‘Mr. Bastin sang the starring bass roles in Verdi's Don Carlo and in operas by Mozart, Wagner and other composers. Although best known for his sensitive interpretation of works in French and Italian, his favorite role was that of Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier.’ (The New York Times)
Text: Joop Lindeijer/ René Seghers
Foto’s: & acknowledgements 401DutchDivas/IVC archives, Palais Garnier Paris, Muntschouwburg Brussels, Théatre Rouen, Teatro alla Scala, Famille Bastin (per Regards sur Jules Bastin; 1997), and various record sleeves.
Belgian bariton Jules Armand Bastin (Pont-Ligneuville, Belgium 18 March 1933 – Waterloo 2 December 1996) had two passions as a child: singing and football… His French language biography ‘Regards sur Jules Bastin,’ published by his family in 1997, gives quite a few examples of both, with his earliest performance pictures dating back to his military service, around 1951.
Winning the International Vocal Competition den Bosch 1962
He was already singing at the Mutschouwburg Brussels for two years when he reentered the IVC Den Bosch competition 1962, after an unsuccessful attempt in the preceding edition. At his second attempt, Viennese Jury member Rosl Schwaiger praised Bastin as a veritable artist. Mayor of Den Bosch R. J. J. Lambooy, named him:
'A man of sorts, since he didn’t rest before winning a major competition, after having tried his luck in Brussels, Verviers, Toulouse, and wherever there was a possibility to compete!'
Bastin was already an accomplished opera singer, although his passion for song and oratorio hadn’t been very well developed, since Belgium proved too small to provide enough work in that direction. Little known today, Bastin was initially also a French language, geography and history teacher in Brussels at the time. Physically a giant, son of a farmer, he was discovered as a singer of sorts by the renowned Brussels tenor Frédéric Anspach. The latter turned him from a choir singer into an opera baritone of sorts, who successfully performed at De Munt in Brussels, where he made his stage debut in 1960 as Caronte in Monteverdi's Orfeo. Confronted with the prizes bestowed on him in Den Bosch, Bastin remained modest. Rather than boasting of his victory he pointed out that he had won amidst a competitive field that was 'of a lesser caliber than it had been the previous year.'
From Covent Garden to Paris
Berlioz: La damnation de Faust ‘Sérénade de Mephistophélès’
Jules Bastin (Mephistophélès), London Symphony Orchestra – Sir Colin Davis (© 1973 Decca)
Bastin had made his Covent Garden debut in 1974 as Baron Ochs, which would soon prove a staple role for him. He recorded it, and sang it in Rouen, Strasbourg, Amsterdam and Brussels. At Covent Garden he appeared as Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier and Balducci in Benvenuto Cellini, but his wide repertory also included such roles as Sarastro in Die Zauberflote, Hagan in Reyer's Sigurd (which he sang for Radio 3 and also recorded), and King Henry in Lohengrin.
In 1975 he sang the Marquess of Calatrava in La forza del destino and the Hebrew Elder in Samson et Dalila at the Paris Opera, where, in 1979 he took part in the first performance of the complete three-act version of Lulu, singing the Theatre Director and the Banker. The same year he appeared at Aix-en-Provence, as Le Bailli (the Magistrate) in Werther and Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro.
Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande ‘Maintenent que le père de Pelléas…’
Jules Bastin (Arkel), Orchestra unknown.
Notwithstanding his imposing figure in tragedy, his voice was used to best effect in comedy, where his superb diction, especially in French, was also a major benefit.
