Napoléon Bisson

(Joseph Georges) Napoléon Bisson. Baritone, b Montreal 17 Dec 1922, d Chambly, Que 17 Apr 2008; premier prix Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal (CMM) 1953.

Bisson, Napoléon

(Joseph Georges) Napoléon Bisson. Baritone, b Montreal 17 Dec 1922, d Chambly, Que 17 Apr 2008; premier prix Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal (CMM) 1953. Napoléon Bisson studied 1946-50 under Adelina Czapska and continued his training 1950-3 at the CMM, working with Dick Marzollo, Martial Singher, Rachele Maragliano-Mori, and Jacqueline Richard. He made his debut in 1951 as Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette on the CBC Radio program 'Théâtre lyrique Molson.' After hearing him in Parsifal in Montreal, Jean Vallerand wrote, 'The surprise of the performance, however, is Napoléon Bisson who sings Klingsor with the finish and the style that one would expect from a Wagnerian of international reputation' (Montreal Le Devoir, 13 Apr 1954). In 1955 he was Amonasro in a New Orleans production of Aida. He sang at Covent Garden for two seasons, notably in the title role of Rigoletto. On his return to Montreal he took the leading role in the Canadian premiere (CBC Radio 1959) of Humphrey Searle's The Diary of a Madman. He also toured for the Jeunesses musicales du Canada (JMC) with the pianist Jacqueline Richard during the 1958-9 season. He regularly sang for the Opera Guild of Montreal (1958-69), and also for the Montreal Festivals, notably in Maurice Blackburn'sSilent Measures and the title role in Jean Vallerand's Le Magicien (1962). He toured 1961-2 in Le Magicien for the JMC.

Napoléon Bisson made debuts with the Vancouver Opera in La Bohème (1960), with the Edmonton Opera in the title role of Rigoletto (1964), and with the Canadian Opera Company (COC) as Amonasro in Aida (1964). He sang Bartolo in The Barber of Seville on the CBC-TV program 'L'Heure du concert,' a production that won an Emmy Award in 1965. In the 1966-7 season he returned to the Royal Opera House, London, appearing in Wagner's Ring cycle (as Alberich), Strauss's Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Blind Brother), and Benvenuto Cellini (Balducci). He sang the title role of Rigoletto at the Royal Opera of Copenhagen in 1967. He was heard with the Southern Alberta Opera (1973), the Manitoba Opera (1974), and the Pittsburgh Opera (1974). With the Opéra du Québec he performed the title role of Gianni Schicchi (1971) as well as the High Priest (Samson et Dalila, 1971), the Bonze (Madama Butterfuly, 1974), and Schaunard (La Bohème, 1975). He also sang in La Belle Hélène (Agamemnon) at the National Arts Centre (NAC) with Festival Canada (Festival Ottawa) in 1973 and on the CBC in 1975. In the USA he regularly performed in Boston, Cincinnati, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

Napoléon Bisson excelled in tragi-comic roles in which he made use of his powerful, resonant voice and acting skills. In 1977 he recorded the role of the Sacristan in Tosca with Nicole Lorange, Jaime Aragall, and Louis Quilico with the New Philharmonic Orchestra under Anton Guadagno (2-Zafiro SA Dorado ZOR-1011). He enjoyed particular success in the role of Bartolo. Bisson was a member of The Canadian Opera Hall of Fame.

Further Reading

  • Maître, Manuel. 'Du pic et de la pelle à la gloire de Covent Garden,' Montreal La Patrie, 12 Nov 1967

    'Napoléon Bisson: Mascot of the Vancouver Opera,' Vancouver Sun, 10 Dec 1982

    'Portraits de chanteurs du Québec,' Aria, avril 1983

    Blanc, Liliane. 'Napoléon Bisson, quarante ans de carrière,' Aria, vol 10, Autumn 1987

    Saint-Laurent, Francine. 'C'est la faute à Pompon Miron,' Journal d'Outremont, Oct 1987