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Canadian Singers in Canada

While the majority of Canadian opera singers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries studied and performed abroad, some artists returned to Canada later in life and contributed significantly to the development of opera and music in Canada.

Marie Hope Morgan (1862-1936) was the first Anglo-Canadian singer to perform in Europe and the first to return to make her home in Canada. A native of Toronto, she went to Paris in 1892 to study and appeared in several opera houses in Europe. Poor health forced her to retire from the stage and in 1906 she settled in Toronto, where she was responsible for training a number of outstanding Canadian singers.

Photograph of Béatrice La Palme

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Béatrice La Palme

Béatrice La Palme (1878-1921), a violinist and dramatic soprano who performed with the Opéra-Comique, Montreal Opera Company and houses in New York, also returned to Canada for health reasons, and established herself as a voice teacher.

Pauline Lightstone Donalda (1882-1970) achieved international success as an opera singer, but also did much for Canada as a teacher and administrator. Her music studies began in Montréal with her father, Michael Lightstone. She was accepted to the Royal Victoria College on full scholarship, and later studied in Paris with Edmond Duverney of the Paris Conservatoire. She joined Covent Garden in 1905 and during her first season performed with opera greats such as Emmy Destinn, Antonio Scotti and Nellie Melba. After Donalda retired from the stage in 1922, she opened a studio in Paris, but she began to think about ways to develop a tradition of first-rate opera performance in Montréal. Upon her return to Canada in the late 1930s, she opened a teaching studio, and in 1941, founded The Opera Guild, which presented operas by composers such as Mozart, Puccini, Mussorgsky and Verdi for 28 consecutive seasons. Donalda was active in the Montréal music scene for over 30 years, and was recognized with many honours, including the Medal of the Order of Canada in 1967.

Photograph of Raoul Jobin in military uniform, 1935

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Raoul Jobin, 1935

Another French-Canadian singer, Raoul Jobin (1906-1974) began his musical studies in Canada at Laval University under Émile Larochelle. His studies continued in Paris, and at the age of 24, he debuted at the Paris Opera as Tybalt in Roméo et Juliette. Nicknamed "the Golden Voice of Quebec" and "the Caruso of Canada", Jobin appeared publicly in over 3,000 performances during his career. Upon his retirement from the stage in 1957, he established a school for vocal studies in Montréal and became the president of Youth and Music of Canada.

History of Opera Performance in Canada