The era Mortier
When Gerard Mortier took over the direction of De Muntschouwburg in Brussels on November 10, 1981, Bastin sang the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos, and was described as a ‘gigantic praying mantis.’ Not surprisingly, given that he had previously sung the role at the Paris Opera, the Salzburg Festival, the Vienna State Opera, and Antwerp. Bastin remained a staple of the Brussels house throughout the Mortier era, appearing there among others as Pandolfe in Massenet's Cendrillon, Publius in La clemenza di Tito, the Badger and the Parson in Janáček's Cunning Little Vixen, the Mayor in Jenufa, the Theatre Director, and the Banker in Lulu. In 1986, his Baron Zeta in The Merry Widow, staged at the Cirque Royale, proved a blockbuster. Spurred on by the success it was then transported to Ohio, where his Baron was judged ‘endearingly goofy.’ Other comic opera roles included Colonel Frank in Die Fledermaus and the Viceroy in La Perichole in Strasbourg; Agamemnon in La Belle Helene in 1983 at Geneva, where he ‘added to his already healthy girth with a huge rubber ring’ in the bathing scene in Act III. The same year he offered a notably drunken Varlaam in Boris Godunov at Avignon, and appeared as Pluto, Jupiter and Neptune in Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie in Aix. His appearance as the Astrologer Siroco in Chabrier's L'Etoile at the Opera Comique in 1984 was repeated at the Edinburgh Festival the following year, ‘in his most splendidly rotund form.’
Bastin in North America
Bastin appeared in North America in 1977 at Toronto (as Sulpice in Donizetti's La fille du regiment), in Philadelphia 1984 (Le Bailli in Werther), in1987 (as a ‘roguish’ Varlaam) and in 1988 (as ‘a deftly humorous’ Gamekeeper in Dvorak's Rusalka). Having already sung the King of Clubs in L'amour des trois oranges at Geneva in 1984, he scored one of the greatest triumphs of his career as Cleonte, the giant Cook with a penchant for pretty ribbons, at Aix in 1989. He also recorded this role.
In the 1990s, Bastin appeared as Mozart's Bartolo at Glyndebourne and as Geronte in Manon Lescaut at Paris-Bastille in 1991. On December 31 of that year he sang Bartolo in Brussels at the last performance of the Mortier regime at De Munt. In 1993 he took part in the first performance of Debussy's unfinished Rodrigue et Chimène at the newly rebuilt Lyons Opera House. At the end of his career, he sang his debut role of ere, Caronte in Orfeo, at Salzburg.
Schubert: ‘An die Musik’
Jules Bastin (From the CD Jules Bastin Au fil d’un carrière © Pavane Records)
Jules Armand Bastin died of heart failure in Waterloo at age 64, on Monday, December 2, 1996. For those who would like to know more of this stylish bass baritone, we refer to his French language biography, ‘Regards sur Jules Bastin’ (© 1997 Famille Bastin/J. Chauveheid).
Jules Bastin’s numerous recordings include:
Auber Fra Diavolo (LP/CD EMI 1984; Nicolai Gedda, Mady Mesplé, Jane Berbié, Jules Bastin, Remy Corazza - Marc Soustrot)
Auber Le domino noir (CD ERATO 1993; Bruce Ford, Jules Bastin, Sumi Jo, Gilles Cachemaille –Richard Bonynge)
Berg Lulu (CD DGG 1979; Robert Tear, Ursula Boese, Kenneth Riegel, Yvonne Minton, Teresa Stratas – Pierre Boulez)
Berlioz L’enfence du Christ (CD ERATO Von Otter, Cachemaille, Van Dam, Rolfe-Johnson – Gardiner)
Berlioz La damnation de Faust (LP/CD DECCA 1973; Josephine Veasey, Nicolai Gedda, Jules Bastin, Richard van Allen – Sir Colin Davis)
Berlioz Béatrice et Bénedict (CD PHILIPS 1978; Dame Janet Baker, Thomas Allen, Jules Bastin, Christiane Eda-Pierre – Sir Colin Davis)
