Opera Scotland

Joseph Rouleau Suggest updates

Joseph Alfred Pierre Rouleau.

Born Matane, Quebec, 28 February 1929.

Died Montreal, 12 July 2019.

Canadian bass.

Officer of the Order of Canada 1977 (Companion 2010).

Officer of the National Order of Quebec 1999 (Grand Officer 2004).

Early years

Joseph Rouleau studied singing in Montreal with Pauline Donalda and Martial Singher, then in Milan with Mario Basiola.  He sang Philip in Montreal (1955) and quickly made his US debut in New Orleans.

Rouleau took up a contract at Covent Garden the following year. 

Other houses in which he worked include the Paris Opéra, the Liceu in Barcelona and the Bolshoi in Moscow, where he sang Méphistophélès in Faust and Philip in Don Carlos.  He toured the USSR on three occasions.  At Wexford he sang the General in The Gambler (Prokofiev).  Another important French role he performed was the title part in Don Quichotte (Marseille 1970).  Rouleau also created the role of Bishop Tache in Louis Riel by Somers (Toronto 1967).

Royal Opera

Rouleau continued to sing with the Royal Opera almost annually over the next thirty years, giving over 1000 performances, in a range of 49 operas.  He was always an imposing figure on stage, highly effective in parts such as the Commendatore and Grand Inquisitor.  His debut at Covent Garden was as Colline (1957), and his repertoire there included Mozart (Commendatore);  Rossini (Don Basilio);  Donizetti (Raimondo);  Bellini (Rodolfo La sonnambula, Oroveso);  Berlioz (Pope Benvenuto Cellini);  Musorgsky (Boris Godunov, Dosifei);  Verdi (Banquo, Sparafucile, Ramfis, Lodovico, both Philip and the Inquisitor in Don Carlos);  Puccini (Colline, Timur).  He sang the Inquisitor when the company visited Berlin in 1970.

He worked frequently with Joan Sutherland, first in the Visconti staging of La Sonnambula at Covent Garden (1960) then in Lucia at Paris.  The 1965-6 season included an extensive tour of Australia.  Other members of the famous Sutherland-Williamson company included Luciano Pavarotti, Alberto Remedios and Spiro Malas.

Scottish Opera

Rouleau first sang with Scottish Opera in its opening 1962 season, as Arkel, a part he repeated several times thereafter.  Over a period of seventeen years, he returned regularly as Méphistophélès, Boris Godunov, Narbal, the Commendatore, Lodovico and Pogner, making his last appearances once more as Arkel.

Edinburgh International Festival

With the London Sinfonietta he sang in Stravinsky's Renard at the 1969 Edinburgh Festival, repeating the part on tour with the London Sinfonietta in 1974, though perhaps not in Scotland.


Of his recordings, perhaps two are especially worthy of note.  He sings Assur on the Semiramide set made with Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne in 1966 (Decca).

And when in 1976 the BBC made the first recording of the original version of Don Carlos in French, Rouleau sang Philippe. That recording was made available on CD from Opera Rara and Ponto.

Roles in Scotland

Raimondo Bide the Bent, the Ashtons' chaplain
Lucia di Lammermoor 1961
Arkel King of Allemonde, grandfather of Golaud and Pelléas
Pelléas and Mélisande 1962
Pelléas and Mélisande 1972
Pelléas and Mélisande 1973
Pelléas and Mélisande 1978
Méphistophélès the devil
Faust 1964
Boris Godunov Tsar of Russia
Boris Godunov 1968
Narbal adviser to Dido
Trojans 1969
Trojans 1972
Ghost of Hector Priam's eldest son
Trojans 1969
Trojans 1972
Singer 4
Renard 1969
Commendatore an elderly aristocrat
Don Giovanni 1970
Lodovico envoy of the Venetian republic
Otello 1972
Veit Pogner a goldsmith
Mastersingers of Nuremberg 1977

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