Pierrette Alarie

 Pierrette (Marguerite) Alarie. Soprano, teacher, b Montreal 9 Nov 1921, d Victoria 10 Jul 2011. The daughter of Sylva Alarie, the Montreal choirmaster and assistant conductor of the Société canadienne d'opérette, and the soprano and actress Amanda Alarie (b Plante), she studied voice and acting with Jeanne Maubourg and Albert Roberval and made her debut on radio at 14, first as an actress, then as a singer of popular music. While studying voice 1940 with Salvator Issaurel she met the tenor Léopold Simoneau, and in 1946 she married him. She made her debut (1938) at the Monument national with the Variétés lyriques in a supporting role in The White Horse Inn. She sang Barbarina in The Marriage of Figaro (1943) under Sir Thomas Beecham who at that time was living in Montreal, Marie in La Fille du régiment (1945), the title role in Mireille (1947), Rosina in The Barber of Seville (1949), and Violetta in La Traviata (1951). On a scholarship to the Curtis Institute, Philadelphia, she studied 1943-6 with Elisabeth Schumann.

Alarie won the 'Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air' in 1945 and made her Metropolitan Opera debut 8 Dec 1945 as Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera under Bruno Walter; in January she sang Olympia in The Tales of Hoffmann with Raoul Jobin, conducted by Wilfrid Pelletier. She spent three seasons (1945-7) with that company, and in 1949 with her husband she was engaged by the Opéra-Comique in Paris and sang there the title roles of such works as Lakmé and Lucia di Lammermoor and Olympia and Rosina. As a team Simoneau and Alarie gained celebrity in both Europe and North America, appearing at a number of festivals, including that at Aix-en-Provence, where both performed a variety of roles and where Alarie in 1953 premiered two concert arias, Chanson and Romance du Comte Olinos, written for her by Werner Egk. She also appeared at the Edinburgh, Glyndebourne, Vienna, Munich, Baden-Baden, and Würzburg festivals and in 1959 sang Isotta in Richard Strauss' Die schweigsame Frau at Salzburg, conducted by Karl Böhm.

Alarie also had an important career in North America, appearing in opera with companies in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New Orleans, New York, Vancouver, and Toronto, and in recital, alone, in duo with her husband, and in the Bel Canto Trio with Simoneau and the baritone Theodor Uppman. In 1961 her recording of Mozart concert arias and duos, made with Simoneau, won the Grand prix du disque de l'Académie Charles-Cros, Paris. She starred in CBC radio and TV productions, including those of Arthur Benjamin'sPrima Donna (1956), Gounod's Mireille (1957), Offenbach's La Grand Duchesse de Gérolstein (1958), Ravel's L'Heure espagnole (1959), J Sauguet's Les Caprices de Marianne (1959), Poulenc's La Voix humaine (North American premiere, 1959), Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice (1961), Offenbach's La Vie parisienne (1963), Rameau's Les Fêtes d'Hébé (1964), and The Abduction from the Seraglio (1967). For the Montreal Festivals she sang Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro (1956) and Constanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio (1960), a role which she had sung with the COC in 1957. With the Opera Guild of Montreal, she sang Blonda in The Abduction from the Seraglio in 1947, Juliette in Roméo et Juliette in 1961, and Zerlina in Don Giovanni in 1964. Her last stage role was The Merry Widow (1966) in Quebec City and Montreal with the Théâtre lyrique de Nouvelle-France. Her farewell concert appearance (with Léopold Simoneau) was in Handel's Messiah with the MSO, 24 Nov 1970. During the 1960s she taught at the École Vincent-d'Indy. In 1972 she moved with her husband and two daughters to California where she taught and staged opera in San Francisco until 1982. She then settled in Victoria, BC, where she founded and directed the Canada Opera Piccola with her husband. She also taught 1972-7 at the Banff SFA (Banff CA).

In the course of a 32-year career, Pierrette Alarie was eulogized by the international press. Her name ranked high among the most celebrated singers from Quebec who preceded her - Albani, La Palme, Edvina, and Donalda. An accomplished musician and talented actress, she established her command of the light and the lyric soprano repertoires before undertaking more dramatic assignments. On stage, as in concert, her crystalline voice, admirably produced, easily focused, and of great flexibility, was a constant joy to the most exacting critics and music lovers. She and Simoneau were the first recipients of the Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée in 1959, and in 1967 she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1983 the CCA awarded her its Diplôme d'honneur and in 1990 she was named a Chevalière of the Ordre des arts et des lettres de France.

Discography

Airs d'opéras français. Bizet - Gounod - Delibes. O des Concerts Lamoureux, Dervaux conductor. 1953. Philips N-00663R

Couperin Trois Leçons de ténèbres. Retchitzka soprano, Recassens violoncello, Geoffroy-Dechaume organ. 1954. Ducretet-Thomson London DTL-93077

Debussy Songs. A. Rogers piano. 1956. West XWN -18778/(selections) West WGM-8316

Falla Psyché. Jamet Quin. 1959. Ducretet-Thomson 260-C-088

Fauré Requiem. Chorale Élisabeth Brasseur, Lamoureux O, Fournet conductor. 1953. Philips A00669R/Philips ABR-4012/Epic LC-3044/Fontana 6554.037

Mozart Arias. Théâtre des Champs-Élysées O, Jouve conductor. 1955. Ducretet-Thomson 270-C-087, Ducretet-Thomson London DTL-93089/(selections) Sel SC-12.017

- Exsultate, jubilate - Vivaldi Gloria. Ens vocal de Paris, Paris Cons O, Jouve conductor, T. Cahn contralto.1952. Ducretet-Thomson LPG-8556/(Mozart) Ducretet-Thomson London DTL-93089/(Vivaldi) Ducretet-Thomson London DTL-939080/West WL-5287

Music at the Canadian Pavilion: Haydn - Strauss - Papineau-Couture. Newmark piano. 1967. CBC Expo-32

Papineau-Couture Quatrains - Pépin Cycle-Eluard - Beckwith Five Lyrics of the T'ang Dynasty. Newmark piano. (1958). RCI 148/(Papineau-Couture) 6-ACM 4/(Pépin) 4-ACM 5/(Beckwith) 5-ACM 26

Ravel Songs. A. Rogers piano. 1956. West XWN-18789/(selections) West WGM-8316

Strauss, R. Die Schweigsame Frau. Salzburg Festival O and Chor, Böhm conductor, Alarie (Isotta). 1959. 3-Opera Disc 1000-1002

Verdi Un Ballo in Maschera. Metropolitan Opera, Walter conductor, Alarie (Oscar). 1945. Classic

For recordings made with Simoneau see Discography for Simoneau II.