Bernard Turgeon | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Bernard Turgeon

Bernard (Joseph Roméo Vianney) Turgeon. Baritone, teacher, administrator, b Edmonton 20 Oct 1931. He began his musical training in Edmonton with his mother and continued with Jean Létourneau.
Bernard Turgeon as Louis Riel in the opera, Louis Riel (1967).\r\n

Bernard (Joseph Roméo Vianney) Turgeon. Baritone, teacher, administrator, b Edmonton 20 Oct 1931. He began his musical training in Edmonton with his mother and continued with Jean Létourneau. He studied 1951-5 at the Royal Conservatory of Music with George Lambert and Ernesto Vinci, 1959-60 in Vienna with Ferdinand Grossmann, Heinrich Schmidt, and Helmut Froschauer, and 1960-3 in London with Walter Jensch. He appeared in several Royal Conservatory Opera School (University of Toronto Opera Division) productions 1951-5 and in 1955 won the top men's award in CBC's 'Singing Stars of Tomorrow.'

As Performer

Turgeon began singing with the Canadian Opera Company (COC) in 1952, appeared 1960-3 with Sadler's Wells, and, also during the 1960s, performed with the Edmonton, Pittsburgh, and San Diego opera companies. He sang with the Welsh National Opera in 1962, the Vancouver Opera in 1964, 1965, and 1979, and the Opéra du Québec in 1973. In the course of these engagements he developed a repertoire of operatic roles that included Amonasro in Aida, Bartolo in The Barber of Seville, Conochar in Deirdre, the Father in Hansel and Gretel, Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Masetto in Don Giovanni, Maurizio in The School for Fathers, Papageno in The Magic Flute, Marcello and Schaunard in La Bohème, and Tonio in I Pagliacci. Turgeon was Scarpia in an Opéra du Québec production of Tosca (1992), and played secondary roles in productions of Tosca by Pacific Opera Victoria (1997) and Calgary Opera (1998).

He sang at festivals in Stratford, Ont, in 1956 and 1965, Vancouver in 1958, 1962, and 1964, Edinburgh and Glyndebourne in 1960, and Colorado in 1967. He performed in recital and concert throughout Canada and toured the USSR in 1971, 1972, and 1976. As a concert soloist he appeared with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and others.

Perhaps Turgeon's most distinctive achievement was the creation of the title role in the COC production of Somers' Louis Riel. So close was his identification with the role that he was re-engaged for the revivals of the opera in 1968 and 1975 and for CBC-TV's production in 1969. Following the premiere, John Kraglund wrote: 'Both words and music were impressively served by Bernard Turgeon in the title role, for he appeared to be completely bilingual. In his dramatic interpretation he brought out the contradictory aspects of Riel's character, a curious blend of mysticism, realism, warm simplicity, patriotism and madness. And in musical terms he ranged from impassioned declamation in political arguments to ecstatic lyricism in his vision of himself as the reincarnation of David and his exchange with his mother and sister' (Toronto Globe and Mail, 25 Sep 1967).

As Teacher and Administrator

Turgeon was head of the voice and opera departments at the University of Alberta 1967-75 and the Banff Centre School of Fine Arts 1970-8. In 1978 he became head of the voice and opera division of the School of Music at the University of Victoria. In 1989 he moved to Montreal to take up a similar post with the McGill Opera Studio. In 2001 Turgeon was a member of the Faculty of Music at McGill, and in 2003 was on the faculty, alongside Stuart Hamilton, of the Okanagan Vocal Arts Festival.


Beethoven Elegischer Gesang. Orford Str Quar. 1970. CBC SM-147

Gilbert & Sullivan Trial by Jury. Glyndebourne Festival Chor, Pro Arte Orch, Sargent conductor, Turgeon (Foreman). 1960. Angel S-35966/EMI-CDS7-47779-8 (CD)

Hutchinson - Mussorgsky - et al. Brough piano. 1967. CBC Expo 27

Mussorgsky - Franck - Duparc - Ravel: songs. Helmer piano. 1970. CBC SM-121

Somers Louis Riel. COC Chor, NACO, Feldbrill conductor, Turgeon (Riel). 1975. 3-Centrediscs CMC-24-25-2685

Further Reading