Canadian Tenor Leopold Simoneau, 90

Gov. Gen Romeo LeBlanc, left, presents tenor Leopold Simoneau with the Order of Canada in 1996. Simoneau spent his later years training young singers at Canada Opera Piccola, which he founded.
Gov. Gen Romeo LeBlanc, left, presents tenor Leopold Simoneau with the Order of Canada in 1996. Simoneau spent his later years training young singers at Canada Opera Piccola, which he founded. (By Diana Nethercott -- Associated Press)
Associated Press
Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Leopold Simoneau, one of Canada's most acclaimed opera singers who performed with many of the world's major orchestras, died Aug. 24 at his home in Vancouver, British Columbia. He was 90.

Mr. Simoneau died in the Victoria home where he had lived the past 20 years with his wife, soprano Pierrette Alarie, Pacific Opera Victoria Artistic Director Timothy Vernon confirmed Sunday. No cause of death was reported.

"He worked with all the great conductors of an earlier generation. He was without doubt one of the most accomplished singers we have ever produced," Vernon said.

The tenor rose to fame in the early 1940s singing with the Variétés lyriques, performing such well-known pieces as "The Barber of Seville" and "La Traviata."

His career gained an international dimension in 1949 when he began performing in Paris, working with famed composer Igor Stravinsky, among others.

Mr. Simoneau quickly developed a reputation as an expert interpreter of Mozart and would go on to sing with many of the world's major orchestras, including New York's Metropolitan Opera and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

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

In 1970, Mr. Simoneau made his final public appearance, singing Handel's "Messiah" with the Montreal Symphony.

"He had a particular style. Faultless technical control," Vernon said. "He pushed himself right to the wall to develop a technique that was completely at his control and completely able to express what he felt."

After teaching for many years, Mr. Simoneau and his wife settled in British Columbia in 1982, where they founded Canada Opera Piccola, an advanced training program for young singers.

Mr. Simoneau, who was born near Quebec City in 1916, earned several honorary degrees throughout his career and was made a companion of the Order of Canada in 1995 -- one of Canada's highest honors.


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