Yu Chen first studied the violin, starting vocal studies at the Beijing Conservatory in 1979, profiting from coaching in China by Gino Becchi and making his début as Figaro in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro. Subsequent engagements included appearances as Papageno and as Giorgio Germont. In 1985 Yu Chen came to Paris, where he undertook further study at the Ecole Normale de Musique. In 1991 he joined the chorus of the Paris Opéra, while continuing to cultivate his voice as a lyric baritone with rôles such as Valentin in Faust and Escamillo in Carmen. He was engaged by the Vienna State Opera in 1997 and since 2003 has been with the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.