Jean-Paul Jeannotte, the famed Quebec tenor, teacher and artistic administrator, has died at 95.
The news of his death was confirmed by Olivier Godin, pianist and a close friend and protégé of Jeannotte. On Facebook, he wrote, “Jean-Paul was a man of unrivaled class and elegance, extraordinarily cultured,” adding, “I learned so much from him about this profession: the traditions of French repertoire and the secrets of music, about literature, painting, theatre and dance — I am eternally grateful to him.”
Following vocal studies in Montreal, Jeannotte moved to Paris in 1947, at the age of 21, to further his training with, among others, Pierre Bernac. He soon established his reputation there, making his operatic debut in 1947 in Cherbourg with roles in operas by Adolphe Adam and Charles Gounod. He then toured France as a soloist with the reputed Montreal choir Les Disciples de Massenet. In 1955, Jeannotte sang the role of Pelléas in Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris opposite Suzanne Danco (Mélisande) and Gérard Souzay (Golaud), a performance that was was reprised in a CBC concert performance. His interpretation of the role has been preserved in this complete archival recording:
Back in Canada, Jeannotte created the role of Bobino in Maurice and Marthe Blackburn’s comic one-act opera Silent Measures, which he performed extensively during a concert tour organized by Jeunesses Musicales Canada in 1960. In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, he did a recital tour of Europe and the U.S.S.R. with pianist Jeanne Landry. This recording of six songs by Reynaldo Hahn captures their artistry:
By the late 1960s and ’70s, Jeannotte’s experience, insight and vision attracted the attention of several important cultural institutions in Quebec. He became a voice teacher at Laval University and l’École Vincent-d’Indy; he served as vice president and later president of l’Union des artistes; from 1976-80 he was on the board of l’Opéra de Québec; and then in 1980, he became the founding artistic director of l’Opéra de Montréal, a position he occupied until 1989.
Jeannotte was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 1987.