Montreal Opera Company/Compagnie d'opéra de Montréal

Montreal Opera Company/Compagnie d'opéra de Montréal. Opera company founded in 1910 by Albert Clerk-Jeannotte, with the financial support of Frank Stephen Meighen and the assistance of Charles-O. Lamontagne as business administrator. Clerk-Jeannotte engaged musicians from the New San Carlo Opera along with their conductor, Agide Jacchia (b Lugo, Italy, 5 Jan 1875, d Siena 29 Nov 1932), a pupil of Mascagni. They were joined by singers and instrumentalists from Montreal and New York and, as the Montreal Musical Society, opened 31 Oct 1910 at His Majesty's Theatre. During the company's eight-week season it gave 48 performances, at first alternating Tosca and Lakmé and then presenting Fedora, Manon, Carmen, La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, La Traviata, Thaïs, and L'Amico Fritz, as well as eight symphony concerts. Frances Alda, Natale Cervi, Edmond Clément, Ugo Colombini, Louis Deru, Ester Ferrabini, Lydia Lipkowska, Alice Michot, Alice Nielsen, Giuseppe Pimazzini, Simone Rivière, and Eugenio Torre were among the singers. In December of that year the company went to Quebec City for a week at the Auditorium but on arrival it learned that the Catholic bishop had forbidden all Catholics to attend the performances, considering such attendance a sin. The scores were submitted to him immediately for approval, and with two exceptions, Manon and Thaïs, the ban was lifted. The company went on to play at the Russell Theatre in Ottawa, the Lyceum in Rochester, NY, and the Princess Theatre in Toronto, the Royal Alexandra not being available; the company did, however, present two subsequent seasons there. The opera company ended this first season with a deficit of over $22,000.

For the 1911-12 season at His Majesty's the name was changed to the Montreal Opera Company (or Compagnie d'opéra de Montréal), and the orchestra increased to 45. Jacchia directed the Italian operas, and Louis Hasselmans (b Paris 25 Jul 1878, d San Juan, Puerto Rico, 27 Dec 1957) came from Paris to take charge of the French repertoire, which was expanded to 12 operas: Bizet's Carmen, Gounod's Faust and Roméo et Juliette, Massenet's Cendrillon, Le Jongleur de Notre-Dame, La Navarraise, and Werther, Messager's Madame Chrysanthème, Charpentier's Louise, Saint-Saëns' L'Ancêtre, Leroux's Le Chemineau, Godard's La Vivandière, and Erlanger's Noël. The cast included some Canadians, notably the soprano Béatrice La Palme (who made her debut in the role of Micaëla), the soprano Irene Pavloska, and the bass Georges Panneton. The French tenor Edmond Clément and the US soprano Beatrice Bowman also appeared. The second season ended with a further deficit of close to $50,000 after 97 opera performances - 69 in Montreal and 28 on tour - and 13 symphony concerts.

The repertoire for the third season was even more ambitious, including Verdi's Aida, Massenet's Hérodiade, and Leoncavallo's Zazà. The sopranos Maria Gay and Carmen Melis, the mezzo-soprano Marie Claessens, the tenors Léon Laffite and Giuseppe Gaudenzi, the baritone Jean Riddez, and the bass Giovanni Polese were among the soloists. The Canadian Louise Edvina sang Marguerite in Faust as well as the title roles in Louise and Tosca, which she had sung at Covent Garden. The chorus was directed by Henri Delcellier, and Wilfrid Pelletier worked with him as rehearsal pianist. The deficit for this season was about $65,000. It was decided, therefore, that the 1912-13 season would be the last.

In three seasons the Montreal Opera Company gave nearly 300 performances, of which 139 were of French opera and 137 of Italian, as well as symphony concerts. Meighen spent over $100,000 to cover the deficits. After the company collapsed, some of its members established the National Opera Company of Canada in the autumn of 1913 under the auspices of Max Rabinoff, a US impresario of Russian origin. The principal conductor was Agide Jacchia, who later moved on to conduct the Century Opera of New York, the Boston National Opera Company, and 1917-26 the Boston Pops Orchestra. Louis Hasselmans was engaged for the 1918-19 season by the Chicago Opera, 1919-22 by the Opéra-Comique of Paris, and 1922-37 by the Metropolitan Opera.

As late as 1933, Clerk-Jeannotte attempted to revive the Montreal Opera Company at the Imperial Theatre (Montreal), announcing a two-week season with a total of 12 productions, under the musical direction of Ethel Leginska, and with such stars as Hope Hampton and Helen Jepson. Public indifference obliged him to cancel the season after the first week, which had included performances of Thaïs, Louise, and Werther.