(b Bilbao, 20 Dec 1892; d Paris, 28 June 1954). Spanish tenor. His voice was discovered by the French bass-baritone Lucien Fugère, who encouraged him to study in Paris. After making his concert début in 1917 in San Sebastián and his operatic début in 1918 as Cavaradossi in Poitiers, he was engaged by the Opéra-Comique in Paris, in 1920, beginning with minor roles, then graduating to Jules Massenet's Des Grieux, Gérald (Lakmé), Don José, Hoffmann, Nadir, Wilhelm Meister (Mignon), George Brown (Adrien Boieldieu's La dame blanche) and Alfredo (La traviata) among others. His successful début at the Paris Opéra, as Pinkerton, came in 1928, and in a career there that lasted until 1935 his roles included the Duke of Mantua, Faust, Roméo, Gioachino Rossini's Count Almaviva and Don Ottavio. In 1928 he also sang in La dame blanche, Manon and Lakmé in Algiers. Apart from further appearances in Brussels and Monte Carlo, Villabella's career was confined to France, mainly because he was so much in demand there on account of the shining clarity and power of his voice. His numerous recordings, testimony to his popularity, include examples of many of his successful roles. His readings compensate in sheer fervour for what they lack in subtlety. He retired in 1940 and taught in Paris.
From The Grove Book of Opera Singers in Oxford Reference.