Jobin, Raoul

Raoul (b Joseph Roméo) Jobin. Tenor, teacher, administrator, senior civil servant, b Quebec City 8 Apr 1906, d there 13 Jan 1974; honorary D MUS (Laval) 1952. He came from the working-class district of St-Sauveur, where his father owned a tavern, and was a member of the parish choir and a soloist there for about 10 years. He first took voice lessons from Louis Gravel and then studied 1924-8 with Émile Larochelle at Laval University. He performed in concert using the name Roméo, and after a farewell recital in Quebec City he went to Paris, where he continued his studies with Mme d'Estainville-Rousset (singing) and Abby Chéreau (stage skills), and at the Institut grégorien de Paris. His exceptional voice captured the attention of Henri Büsser who arranged his audition for Jacques Rouché, the director of the Paris Opéra, who in turn offered him a contract for the following year. Jobin returned to Quebec to give some concerts early in 1930 and chiefly to marry the soprano Thérèse Drouin. (Later they gave recitals together, and she appeared with him in several operatic productions and concerts.

1930s: France and Canada

On Jobin's return to Paris, he made his professional debut 28 May 1930 in Liszt's oratorio Christus at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Following Rouché's suggestion, he adopted the first name Raoul, and made his debut at the Paris Opera 3 July in Roméo et Juliette (the role of Tybalt). During the 1930-1 season he sang many roles, including Nicias (Thaïs), the Italian singer (Der Rosenkavalier), Iopas (Berlioz' Les Troyens), and most notably the Duke in Rigoletto (20 Dec 1930), the first major role of his career. In 15 months he sang in 111 performances of various operas. Soon he was in demand with the Parisian radio stations and orchestras, including that of the Concerts Colonne, with which he performed Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Missa solemnis and Berlioz' Requiem (1931).

His mother's illness brought Jobin back to Quebec City prematurely in the autumn of 1931, and he did not return to Paris till 1934. He gave concerts in Quebec City, Ottawa, and Montreal. In Quebec City he sang Roméo in Roméo et Juliette with the G. De Feo troupe (1932), and in Montreal at the Imperial Theatre he participated in many performances of the Société canadienne d'opérette in Lehar's Gypsy Love, Hervé's Mamz'elle Nitouche, and Fourdrain's Secret de polichinelle (1933), and in eight performances of The Barber of Seville with Caro Lamoureux and as many again of Bazin's Voyage en Chine (1934). In the spring of 1933 Jobin was engaged by the San Carlo Opera Company for its Montreal and Quebec City productions, and he enjoyed considerable success in Faust, Rigoletto, I Pagliacci, and Roméo et Juliette.

Back in Paris in May 1934, he returned to the Paris Opera on 16 July in Rigoletto. From then on, his career made rapid progress. He sang principal tenor roles in Bordeaux where he was engaged for two seasons (1934-6). He was then sought after in the provinces, performing successfully in Lyons, Toulouse, Arles, Marseilles, Montpellier, and other cities and at the festivals in Vichy and Orange. On 1 Nov 1936, he made his debut as principal tenor at the Opéra, and on 6 Nov 1937, at the Opéra-Comique. Until 1939 the name of Raoul Jobin topped the bill in the opera houses of France, and he sang the French repertoire in particular, with occasional excursions into the Italian and German repertoires. His major roles were Faust, Don José, Werther, Raoul (Les Huguenots), Mario (Tosca), Des Grieux (Manon), Gérald (Lakmé), Hoffmann, Roméo, and Julien (Louise); he performed numerous premieres, the most important being Fabrice in Sauguet's La Chartreuse de Parme on 20 Mar 1939. He also appeared in Holland, in Spain during the Civil War, and in Italy. His engagements with orchestras, in concert, and on the radio continued to multiply.

1940s: North and South America

In the fall of 1938 Jobin returned to Quebec and performed with Anna Malenfant in the title role and his wife as Micaëla in Carmen at the Variétés lyriques. In September 1939, he sang in the Municipal Theatre of Rio de Janeiro with the troupe of the Opéra-Comique, where he was caught by the war, his family being in France. On his return to Quebec, he entered the 'Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air,' following Wilfrid Pelletier's suggestion. The Metropolitan placed him under contract immediately, and he made his debut there 19 Feb 1940 in Manon. He remained with this company until 1950, singing many roles alongside such stars as Lily Pons, Bidú Sayão, Martial Singher, Ezio Pinza, Salvatore Baccaloni, Rïse Stevens, and Licia Albanese, under the direction of such conductors as Thomas Beecham and Wilfrid Pelletier. On 20 Feb 1942 he sang Luca in the premiere of Menotti's The Island God. Jobin's North American career extended from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and he performed many seasons in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, New Orleans, and other cities, as a guest artist with orchestras, on Metropolitan tours of North America, or as a member 1945-6 of the Metropolitan Opera Ensemble. Wherever he appeared, his mastery of the French style, the brilliance of his upper register, and the richness of his timbre earned him an enthusiastic reception and praise from the critics. Certain performances stand out, eg, his singing of the title role in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex in Boston in 1940 under the composer's direction and his portrayal of Pelléas in the Canadian premiere of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande at His Majesty's Theatre, Montreal, 14 Jun 1940, under Wilfrid Pelletier, with Marcelle Denya as his partner, for the Montreal Festivals. At the Metropolitan, Jobin sang Des Grieux, Hoffman, Pelléas, Mario, Pagliaci, Tonio (The Daughter of the Regiment), Gérald, Faust, Don José, Julien, Samson, and Roméo, and participated in three opening nights.

