Opéra de Québec history


The beginnings of the Opera

In 1983, the history of lyric arts in Quebec City reached a turning point. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of pioneers at Théâtre lyrique de Nouvelle-France, Opéra de Québec and later Société lyrique d’Aubigny who helped bring opera to Quebec City, the Opéra de Québec Foundation was created on January 7, 1983 and was soon followed by the Opéra de Québec Corporation on November 16 the same year. The corporation’s mission was to produce professional opera performances in Quebec City.

Opéra de Québec set itself the goal of presenting two well-known operas per season, showcasing local talent as much as possible. The new company’s first production, in May 1985, was Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. It was a huge success, largely thanks to the magnificent performance of Evelyne Brunner in the title role.

Messages of support for the new initiative came pouring in from well wishers all over the world—Luciano Pavarotti, Jessye Norman, Placido Domingo, Jon Vickers, Wilhelmenia Fernandez, Pierrette Alarie, and Léopold Simoneau. For the debut performance, Opéra de Québec unveiled an avant-garde process that involved using surtitles in French. A first not only in Québec but in all francophone countries worldwide.

Since those early days under the direction of tenor and conductor Guy Bélanger, Opéra de Québec has made a concerted effort to foster and promote Quebec talent and has given many local singers their first true opportunity to stand out as professionals. Singers such as Sonia Racine, Lyne Fortin, Hélène Fortin, Agathe Martel, Odette Beaupré, Monique Pagé, Louis Langelier, Jean-François Lapointe, and Claude Robin-Pelletier, to name but a few. These upcoming stars were also able to benefit from the experience of veteran performers from Quebec and all over the world, such as Colette Boky, Joseph Rouleau, Robert Savoie, Claude Corbeil, Gaétan Laperrière, Bernard Turgeon, Yves Cantin, Pierre Charbonneau, Theodore Baerg, Brett Polegato, Jean Stilwell, Peter Strummer, Maria d’Aragnès, John Cheek, Stephen Powell, Leslie Richards, Jianyi Zhang, Audrey Stottler, John Fanning, Richard Fredricks, Kevin Glavin, Joanne Kolomyjec, Brenda Harris, Russell Braun, and many more.

A host of other big names have been associated with bringing Opéra de Québec productions to the stage, including Pierrette Alarie, Irving Guttman, Antonello Madau Diaz, Albert Millaire, Peter Symcox, Bernard Uzan, Brian MacDonald, Brian Deedrick, Serge Denoncourt, Jacques Leblanc, John Pascoe, and Louise Marleau.

The arrival of Bernard Labadie and Grégoire Legendre at the helm at the start of the 1994–1995 season marked a new era. The duo went on to expand the repertory and bring the staging methodology up to date, in a spirit of openness and respect for tradition.

With the arrival of information technology, Opéra de Québec, aware of the importance of engaging the younger generation in lyric arts, decided to make a contribution to the educational development of young people through a series of one-of-a kind activities. The first of these was an initiative to allow high schoolers in years I though V to attend general rehearsals. As a result more than 40,000 young people in the region have been introduced to opera since spring 1999. Next, the “Draw me an Opera” competition (2000 to 2004) was a novel way for elementary-school students in the Quebec City area to not only take an interest in opera but also be part of a production team and help make scenery and costumes based on their drawings. Competition winners helped stage four Opéra de Québec productions in four seasons: Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (June 2000), Humperdinck’s Hänsel und Gretel (October 2001), Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (March 2003) and Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore (March 2004).

Bernard Labadie was artistic and musical director until the end of the 2002–2003 season when Grégoire Legendre added artistic direction to his role as general manager. It was under Legendre’s leadership that the world premier of Starmania, the Opera by Luc Plamondon and Michel Berger, took place in spring 2008. Later, Robert Lepage staged a double bill with Bluebeard’s Castle by Bartok and Erwartung by Schönberg for the first time in Quebec City. In November 2009, Opéra de Québec was presented with the Ville de Québec prize at the Excellence Awards for Arts and Culture ceremony for hosting Plácido Domingo’s Operalia, The World Opera Competition in 2008. The award is given in recognition of the hard work and achievements of a professional cultural organization.

In 2011, Grégoire Legendre launched the first Festival d’opéra de Québec with a program spanning two full weeks. The Festival gave local audiences a chance to witness the Canadian premier of A Magic Flute, Peter Brook’s adaptation of the opera by Mozart, and the Québec premier of The Nightingale and Other Fables based on the opera by Stravinsky, staged by Robert Lepage. Other high-profile events were held in addition to these two exciting productions. The Festival d’opéra de Québec won the Quebec City Concert of the Year award for The Nightingale and Other Fables.

The Festival has been held ever since, featuring major productions also seen at prestigious venues including the Metropolitan Opera of New York, such as The Tempest by Thomas Adès, La damnation de Faust by Berlioz, and L’Amour de loin by Kaija Saariaho, all staged by Robert Lepage.

