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Richard Verreau (Tenor)

Born: January 1, 1926 - Château-Richer, Québec, Canada
Died: July 7, 2005 - Québec, Canada

The Canadian tenor, Richard Verreau, was firstly noticed with the parochial choral society. In 1945 he entered l'École de musique de l'Université Laval. Stock-broker of the Government of Quebec, he went to Paris in 1949 when he was guided by the Québecian tenor Raoul Jobin.

Richard Verreau made his debut in the lyric scene in France with the l'Opéra de Lyon, appearing in Lakmé, Manon, Mireille and les Pêcheurs de perles. From 1952 to 1954 he studied in Italy with Beniamino Gigli, with whom his voice would often be compared. Following that he obtained rapid resounding successes, which are worth a reputation on an international scale. He could be heard many times with the symphonic orchestras of Quebec and Montreal until 1956, year during which he was engaged as the first tenor of the New York City Opera. In 1957, he made his debut with the Royal Opera House of Covent Garden in London.

In Quebec, Richard Verreau was one more sought-after tenors, taking part, under the aegis of the Société Radio-Canada, radio and television, with concerts and operas such as Faust, La Bohème and Madame Butterfly. General public could also hear him in many concerts given to the Chalet du Mont-Royal, just as with the Forum of Montréal in the concerts of Montreal Star.

In Paris, Richard Verreau sang La Damnation de Faust under the direction of Igor Markevitch. Thereafter, he was invited to appear with l'Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux. Then, at the request of Eugene Ormandy, director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, he sang the Requiem of Verdi in this city. He sang it once again in 1958, in Hollywood Bowl in California. Other renowned conductors, such as Wilfrid Pelletier, Joseph Krips and Zubin Mehta called upon his services. Charles Munch directed him in La Damnation de Faust by Hector Berlioz with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Lincoln Center. In 1959 the work was recorded by Deutsche Grammophon, and, in 1961, he received the Grand Prix du disque de France.

In the years which followed, Richard Verreau took part in the productions of l'Opéra de Québec, de l'Opéra Guild de Montréal, de l'Opéra de Montréal, the Canadian Opera Company of Toronto, as well as at the festivals of Vancouver and Spoleto. In 1963 he made three tours to the USSR where, inter alia, he sang in Faust, La Bohème and Rigoletto. Richard Verreau was also acclaimed in the Metropolitan Opera of New York and in the major cities of the USA.

More recently, in 1991, he was honoured by the Chamber de Commerce de Quebec, which decreed to him the title of Grand Québécois. He was established in the Canadian Pantheon of the lyric art in 1996 and, in October 1998, he was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada. A Richard Verreau prize was created at the time of a concert in his hommage in 1999.

Richard Verreau’s unique rare velvety voice had deep impression upon his generation. Those who heard him in concert would never forget his moving stamp, his expressive sentences, his impeccable diction, which enabled him to give to each word its direction. His interpretations, now engraved on CD’s, will remain references for many years. It is necessary to point out what Igor Markevitch and Wilfrid Pelletier said of him. The first qualifying him as of the "greatest tenors of French language" and the second as "the most beautiful voice of the century". In front of these praises, Verreau answers well humbly that for the beauty of the voice, the singer does have nothing to do, it is a gift of the sky like health or the physical force for an athlete. He expresses a great admiration for the tenors of the time. However he would admit his special admiration and his recognition for Beniamino Gigli. At the time of a course in Italy, after having interpreted an aria, his mentor remained dumb and thoughtful one moment while Verreau awaited his comments. Leaving his dumbness, Gigli said to him quite simply: "I would have liked to have your voice at your age".

Source: Vitrine du disque québécois Website & Secrétariat de l'Ordre national du Québec, English translation by Aryeh Oron (September 2003); Norman Delisle (July 2005)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (September 2003)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Eugene Ormandy


BWV 232

Links to other Sites

Richard Verreau, ténor (Vitrine du disque québécois) [French]
Secrétariat de l'Ordre national du Québec: Richard Verreau [French]

Hommage à Richard Verreau [French]
Biographie: Richard Verreau (Québec Info Musique) [French]

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