During the summer Jobin regularly returned to South America for seasons in Rio de Janeiro and at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, as well as to Mexico City where he championed French repertoire with the conductor Albert Wolff. His Renaud in Gluck's Armide in 1943 and his Admetus in the latter's Alceste in 1954 at the Teatro Colon deserve special mention.

Return to Paris

After the war, the Canadian tenor returned to Paris and on 16 May 1947 successfully performed at the Paris Opera in the title role of Lohengrin, his first major Wagnerian role, being identified by the name of 'Monsieur Lohengrin.' This was preceded on 23 April by his appearance as Des Grieux at the Opéra-Comique. On 12 June, he sang there the 2500th performance of Don José from Bizet's Carmen, and Samson at the Opéra on 18 Apr 1948. On 18 Jun 1951, Jobin sang Radames at the Paris Opera and at the Festival de Vichy, and the following year in Vichy he sang Walther in Die Meistersinger and the title role of Rabaud's Marouf. Subsequently, Jobin divided his time largely between Europe and America but performed also in North Africa. He maintained his high standard in his accustomed roles and continued to add new ones. In 1952 he sang Damon in Rameau's Les Indes galantes at the Paris Opera and premiered the title role of Don Juan de Mañera by Henri Tomasi on Paris radio. In 1954 he was Dimitri in Franco Alfano's Résurrection at the Opéra-Comique.

In 1955 he performed in two premieres: Mirouze's Geneviève de Paris at the Théâtre Romain in Fourvières and Tomasi's L'Atlantide in Enghien, and then in Marseilles, Lyons, and at the Festival de Vichy. The Opéra-Comique invited him to sing in the 1000th performance of Louise in 1956, and in the spring of 1957 in Richard Strauss' Capriccio. In 1957 he also sang Ulysse in Fauré's Pénélope in several French cities; his performance of the role 24 Jun 1958 in Toulouse alongside Régine Crespin was his final appearance on the operatic stage.

Return to Canada and Teaching Career

In Canada Jobin frequently was invited to sing with the principal orchestras of Montreal, Toronto, Quebec City, and other cities. He also performed often on the radio, and on CBC-TV he sang Canio in I Pagliacci 11 Mar 1958. He often appeared with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (eg, in Ninth Symphony, 1949) and with the Cleveland, Chicago, and San Francisco orchestras, with the conductors Bruno Walter, Pierre Monteux, and Gaetano Merola. His numerous recitals were praised. In the ensuing years, Jobin reduced his activities considerably. In one of his last public appearances - at the JMC Orford Art Centre in the summer of 1960 - he premiered Clermont Pépin'sHymne au vent du nord under the baton of Sir Ernest MacMillan.

In 1957 he began teaching at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal (CMM) and the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Québec (CMQ), and he was director 1961-70 of the CMQ succeeding Henri Gagnon. He helped train many young singers, including Colette Boky, Jean Bonhomme, Claude Corbeil, Gaston Germain, Bruno Laplante, Jacqueline Martel, Joan Patenaude, Jean-Louis Pellerin, and Huguette Tourangeau. He was a member of the Canada Council 1961-64. He was cultural consultant 1970-3 to the Quebec government's general delegation in Paris. In 1951 he had been created Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur by France, and in 1967 he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Assessment

Although rightly considered the successor to Georges Thill as the greatest 'French' tenor of his time, Jobin was unable to escape specialization. Yet it was the really substantial roles - whether French (Hoffmann, Samson, and especially Don José), Italian (Cavaradossi, Canio), or German (Lohengrin) - that best lent themselves to the heroic nature of his powerful voice with its triumphant highs, to his dramatic instinct, and to his temperament. Upon his death the French critic Jean Goury said of him: 'Raoul Jobin was undoubtedly one of the most celebrated tenors in the French tradition in recent decades. His voice, with its highly personalized timbre - neither Italianized nor Nordic but permeated with the warm fragrance of the Canadian soil - was capable of surprising variations in dynamics ... Raoul Jobin was a singer in the grand tradition, never sacrificing musicianship to sentiment and maintaining at all times a restraint of the highest order' (Paris Guide musical opéra, 9 Feb 1974).

In 1983 Renée Maheu published in Paris an important biography of Jobin. In 1984, in collaboration with the Grand Théâtre de Québec, she presented an exhibition of the costumes of his 13 major operatic roles, entitled 'Hommage à Raoul Jobin.' The following year, the Fondation de l'Opéra de Québec awarded its first Prix Raoul-Jobin scholarship for young singers studying at the CMQ or at Laval University. The hall in the Palais Montcalm was renamed the Raoul-Jobin Hall in 1989. His archives are held at the Archives nationales du Québec in Quebec City, and his costumes have become the property of Quebec City.

See also André Jobin (his son).