Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links

The Virtual Gramophone
Canadian Historical Sound Recordings


Non-Canadian Singers in Canada

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, emigrants from many European countries arrived in Canada. Although most of these emigrants were not professional musicians, a few noteworthy singers made Canada their home, and due to their extraordinary talents as teachers and performers, Canadian opera lovers claimed these singers as their own.

Mezzo-soprano Sarah Fischer (1896-1975) was born in Paris, but came to Canada with her family in 1909. Her earliest education took place in Montréal, and in 1917, she won the prestigious Strathcona Scholarship, which allowed her to study at the Royal College of Music in London. Due to the First World War, Fischer delayed her journey to London, and her first operatic appearances took place in Montréal and Québec, including Micaëla in Carmen, Philine in Mignon, and the leading role in Délibes' Lakmé. Fischer went to London in 1919 to continue her studies, and subsequently enjoyed successes at Covent Garden and the Opéra Comique in Paris. When musical activity in Europe came to a halt due to the Second World War, Fischer returned to Canada, opened a teaching studio and established a scholarship program for talented Canadian musicians. She also organized the Sarah Fischer Concerts in Montréal, an annual four-concert series that promoted new and established Canadian talent, making possible the debut of over 650 musicians including contralto Maureen Forrester (who debuted as a soprano), pianist André Laplante and composer Violet Archer.

Tenor Hubert Eisdell (1882-1948) spent his early years in Hampstead, England but settled in Canada later in life. He came to Canada for the first time at the age of 23 to visit his cousin Sir William Mortimer Clarke, who at the time was the lieutenant-governor of Ontario, and to teach at what is now called Lakefield College in Lakefield, Ontario. Although much of his operatic career took place in England, he settled in Toronto in 1933, taught at the Toronto Conservatory of Music (now the Royal Conservatory of Music), and performed as a soloist with Toronto groups such as the Conservatory String Quartet and the Toronto Bach Choir. He married a woman from Peterborough, and from 1936 to 1947, he taught French, English and Latin and was the organist and choirmaster at Lakefield College.

Photograph of Florence Easton, 1920

Florence Easton, 1920

The nationality of soprano Florence Easton (1882-1955) has been disputed by Canadians, Americans and the British, all who claim her as their own. Born in Yorkshire, England, Easton came to Toronto with her family at the age of six. She began her career in England, and then moved to the United States where she joined the Society of American Singers and taught in New York at the Juilliard School of Music. She toured regularly in Canada and settled in Montréal for several years as a voice teacher. Although she spent the last years of her life in New York, she was buried in Montréal.

History of Opera Performance in Canada