Opéra de Québec Productions

2023-2024: Lucie de Lammermoor /

2022-2023: Don Pasquale / Madama Butterfly

2021-2022: L’Elisir d’amore / Don Giovanni

2020-2021: Le Barbier de Séville – 29 mai 2021

2020-2021: Gala pour la Saint-Valentin “L’amour à l’opéra, ou, Les mots / maux d’amour” – 14 février 2021

2020-2021: Gala soulignant la Journée mondiale de l’opéra – 25 octobre 2020

2019-2020: La traviata / La chauve-souris (annulé en raison de la COVID-19)

2018-2019: Werther / Nabucco

2017-2018: Rigoletto / Carmen

2016-2017: Suor Angelica – Gianni Schicchi / Il barbiere di Siviglia

2015-2016: Die Zauberflöte / La bohème

2014-2015: La veuve joyeuse / Tosca

2013-2014: Madama Butterfly / Macbeth

2012-2013: La traviata / La vie parisienne

2011-2012: Eugène Onéguine / Le Gala / Falstaff

2010-2011: Il trovatore / Le Gala / La chauve-souris

2009-2010: Aida / Le Gala / Lucia di Lammermoor

2008-2009: Barbe-Bleue et Erwartung / Le Gala / Cavalleria Rusticana – Pagliacci

2007-2008: Otello / Le Gala / Starmania opéra

2006-2007: La bohème / Le Gala / Roméo et Juliette

2005-2006: Madama Butterfly / Le Gala / Carmen

2004-2005: Un ballo in maschera / Le Gala / Les contes d’Hoffmann

2003-2004: Turandot / Le Gala / L’elisir d’amore / Manon

2002-2003: La veuve joyeuse / Die Entführung auf dem Serail / Rigoletto

2001-2002: Hänsel und Gretel / Don Giovanni / Il barbiere di Siviglia

2000-2001: Norma / Tosca

1999-2000: L’Italiana in Algeri / La traviata / Projet spécial : Die Zauberflöte

1998-1999: Don Pasquale / Madama Butterfly

1997-1998: Faust / Les grandes voix du Québec / Le nozze di Figaro

1996-1997: Cenerentola / La bohème

1995-1996: Così fan tutte / Carmen

1994-1995: Mignon / La belle Hélène / Nabucco

1993-1994: Les pêcheurs de perles / Aida

1992-1993: L’elisir d’amore / La traviata

1991-1992: Die Zauberflöte/ Il barbiere di Siviglia / Tosca

1990-1991: Lucia di Lammermoor / Les contes d’Hoffmann

1989-1990: Rigoletto / Cavalleria Rusticana – Pagliacci

1988-1989: Manon / Samson et Dalila

1987-1988: Le nozze di Figaro / Faust

1986-1987: La fille du régiment / La bohème

1985-1986: Norma / Carmen

Mai 1985: Madama Butterfly

Prize named after the famous Quebec tenor, awarded as part of a singing competition with a panel of judges.

1985: Sonia Racine
1986: Lyne Fortin, ex aequo avec Hélène Fortin
1987: Jean-François Lapointe
1988: Mario Tremblay
1989: Agathe Martel
1990: Renée Lapointe
1991: Monique Pagé
1992: Annie Larouche
1993: Luce Vachon
1994: Sophie Marie Martel
1995: Guylaine Girard
1996: Marie-Hélène Couture
1997: Joane Bellavance
1998: Marie-Josée Lord
1999: Nancy Coulombe

Awarded by the Opéra de Québec Foundation as part of the Arts and Culture Excellence Awards.

1990: Performer Award: Sonia Racine / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Denis Guérette

1991: Performer Award: Université Laval School of Music / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Dominique Lemay

1992: Performer Award: Lyne Fortin / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Sylvain Doyon

1993: Performer Award: Jean-François Lapointe / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Guy Bélanger

1994: Performer Award: Renée Lapointe / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Marc Bégin

1995: Performer Award: Sonia Racine / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Louise Courville

1996: Performer Award: L’Atelier lyrique du Conservatoire / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Arthur Labrie

1997: Performer Award: Monique Pagé / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Serge Denoncourt

1998: Performer Award Guy Lavigne / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Claude Gosselin

1999: Performer Award Monique Pagé / Behind-the-Scenes Award Mario Dufour – Festival of Sacred Music

2000: Performer Award: Hélène Fortin / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Les Rhapsodes Chorus

2001: Performer Award: Gisèle Pettigrew / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Pierre Boutet

2002: Performer Award Non attribué / Behind-the-Scenes Award: Yves Cantin

Since 2003, the Foundation has awarded only one prize each year.

2003: Jacques Leblanc

2004: Agathe Martel

2005: Hélène Guilmette & Marie-Josée Lord

2006: Lyne Fortin

2007: Serge Gingras

2008: Jean-Guy Gingras

2009: Lyne Fortin

2010: Jean-Paul Cloutier

2011: La Brigade Lyrique (Young rising stars: Judith Bouchard, soprano; Priscilla Ann Tremblay, mezzo; Keven Geddes, tenor; Jonathan Bédard, baritone; and their two accompanying pianists, Jean-François Mailloux and Anne-Marie Bernard)

2012: Robert Lepage

2013: Robert Huard

2014: Réal Toupin

2015: Guy Lessard

2016: Nathalie Magnan

2017: La Relève Musicale

2018: Michel Baker