Jennie Tourel (recte Jennie Davidson) was most probably born in Montreal in 1899 (according to other sources on June 26th 1900 in Witebsk in White Russia) to Russian parents. In Paris she was trained by Anna El-Tour, whose last name she changed into Tourel for her own professional use, and Reynaldo Hahn. She enjoyed her first remarkable successes on the stage of the Opéra Russe in Paris in 1931 and was engaged at the Opéra Comique in 1933 where she made her debut as Carmen. At both the Opéra Comique and the Grand Opéra the artist was celebrated as Charlotte in “Werther”, Cherubino and in the title role of Bizet`s “Djamileh”. Being of Jewish origin she had to leave France in 1940 and continued her career in the United States where she had already appeared in 1930/31 at the Opera House of Chicago in smaller comprimario-roles. As Mignon Tourel gave her first performance at New York`s Metropolitan Opera in 1937. From 1944 to 1947 she was heard there regularely as Rosina in “Il barbiere di Siviglia” (the first time that the original version for mezzo-soprano was staged at the MET), Carmen, Adalgisa and Mignon. The singer made guest appearances in Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and Havanna, after the War she also performed in France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and England. In 1949/50 she undertook a tour through Israel.
One of her great personal triumphs was her interpretation of Baba in the world premiere of Strawinsky`s “The Rake`s Progress” in 1951 at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. But it was song in all its forms that she was devoted to most of all throughout her entire career. Performances of Conchita Supervia, Feodor Chaliapin and Marian Anderson had left a deep impression and influenced her a lot. Tourel was among the first singers to regularly include works of Rachmaninov, Tschaikovsky, Chopin and Rossini in their concert programs. From the Mid-Fourties on the artist frequently worked together with Leonard Bernstein, such as in a concert with songs by Gustav Mahler in celebration of the composer`s 100th birthday and in the world premieres of Bernstein`s 1st and 3rd Symphonies. “Words and drama and meaning and diction are all a part of difficult mental processes. Singing and performing is a psychological work.” – Jennie Tourel would never let her public notice the hard work which she put into each of her interpretations. The singer always re-created her songs with simplicity and without any exaggerations, but her performances were full of dedication and burned with dramatic intensity. On November 23rd 1973 Jennie Tourel died in New York.