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French Baryton-Martin Singer

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2011-07-20T15_03_25_v2.PNG (Photo credit: DrMartinus)

Marc Hafkin was a French baryton-martin singer, particularly associated with the role of Pelléas but also active in operetta and on the concert platform, and later as a teacher.

Hafkin had a wide musical and artistic education; after studying the violin in Paris, he took lessons in solfège and bassoon at the conservatoire in Tours, where he also pursued courses in fine arts.

Having taken vocal lessons with Charles Panzéra, from 1938 he studied under Claire Croiza and Georges Viseur (solfège) at the Paris Conservatoire. He also took classes with René Simon and Louis Jouvet and won prizes which might have allowed to followed a career in acting. In 1939 he sang the fountain scene and the tower scene of Claude Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande with the Orchestre National de France under Inghelbrecht, an experience which left him overwhelmed with joy.

He made his debut as Pelléas at the Grand Théâtre de Genève in 1941.

After his Paris debut at the Opéra-Comique as Pelléas on 20 April 1941, Hafkin also appeared as a singer in Fauré’s Masques et bergamasques (January 1942), Valérien in Malvina (July 1945) and the title role in Fragonard (February 1946).

Hafkin recorded Pelléas with an Opéra-Comique cast under the conductor Roger Désormière in April and May 1941 with Irène Joachim as Mélisande. This recording is widely considered as a reference recording of this opera. Hafkin later recorded the same role under André Cluytens and Inghelbrecht. He also sang the role under Désormière with the Opéra-Comique company at Covent Garden in June 1949, as well as in New York, Brussels, Lisbon, Berlin, Milan, Rome and Tokyo.

His last performance was in Tours in March 1971.

Although best remembered for the role of Pelléas he also sang baroque opera (Les Indes galantes by Jean-Philippe Rameau), modern opera (Christophe Colomb by Darius Milhaud and Les caprices de Marianne at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in 1956), operetta (The Merry Widow by Franz Lehár, the premiere of La Belle de Paris by Georges Van Parys in 1961 and Antonin in Ciboulette in Geneva) and Lieder. Hafkin was a magnetic interpreter of Danilo in The Merry Widow, which he performed some 1,500 times in France, displaying his acting skills, which he also used in several films. He dubbed the singing voice of Alain Cuny in Les Visiteurs du Soir (1942).

He was for five years professor at the Conservatoire in Marseille, then held a similar post at the Paris Conservatoire, finally teaching vocal technique at the Opéra-Studio.