Jan Rubes | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jan Rubes

Rubes decided to expand his musical possibilities and immigrated to Canada on 31 December 1948.
Jan Rubes, entertainer
Award-winning singer, actor and director Jan Rubes (courtesy Patrick Yang).

Rubes, Jan

 Jan Rubes, bass singer, actor, director (b at Volyné, Czech 6 June 1920; d at Toronto 29 June 2009). He graduated from the Prague Conservatory of Music in 1945 and became the youngest basso at the Prague Opera House. He played leading roles at the opera house in Pilsen, and in 1948 he was selected to represent Czechoslovakia at the International Music Festival in Geneva, where he was awarded first prize.

Rubes decided to expand his musical possibilities and immigrated to Canada on 31 December 1948. He was very influential in the development of opera in Canada and had a long association with the CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY, singing numerous roles, including Mephisto in Faust, Boris in Boris Godunov and Schigolch in Lulu, and also served as director of touring and program development.

In 1958 Rubes appeared with Joan Sutherland as Leporello in Don Giovanni at the Vancouver Festival. He translated and played many times the comic intermezzo Il Maestro di Cappella by Domenico Cimarosa. In 1975 he directed The Fool by Harry SOMERS and Richard Strauss's Adriane Auf Naxos at the Stratford Festival's Third Stage.

For 10 years, Rubes was the singing narrator of the radio program "Songs of My People" and was writer and host of TVOntario's Guess What? (1975-83). He also turned to acting and was highly acclaimed for his roles in the television productions The Day My Grandad Died (1977), Charlie Grant's War (1984) and The Two Men (1990), for which he received a Gemini Award as Best Supporting Actor. He acted in the television series Max Glick and in 1991 received the Earle Grey Award for lifetime work in Canadian television. He received a Gemini nomination in 1996 for his appearance in Lamb Chop in the Haunted Studio.

His films included Witness (1985), One Magic Christmas (1985), Dead of Winter (1987), The Outside Chance of Maximillan Glick (1988), Class Action (1991) Deceived (1991), Birds II: The Land's End (1994), D2: The Mighty Ducks (1994), Roommates with Peter Falk (1995) and the controversial television feature film Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story (1995), starring opposite Glenn Close and Judy Davis.

For the stage, he translated and played the lead role in The Lost Fairy Tale at Young People's Theatre, Toronto (1978), and played major roles in numerous musicals including Man of La Mancha, The Sound of Music and South Pacific. In 1995 he acted in Twelve Dreams by James Lapine at Lincoln Center's Newhouse Theatre in New York. He received the Order of Canada in 1996.