauré and Poulenc, are still taken as reference in the field. She taught at the Paris Conservatory from 1976 to 1995. In 1990, Régine Crespin retired from the stage.
Six landmark dates in the life of Régine Crespin
1948: she started her career in Reims
1958: premiere at the Bayreuth Festival
1962: premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City
1964: she recorded Summer Nights by Berlioz
1976: she was appointed professor at the Paris Conservatory
1990: Crespin retired from the stage
Biography from Radio France’s document database, July 2014