Obituary: Bernard Lefort

BERNARD LEFORT had three careers. The first was as a distinguished baritone. In the second he combined musical administration with the flair of a market-minded impresario. And in the third, that of singing teacher, he passed on the techniques learned in the first career in a framework informed by the second.

Having obtained his baccalaureat in philosophy, Lefort was studying politics and law, simultaneously taking classes in voice and solfege at the Paris Conservatoire, when he was interrupted by the Second World War. With the return of peace, he decided to concentrate on music alone, pursuing his vocal studies in Milan, Berlin and Vienna. By then he had already made his debut in a series of wartime recitals in the Salle Gaveau in Paris, presenting in particular French melodies by contemporary composers, such as Les Six, Olivier Messiaen, Andre Jolivet and Henri Dutilleux.

He was also heard in the opera house, making his stage debut (at the Palais Garnier) in Don Giovanni and Verdi's Macbeth. With Germaine Tailleferre, the only woman member of Les Six (the others were Darius Milhaud, Arthur Honegger, Francis Poulenc, Georges Auric and Louis Durey), Lefort formed a regular duo partnership, touring together from 1949 to 1957. Tailleferre responded to Lefort's musicianship by composing her Concerto for Baritone for him; other composers were to pay him similar honours during the course of his singing career - which was abruptly cut short by serious illness in 1960.

Lefort therefore embarked on his second occupation, the one for which he will be best remembered. He began his life as a musical administrator as second-in-command at the Lausanne Festival, taking over the Marseilles opera in 1965. His three years there were marked by a refreshing openness to new repertoire, both old and new. Lefort looked out old bel canto operas that had long fallen into neglect (Ponchielli's La Gioconda and Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia, for example) and put on contemporary works, often for the first time in France, such as Jancek's The Makropulos Affair, Henze's The Prince of Homburg and Britten's The Turn of the Screw.

He then moved up through a series of appointments: head of the autumn festival at Royaumont (1969), artistic advisor at the Theatre de la Ville, Paris (1969-78), temporary head of the Opera de Paris (1971-72, with Daniel Lesur) and director of the festival at Aix-en-Provence (1973-80). It was at Aix that he scored some of his most notable successes, perhaps the best of them his bringing together of Montserrat Caballe and Marilyn Horne in Rossini's Tancredi. He also lightened the atmosphere considerably: to the discomfort of Aix's old guard, jeans replaced evening gowns as standard attire, and the festival came alive.

When Rolf Liebermann left the Paris Opera in 1980, Lefort was called back to succeed him, but his efforts at reform met such systematic opposition from the unions that he resigned halfway through his contract, in July 1982.

This was when career number three began. Lefort taught singing at Mannes College in New York and at the Academy of Vocal Art in Philadelphia; at the Juilliard School in New York he produced a student production of Gounod's Mireille. And in the late 1980s, he founded the cole d'art lyrique in Paris.

Lefort was diplomatically referred to as a "personnage flamboyant" and a "caractere difficile" and earned a reputation for his short temper. He is generally assumed to have been homosexual, although Paris musical gossip talks obscurely of an earlier marriage to a well-off American woman. Whatever the truth of it, he faced old age as poor as he was lonely. He had already attempted suicide on several occasions and a week after moving back to Paris from homes in Lausanne and the Midi, he finally succeeded.

Bernard Lefort, singer, administrator, teacher: born Paris 29 July 1922; died Paris 19 January 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
    The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

    The ZX Spectrum is back

    The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
    Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

    Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

    The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

    Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

    If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
    The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

    The quirks of work perks

    From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
    Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

    Is bridge becoming hip?

    The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
    Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

    The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

    Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
    The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

    The rise of Lego Clubs

    How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
    5 best running glasses

    On your marks: 5 best running glasses

    Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
    Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

    Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
    Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

    Please save my husband

    As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada