Hugues Cuénod received his training at the Ribaupierre Institute in Lausanne, at the conservatories in Geneva and Basel, and also in Vienna. He started his career as a concert singer. In 1928, he made his stage debut in Ernst Krenek's Jonny spielt auf in Paris, and in 1929 he sang for the first time in the U.S. in Noël Coward's Bitter Sweet. From 1930 to 1933 he was active in Geneva, and then in Paris from 1934 to 1937. During the 1937-1939 seasons, he made an extensive concert tour of North America. From 1940 to 1946 he taught at the Geneva Conservatory. In 1943 he resumed his operatic career singing in Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus in Geneva. He subsequently sang at Milan’s La Scala (1951), the Glyndebourne Festival (from 1954 on) and London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (1954, 1956 and 1958).
Hugues Cuénod is a singer who has sung everything from Guillaume de Machaut to Igor Stravinsky. Among his finest roles were Basilio in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, the Astrologer in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel, and Sellem in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. In pre-war Vienna and Paris, he frequented aristocratic salons and worked with Nadia Boulanger, and after the war, the new early-music boom relied heavily on his light, unmannered, natural sound. An outstanding sight-reader, with a flair for the unusual, he made some pioneering LPs and left a recording heritage of the finest order, especially noted for his interpretation of French mélodies (he knew and worked with Honegger, Auric, Roussel, Poulenc and others), Bach, Elizabethan song, Couperin and Stravinsky again.
Cuénod resides with his life partner, Alfred Augustin (41 years his junior), in the Vaud region of Switzerland, in the Château de Lully, an 18th-century castle that belonged to his ancestors. In January 2007, at the age of 104, Cuénod and Augustin signed a civil union after the changes in Swiss law which gave same-sex couples many legal benefits of marriage.