Richard Verreau

Richard Verreau (Verreault). Tenor, b Château-Richer, near Québec City, 1 Jan 1926, d 6 Jul 2005. Verreau began singing in his parish church. After winning a Québec Symphony Orchestra competition for young artists he decided in 1945 to enter Laval University.

Verreau, Richard

Richard Verreau (Verreault). Tenor, b Château-Richer, near Québec City, 1 Jan 1926, d 6 Jul 2005. Verreau began singing in his parish church. After winning a Québec Symphony Orchestra competition for young artists he decided in 1945 to enter Laval University. He studied there with Émile Larochelle and took private lessons from Louis Gravel. In 1949, on a Quebec government scholarship, he went to Paris and studied with Raoul Jobin. In 1951 he signed a six-month contract with the Opéra de Lyon to sing in Lakmé, Manon, Mireille, and Les Pêcheurs de perles. Returning to Canada in 1952, he met Beniamino Gigli and went to Rome to study 1952-4 with that master of bel canto.

Verreau was a frequent soloist 1953-60 with the MSO, and in 1956 he made his debut with the New York City Opera, singing Wilhelm Meister in Mignon. Immediately thereafter he sang Rodolfo in La Bohème and the Duke in Rigoletto at the Royal Opera House of Covent Garden in London (1957). He also appeared there in Berlioz' The Trojans. Returning to North America, he sang in Roméo et Juliette in San Francisco. His interpretation of the tenor part in Verdi's Requiem was greatly admired, and he frequently sang as a soloist in Montréal with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (1957, 1958, and 1962). He performed at the Hollywood Bowl in the summer of 1958, where he sang the Requiem of Verdi. He was invited in 1960 to perform at the Vancouver International Festival. Verreau performed and travelled through Italy, Belgium, and France in 1959 and Austria in 1960. He then completed three tours of the USSR in 1963-4 where he performed in Faust, La Bohème and Rigoletto.

Verreau sang in Tosca with the MSO in 1963 and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Faust. While in New York he performed La Damnation de Faust with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Lincoln Center, directed by Charles Munch. He sang with the Opera Guild of Montreal (La Traviata 1962, Faust 1963, Madama Butterfly 1965, and La Bohème 1966), with the Théâtre lyrique de Nouvelle-France (Werther, Tosca 1963, Manon 1967), with the Montreal Festivals (Werther 1963), and on CBC radio and TV ('L'Heure du concert,' 'Récital,' 'Music Hall,' 'Sérénade'). In 1965 he repeated his role in Manon with the Metropolitan Opera, and in 1967 he repeated the title role in Faust with the MSO at Expo 67.

Verreau's voice had a rare velvety quality. In La Presse (24 Jul 1968), Gilles Potvin praised his warm tone 'which keeps its quality throughout the range.' Unfortunately, in 1977, unsuccessful throat surgery ended his career.

In 1991, the Chamber de Commerce de Québec honoured Verreau with the title of Grand Québécois, and in 1996 he was established in the Canadian Pantheon of the lyric art.

Verreau was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1998 and an Officer of the Order of Quebec in 2000. In 1999 the Montreal International Musical Festival named the people's choice award after Verreau and the Opéra de Québec gave him the honorary title of Ambassador of the Opera of Quebec.


Further Reading

  • Louis Theriault. Richard Verreau: chanter plus beau (Montreal 2000)