A delight. Certainly has that French high baritone we were discussing with regard to the great Gerard Souzay
Another great favourite of mine- though sadly not so long-lived vocally. From what I can remember (I don't play his later recordings much) Souzay sounds dry and a little unsteady and his style noticeably less suave on recordings made in the 1970s, when he would have been in his fifties- about the age of Fugère when he made his first recordings in 1902! Fugère probably never had a very opulent voice if his early recordings are anything to go by, but the voice had a remarkable steadiness and sweetness and a light, bright sound considering that he sang in the bass baritone range. That bright quality is something I particularly like about French basses and baritones, in contrast to the rather gruff, growly sound that Russians (not all of them!) can have. We can also contrast Fugère's longevity with the premature decline of his exact contemporary Victor Maurel (how wonderful it would have been to have heard them together as the Don and Leporello!) who was reportedly experiencing problems as early as the 1880s- before Iago, even. It's hard to know how much longevity is due to choice of roles and other factors within the singer's control, and how much is down to genetics and good fortune generally, but in her autobiography the soprano Blanche Arral offers the following sketch of the character and lifestyle of her colleague Fugère, which may provide some clues to the reasons for his long career:
Lucien Fugère is one of my most outstanding and happy memories of the Opéra Comique. We sang together most often in Le Pré aux Clercs. I alternated between the roles of the princess and Nicette, the young girl of the inn, and Fugère sang the Father. I preferred the role of Nicette, for we sang together many times, and Fugère, who was a fine comrade, helped me a great deal. One of our duets in particular was always encored. Fugère was a very gay and lively soul and could not sing dramatic roles- his retroussé nose and laughing eyes did not suit tragedy. But he sang a great deal, even at times tenor roles such as the prince in Le Pré aux Clercs. As I did, he sang all the repertoire, particularly shining in Auber's Le Domino Noir and Fra Diavolo. ... In fact the list Fugère and I sang together was enormous, for the position of pensionnaires is far different from that of sociétaires, those artists who are engaged for one or more star roles. Though paid less, as I have already mentioned, our work was far more arduous, as we had to be ready to sing some twenty four parts at the drop of a hat.
Fugère was very particular in his relations with the company and had few intimate friends among us. He lived in complete retirement with a younger brother who sang in operettas. They were devoted to each other. I remember Lucien assuring me that if I wanted to keep my voice in good condition over a long period of time I must live a quiet life. The advice was reasonable but I wondered how Fugère was certain, being only in his late twenties or early thirties. 'No after-theatre suppers or late hours' was his rule. And he was right, for he appeared in opera when he was over eighty- one of the most amazing examples, perhaps the most amazing example, of longevity on record. There is a street named after him in Paris now. Neither at rehearsals nor performances did I ever observe him force his voice. Above all he had an extraordinary clarity in his diction, and he could produce superb tones without hardly moving a muscle. His was great art, and by associating with him I learned a great deal.
He received a heavy disappointment in not being chosen to create the role of Lescaut in Manon and so refused to understudy the part. Alexandre Taskin, who did create it, was a very handsome man and an excellent comedian. The role of Lescaut demands more acting than voice, and my good friend Fugère, though tall enough, did not possess the presence necessary for this type of role. Lescaut has an effective song, 'A quoi bon l'economie', which is about his only important moment; but this too is removed from American presentations of Manon. I wonder if there is anything left!
Fugère enjoyed teasing me in a friendly way. Frequently, catching me unaware, he crept up behind me and sang, in mezza voce, an amusing little tune he invented:
La petite Clara,La petite Clara,
La petite Clara Lar- di- NOIS!
[Arral originally sang under the name Clara Lardinois.] pp 58-59, 'The Extraordinary Operatic Adventures of Blanche Arral' by Blanche Arral.