Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links

The Virtual Gramophone
Canadian Historical Sound Recordings

History

Opera Recordings by Canadian Singers

With the invention of the phonograph in the late nineteenth century, recording became an important part of opera performance for Canadian singers and opera lovers alike. For Canadians who lived in isolated areas where live performances of opera were rare, the phonograph was a valuable invention that allowed them to listen to performances of famous singers that they would otherwise not have had the opportunity to hear.

A number of Canadian singers made recordings since 1904, and many have endured to this day.

Joseph Saucier (1869-1941) was one of the first Canadians, and perhaps the first French Canadian to record in Canada (around 1904). Specializing in the light concert repertoire, Saucier recorded "O Canada", "Minuit, chrétiens", and Tchaikovsky's Serenade de Don Juan, Op. 38, No. 1. Emma Albani made some of the earliest recordings (1904-5). Éva Gauthier recorded traditional French-Canadian songs on the Victor label in 1917 and 1918, and arias and songs by French composers on the Columbia label in 1918.

Photograph of Paul Dufault

Source
Paul Dufault

Repertoire for vocal recordings often consisted of popular parlour ballads, but performers such as Pauline Donalda, Sarah Fischer, Louise Edvina, Jeanne Gordon and Edward Johnson recorded a few operatic arias. Specializing in the light concert repertoire were Canadian singers Harold Jarvis, Craig Campbell, Paul Dufault, Geoffrey O'Hara and Hector Pellerin. Canadian tenors Henry Burr and Harry Macdonough were two of the world's most prolific recording artists.

Since 1950, opera performance in Canada has expanded considerably, and singers of international calibre continue to come out of Canada: Jon Vickers, Teresa Stratas, Maureen Forrester and Ben Heppner, to name a few. They continue the work of pioneers such as Emma Albani, Pauline Donalda and Sarah Fischer, who carved out a place in opera for Canadians through their inspiring performances and tireless devotion to opera.

For more information on opera performance in Canada, see the article entitled "Opera Performance" in The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada: www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/

History of Opera Performance in Canada