The distinguished French tenor Georges Thill (pictured right in 1929), whom many consider to be the greatest French singer of the 20th century, was born in 1897; he studied at the Paris Conservatoire and also with legendary tenor Fernando De Lucia in Naples. From de Lucia he acquired the skill to sing with bel canto technique as well as the idiomatic French style. Upon returning to Paris, he sang at the Opéra-Comique, where he made his first appearance as Nicias in Thaïs in February 1924, and continued to sing there regularly until 1940. He appeared at London’s Covent Garden in 1928 and 1937, and made his Metropolitan debut in New York as Romeo in March 1931, remaining on the company’s roster until 1932. His farewell appearance was as Canio at the Opéra-Comique in 1953. Thill’s outstanding roles, included Carmen’s Don José, Romeo, Julien in Louise, Aeneas, and Samson. He was also a fine singer of Italian and German roles – and his repertoire was immense, amounting to over 50 leading operatic roles. He also appeared in films, including the screen version of Charpentier’s Louise with Grace Moore.
Thill’s discography, with over 150 titles and several complete operas, is also enormous, reflecting not only the diversity of his art but his genius. His singing displayed not only a voice of rare beauty and evenness, but also wonderful diction, demonstrated well in his divine art Carmen recording, despite the early and relatively primitive recording techniques. In the words of Richard Turp, “Georges Thill simply had class . . .” He died in Paris on 17 October, 1984, leaving one of the greatest legacies of musical performance of modern times.