BerliozRoméo et Juliette (CD DGG 1980; Jules Bastin, Francisco Araiza, Christa Ludwig, Yvonne Minton – Daniel Barenboim)
Bizet Don Procopio (LP/CD 1970s; Jules Bastin, Mady Mesplé, Alain Vanzo – Bruno Amaducci)
Chabrier L’Étoile ( DVD LYON; Alliot-Lugaz, Georges gauter, Jules Bastin, Françoise le Roux – Gardiner)
Debussy Rodrigue et Chimène (LP/CD ERATO; Lawrence Dale, Jse van Dam, Jules Bastin, Brown, le texier – Nagano)
Gounod Mireille (CD 1981; Jean-Philippe Lafont, Jane Berbié, Luis Lima, Jules Bastin, Valerie Masterson – Sylvain Cambreling)Grétry Le caravane de Caïre & Le jugement de Midas (CD RICERCAR 1991 Ragon, De Mey, Poulenard, Venchecke, Verschaeve – Minkowsi/Leonhardt)
Grétry Richard Coeur de Lion (CD EMI Mady Mesplé, Charles Burles, Michel Trempont, Nicolai Gedda, Michel Roux - Louis de Froment)
Edouard Lalo Le roi d'Ys (CD GALA 1973; Jules Bastin, Alain Vanzo, Andrea Guiot – Pierre Dervaux)
Massenet Werther (LP/CD 1979 EMI, Kraus, Troyanos, manuguerra, Barbaux – Plasson)
Massenet Cendrillon (CD SONY Frederica Von Stade, Jane Berbié, Ruth Welting, Nicolai Gedda, Elisabeth Bainbridge, Jules Bastin – Julius Rudel)
Meyerbeer Le prophète (CD CBS James McCracken, Marilyn Horne, Renata Scotto, Jules Bastin, Jerome Hines, Christian Du Plessis – Henry Lewis)
Mozart Così fan tutte (LP/CD ERATO 1978; David Rendall, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Philippe Huttenlocher, Frederica Von Stade, Teresa Stratas, Jules Bastin – Alain Lombard)
Mozart Le Nozze Di Figaro (CD DECCA 1979; José Van Dam, Jules Bastin, Frederica Von Stade, Anna Tomowa-Sintow – Herbert von Karajan)
OffenbachLa perichole (CD ERATO Régine Crespin, Alain Vanzo, Gérard Friedman - Alain Lombard)
ProkofievL’amour des trios oranges (DVD VIRGIN Bacquier, Dubosc, Gautier – Nagano)
Puccini Manon Lescaut (DVD ARTHAUS 1991; Miriam Gauci, Antonio Ordonez, Jan Danckaert, Jules Bastin - Silvio Varviso)
Ravel L’enfent et les sortileges (CD WARNER London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), Jocelynne Taillon, Linda Finnie, Linda Richardson, Susan Davenny-Wyner, Philip Langridge, Arleen Auger)
Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier (CLP/CD PHLIPS/DECCA Evelyn Lear, Sophia Van Sante, José Carreras, Henk Smit, Jules Bastin, Derek Hammond-Stroud, James Atherton, Nelly Morpurgo, Ruth Welting, Frederica Von Stade – Edo De Waart)
Richard Strauss Salome (CD EMI 1978; José Van Dam, Hildegard Behrens, Wieslaw Ochman, Agnes Baltsa, Jules Bastin, Kurt Rydl, Heinz Zednik, Gerhard Unger – Herbert von Karajan)
Richard Strauss Salome (CD VIRGIN 1990; Karen Huffstodt, Hélène Jossud, Jean Dupouy, Jean-Luc Viala, José Van Dam – Kent Nagano)
Stravinsky Oedipus Rex (CD DGG 1991; James Morris, Jan-Hendrik Rootering, Jules Bastin, Philip Langridge – James Levine)
Varney Les Mousquetaires au couvent , Chabrier’s L’étoile (DVD Opera de Lyon, Georges Gautier, Jules Bastin, François Le Roux, Ghyslaine Raphanel, Magali Damonte – John Eliot Gardiner)
Verdi Attila (LP/CD PHILIPS 1972; Ruggero Raimondi, Sherrill Milnes, Carlo Bergonzi, Jules Bastin, Cristina Deutekom – Lamberto Gardelli)
Songs by Schubert, Brahms, Saint-Saëns, Quinet, Feldbusch, Vellones, Poulenc, and Satie (CD ILD, Luc Devos (piano))
Schubert ‘Winterreise’ (LP DUETTO; Jules Bastin, Ursula Kneihs (piano))
Mélodies Françaises (LP PAVANE 1970s; Jules Bastin, Paula Van den Driessche (piano))
Airs folkloriques Wallons/ Noëls Wallons et Français (LP/CD 1971; Jules Bastin)
Airs d'Opéras (LP Pavane)
Au fil d'un carrière (CD 1998 PAVANE ADW 7400 Au fil d’un carrière; Bastin’s recorded legacy included more music from the world of musical, such as excerpts from Fiddler on the Roof, which is among the selections on this disc)