Joseph-Henri Thibodeau was born around 1890. Little is known about his training or the beginning of his career. He first appeared around 1915 with his brother Alphonse and his sister-in-law Yvonne Thibodeau. He was one of the first artists chosen by Roméo Beaudry to record with Columbia in New York. In August 1916, he recorded eleven titles, primarily popular French songs, including "La Légende du petit navire" (Missa) and "Reviens" (Christiné), as well as a few classical pieces such as Élégie (Massenet) and Rondel du cœur (Wittmann). The company obviously wanted to promote the new artist, because many of his recordings were on the B side of Hector Pellerin's records and Pellerin was the big Francophone star of the period.
Thibodeau became a member of the Société nationale d'opéra comique when it was founded in February 1917. He was also a member of the quartet Quatuor Octave-Pelletier, with whom he recorded, in May 1918, 18 folk and religious pieces for Columbia in New York. He can be heard as a soloist in the famous song "Sous les ponts de Paris" (Columbia E4459). In the summer of 1918, the tenor re-recorded "Rondel du cœur" for HMV. In August 1919 he formed, with Hercule Lavoie, Ulysse Paquin and Émile Gour, the Quatuor de Montréal, giving two weeks of concerts in Dominion Park.
The tenor was especially active on the local lyric scene at the end of the 1910s. In April 1917, he sang in Les Sept Paroles du Christ by Théodore Dubois at the Montréal cathedral. On June 4, 1918, he performed at the Monument National theatre in a revival of the operetta La Basoche and, in November, he starred in Carmen with the Troupe canadienne d'opéra, alongside Sarah Fischer, a role that he repeated in February 1919. In the same period, he performed in Le Portrait de Manon by Massenet and Le Caïd by Thomas. In April 1919, he sang in Les Dragons de Villars by Maillard at the Monument National, in Lakmé in September, then in Werther in November at the Théâtre Saint-Denis. Thibodeau also occasionally appeared with the Société canadienne d'opérette, performing, among others, in the Gypsy Baron (1924) with José Delaquerrière.
For more information on Joseph-Henri Thibodeau's recordings, please consult the Virtual Gramophone database.
Robert Thérien, music researcher, Montréal