Eight things you should know about Rosemarie Landry's singular career in music
The Acadian soprano is one of this year's Governor General's Performing Arts Award winners
This is part of a series of articles about the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards laureates.
The Canadian soprano Rosemarie Landry has had a career full of high notes. This week she will receive the 2023 Governor General's Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement — one more in a long list of outstanding national and international honours. For this particular citation, Landry is being recognized for her incredible contributions to classical music, but her creative career is too vast to be reduced to one line.
Born in Timmins, Ont. — her family is originally from Caraquet, N.B. — Landry has earned numerous university degrees and studied with the top voice teachers of her generation. She is an international star, having performed with countless orchestras, choirs and opera companies. She's been a dedicated voice teacher since the 1970s and has taught at multiple schools. She's even been knighted — twice!
In a French video message for the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards, Landry thanks her family, her colleagues, and the many musicians and singers of every generation with whom she's had the privilege and pleasure of experiencing the joy of music. She concludes by emphasizing her pride for her Acadian cultural heritage: "As a Canadian and an Acadian, I say, 'Thank you.'"
In honour of Landry's latest achievement, here are a few remarkable things about her life and career.
In 1976, Landry won the coveted CBC Talent Competition, which was broadcast live on national television across Canada. While the prize may have been her first major public recognition, it came after decades of practice and honing her voice skills. Landry holds three university degrees, as well as three honorary doctorates. In addition to her pedagogical prowess, she studied voice throughout the 1960s and '70s under the notable baritone Bernard Diamant, the tenor Jean-Paul Jeannotte and the Parisian baryton-martin Pierre Bernac.
Before hitting the world stage, she played Mrs. Gobineau in a CBC telecast. In 1978, Landry's first major operatic role was in a telecast of COMUS Music Theatre's production of Gian Carlo Menotti's The Medium, a story of fake seances, supernatural occurrences and madness. The same year she also played Mélisande in Stuart Hamilton's Pelléas et Mélisande, a five-act opera by Claude Debussy in which a love triangle forms between Mélisande, her prince and his younger half-brother. Opera is, after all, the original soap.
Landry performed with Québécois contralto Maureen Forrester in 1985 in Edmonton for the Bach tercentenary. In this short, behind-the-scenes clip, the Canadian operatic all-stars are captured kidding around during rehearsal, dispelling the notion that orchestra music is all work and no play.
Since 1997, Landry has been a faculty member at the Université de Montréal music school. After her first teaching stint at the University of Toronto, which began in 1979, Landry went on to teach numerous master classes, including at the prestigious Princeton University. Voice coaching has been a central part of her practice throughout her professional career, assuring her legacy as both a gifted singer and a prolific mentor.
While teaching at the University of Toronto, Landry was concerned that schools were not offering young singers proper professional skills. To remediate this situation, she created a course entitled "Business of Singing" in which emerging singers could learn the basics of the industry, including finding an agent, preparing for an audition and planning a photo session, so they could become better promoters of their careers in an increasingly competitive market.
Landry has always been a proud Acadian singer. Despite her international reputation and frequent travels, Landry regularly appeared on local stages, television and radio in the Atlantic provinces. Notably, she performed a duet with actress and musician Marie-Jo Thério at the 1994 National Acadian Day in Moncton, N.B., singing Évangéline by Michel Conte, a song about the deportation of the Acadians by the British between 1755 and 1763.
After receiving both the Order of Canada and the Queen Elizabeth II Ruby Jubilee Medal in 1990, the singer was given top honours across the ocean in 1995 when she was named a knight (chevalier) of the Order of Arts and Letters in France. She was also named, in 1997, to the Ordre de la Pléiade, an international award recognizing members of the Francophonie who promote the French language in their own countries and abroad, making her a knight twice over.
During a French interview celebrating her Governor General's Performing Arts Award on local Acadian Radio-Canada, Landry admits to having one item left on her bucket list: a journey by train with her husband, Fernand Doucet, between Paris and Istanbul. Despite this dream, the soprano acknowledges having travelled plenty throughout her life and says she would like to spend a little more time at home in Caraquet: "At my age, I've been able to accomplish a lot of my wishes."