Legendary Aussie tenor passes away at 86 after a rich international career.
Albert Lance was always thought of as a leading French tenor but was born on July 12, 1925 in Adelaide as Lancelot Albert Ingram. He began singing as a child, in school and in church choir before his mother sent him to study voice at the Melbourne Music Conservatory.
After graduation, he sang in cafés and clubs before joining the famous Edgley family touring vaudeville company. Eric and Clem Edgley were so impressed with their new recruit that they sent him for an audition at the Melbourne Opera, where he was immediately offered a contract. He made his debut there, as Cavaradossi in Tosca, in 1950, and soon made a reputation for himself singing Rodolfo in La Bohème, and Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. He notably starred in The Tales of Hoffmann given in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1954.
On winning a major radio prize he travelled to France in 1955 to study with the famous voice teacher Modesti. With the help of his assistant, Simone Féjart, Modesti taught the young Australian the vocal refinement that went on to define his career. Having changed his professional name to Albert Lance, he made his Paris debut at the Opéra-Comique in 1955, as Cavaradossi. The following year, he made his acclaimed debut at the Palais Garnier, in the title role in Faust. He quickly established himself as one of the leading French tenors of the day singing the great French roles such as Roméo in Roméo et Juliette, des Grieux in Manon, Werther and Don José in Carmen. Lance became a French citizen in 1967.
His international career, which lasted until 1972, took him all over France as well as to London, Vienna, Moscow, Leningrad, and Buenos Aires. Lance was also highly regarded in the Italian repertory including the tenor roles in Rigoletto, La Traviata, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci. He made his American debut at the San Francisco Opera in 1961 in Norman Dello Joio’s Blood Moon. He was one of the few tenors to have sung with both Dame Joan Sutherland (Covent Garden, 1958) as well as Maria Callas (Paris, 1958).
Lance became a permanent member of the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg from 1973 until his final retirement in 1977, and after that he turned to full-time teaching, first at the Music Conservatory of Nice, and later Antibes. He was active almost up until his death working for his own Albert Lance Lyric Theatre Company, which produced opera in France and fostered the careers of many operatic singers. In 2011, Lance became the first Australian to be the President of the Paris Opera Jubilee.
Sadly Lance has left only a few recordings, notably a (now out of print) complete Werther made in 1964, with Rita Gorr, Mady Mesplé and Gabriel Bacquier. The kinescope of Maria Callas’ 1958 Paris debut is still available on DVD in which Lance is heard in an excerpt from Il Trovatore, and is seen in Act II of Tosca, opposite Callas and Tito Gobbi. There is also a rare recording of Roussel’s opera Padmâvatî.
Doug Holden, Lance’s biographer, informed the press that the singer had been ill for some time and finally succumbed after a typically tough fight with a long-standing heart condition.