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Leopold Simoneau, 90; Canadian Opera Singer

August 28, 2006|From the Associated Press

VANCOUVER, Canada — Leopold Simoneau, a tenor who was an expert interpreter of Mozart and was considered one of Canada's most acclaimed opera singers, has died. He was 90.

Simoneau died Thursday night at the Victoria, Canada, home where he had lived since the early 1980s with his wife, soprano Pierrette Alarie.

"He was without doubt one of the most accomplished singers we have ever produced," said Timothy Vernon, artistic director of Pacific Opera Victoria.

"He had ... faultless technical control [and] pushed himself right to the wall to develop a technique that was completely at his control and completely able to express what he felt."

Born near Quebec City, Simoneau studied music with voice teacher Salvator Issaurel in Montreal, where Simoneau met his future wife, who already was an established singer and who also studied with Issaurel.

Simoneau rose to fame in the early 1940s singing with Les Varietes Lyriques and performing such well-known works as "The Barber of Seville" and "La Traviata," often opposite Alarie.

In 1943, Simoneau and his wife made their stage debut together in a Montreal production of "The Marriage of Figaro," conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.

His career gained an international dimension in 1949 when he began performing in Paris, where he lived for several years. His reputation as a Mozart specialist was established at the Aix-en-Provence and Glyndebourne festivals.

In 1952, he appeared in a historic production of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex, with Stravinsky conducting and narration by Jean Cocteau.

He would go on to sing with many of the world's major orchestras, including New York's Metropolitan Opera and the Lyric Opera in Chicago.

In the 1950s, Simoneau and Alarie made several concert performances as part of the Bel Canto Trio, which included baritone Theodor Uppman. In 1962, Simoneau appeared in recital with Canadian pianist Glenn Gould.

In 1970, Simoneau and his wife made their final public appearances, singing Handel's Messiah with the Montreal Symphony.

He was appointed deputy head of the music division of the Quebec Ministry of Cultural Affairs, which led to the establishment of the Quebec Opera in 1971.

"He was very courtly, extremely cultivated but always pleasant," Vernon said. "He had a kind of aristocratic manner without being a snob."

In 1972, Simoneau and his wife moved to San Francisco, where he taught voice at the San Francisco Conservatory and she taught and staged opera for a number of small Northern California companies.

They also taught at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Canada.

In 1982, they moved to Victoria, where they founded Canada Opera Piccola, an advanced training program for young singers.

In addition to his wife, Simoneau is survived by two daughters.

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