Leopold Simoneau

Stylish operatic tenor
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The Independent Online

Léopold Simoneau, opera singer and director: born Saint-Flavien, Quebec 3 May 1916; married 1946 Pierrette Alarie (two daughters); died Victoria, British Columbia 24 August 2006.

The French-Canadian tenor Léopold Simoneau was chiefly known as an extremely stylish singer of Mozart's operatic roles, which he performed at the festivals of Aix-en-Provence, Glyndebourne and Salzburg, as well as in Paris, Vienna, Chicago and Buenos Aires. His beautiful lyric voice, elegant diction and impeccable phrasing were also to be admired in roles from the French repertory, such as Nadir in Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de perles and Wilhelm Meister in Thomas's Mignon. He was married to the French-Canadian light soprano Pierrette Alarie, with whom he frequently appeared, both in the opera house and on the concert platform.

Simoneau was born in Saint-Flavien, Quebec, in 1916. He sang as a choirboy at St Patrick's Church in Montreal, where he studied with Salvator Issaurel, and where he made his début in 1941 at Les Variétés Lyriques as Hadji, servant to the priest Nilakantha in Delibes' Lakmé. He also sang two of the Mozart roles for which he later became famous, Ferrando in Così fan tutte and Tamino in Die Zauberflöte.

In 1945 he went to New York to study further with Paul Althouse, a famous American tenor of the previous generation. He appeared with the Central City (Colorado), Philadelphia and New Orleans operas, then in 1949, together with his wife, he went to Paris, where they were both engaged at the Opéra-Comique.

Simoneau made his début as Vincent in Gounod's Mireille, followed by Le Comte Almaviva in Le Barbier de Séville. In 1953 he sang Tom in the first production in France of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, given at the Opéra-Comique as Le Libertin. He also appeared at the Paris Opéra, as Tamino in 1949, as Alfredo (or Rodolphe, as he was called in France) in La traviata and as Damon in a spectacular production of Rameau's Les Indes galantes in 1953.

Meanwhile, he had been singing at Aix-en-Provence since 1950, first as Ferrando, then in 1952 as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and Pylade in Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride, this last a particularly sympathetic role. He made his début at Glyndebourne in 1951 as Don Ottavio, followed in 1952 by Idamante in Idomeneo. Both these appearances were very successful, and he repeated them, Idamante in 1952 and Don Ottavio in 1954.

That September Simoneau, who had been singing earlier in the year with the Vienna State Opera, came as a member of the VSO company to London to give a fortnight's season of fully staged performances at the Royal Festival Hall. He sang Don Ottavio and Ferrando and was in especially good voice on both occasions. Ottavio was considered by many as his finest Mozart role. I preferred Ferrando, as it enabled the tenor to indulge his sense of humour.

In 1971 he became artistic director of the newly formed Opéra du Québec. He taught singing in Quebec, San Francisco, Banff and Victoria (British Columbia), where in 1986 he formed the company Canada Opera Piccola.

Elizabeth Forbes

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