Canada’s operatic community is mourning the loss of Quebec tenor, teacher and founding Opéra de Montréal artistic director Jean-Paul Jeannotte who has died at 95.
His death was confirmed by Olivier Godin, pianist and protégé of Jeannotte. On Facebook he shared, “Jean-Paul was a man of unrivaled class and elegance, extraordinarily cultured… I learned so much from him about this profession: the traditions of French repertoire and the secrets of music, about literature, painting, theatre and dance — I am eternally grateful to him.”
At 21, Jeannotte moved to Paris in 1947 to further his training with, among others, Pierre Bernac. Godin recalls that Bernac introduced Jeannotte to Francis Poulenc, Joseph Canteloube, and Yvonne Printemps among many others.
That same year Jeannotte made his debut in Cherbourg as Vincent in Mireille and Piféar in Adam’s Si j’étais roi, and would go onto tour in France as a soloist with the Disciples de Massenet. In the ensuing years, he made multiple appearances on stage, in concert and on radio and TV. He excelled particularly in recital, performing French, German and Italian songs during his many tours of Canada and a 1961 tour of Europe and the USSR with pianist Jeanne Landry during the height of the Cold War.
Equally noteworthy was his portrayal as Pelléas in Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande, opposite Suzanne Danco in a 1955 CBC concert performance of the opera, and his portrayals of Gonzalve in Ravel’s L’Heure espagnole (CBC 1955) and Basilio in The Marriage of Figaro (Montreal Festivals 1956). His interpretation of Pelléas has been preserved in the CBC archives:
From 1964-79, Jeannotte taught as a voice teacher at Laval University where he conducted the Laval Vocal Quartet from 1973-79. He also held the roles of Vice President (1964-6) and president (1966-72) of l’Union des artists (UDA), and headed up a task force set up by the Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec (MACQ) in 1974 to enquire into the state of lyric art, dance and symphonic music. From 1979-89 he became the founding artistic director of the Opéra de Montréal and artistic adviser for the 1989-90 season.
Outside of his work in academia and administration, Jeannotte also composed Propos intimes, four songs for voice and piano on poems by Éloi de Grandmont. In 1987, Jeannotte was made an officer of the Order of Canada.