Louis Quilico | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Louis Quilico

In 1954 Louis Quilico made his professional stage debut in the role of Rangoni in Boris Godunov with the Opera Guild of Montreal. He won the 'Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air' in 1955, and made his New York debut with the New York City Opera, singing Germont in La Traviata 10 Oct 1955.

Quilico, Louis

  Louis Quilico (or Quilicot). Baritone, teacher, b Montreal 14 Jan 1925 of an Italian father and a French-Canadian mother, d Toronto 15 Jul 2000; honorary doctorate (Québec) 1987. As a youth Louis Quilico was a solo chorister in the choir of St-Jacques Church in Montreal, studied singing with Frank H. Rowe and in 1947 won a prize in a competition organized by the St-Jean-Baptiste Society. At the urging of the pianist and vocal coach Lina Pizzolongo (who became his wife in 1949; d 1991), he continued his studies 1947-8 at the Conservatory Santa Cecilia in Rome with Teresa Pediconi and the famous baritone Riccardo Stracciari. On his return to Montreal he worked 1948-52 with Pizzolongo and Martial Singher at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal and sang supporting roles at the Variétés lyriques in The Barber of Seville (1949) and La Traviata (1951). With the aid of a scholarship from Mannes College, New York, he studied voice there 1952-5 with Singher, staging with Ralph Herbert and Désiré Defrère and repertoire with Emil Cooper. He obtained first prize in the radio competitions 'Nos futures étoiles' and 'Singing Stars of Tomorrow' in 1953, and went on a 1953-4 Jeunesses musicales of Canada (Youth and Music Canada) tour with the mezzo-soprano Rolande Garnier. He also participated in the CBC TV programs 'Music Hall,' 'Serenade for Strings' and 'Silhouette.'

In 1954 Louis Quilico made his professional stage debut in the role of Rangoni in Boris Godunov with the Opera Guild of Montreal. He won the 'Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air' in 1955, and made his New York debut with the New York City Opera, singing Germont in La Traviata 10 Oct 1955. In 1957 he sang the title role in excerpts from Wozzeck in the CBC TV program 'L'Heure du concert' and was Masetto in Don Giovanni for the Montreal Festivals. The following year he sang in the North American premiere of Nicolas Nabokov's Symboli Chrestiani with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO). At the 1959 Spoleto Festival in Italy he sang the title role in Donizetti's Il Duca d'Alba. Andrew Porter, writing in Opera, September 1959, described Quilico as having a 'very fine voice somewhat reminiscent of Gobbi's in its richness of colouring.' Quilico received a grant from the Canada Council in 1960. He made his Covent Garden debut that year opposite Joan Sutherland as Germont in La Traviata and was a member of that company 1960-3. He sang Rigoletto in his debut at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, in 1962. In 1963 Quilico made his Paris Opera debut as Rodrigo in Don Carlos and, at the inauguration of the ORTF auditorium, participated in the premiere of Milhaud's oratorio Pacem in terris under Charles Munch. He was a member of the cast for the premiere (Geneva 1966) of the opera La Mère coupable by the same composer.

In Canada, Louis Quilico appeared twice at the Stratford Festival - in a solo recital in 1967 and in arias and duets with Lois Marshall in 1970. He gave several recitals at Expo 67 and was Iago opposite Jon Vickers and Teresa Stratas in Otello in the lavish World Festival stage performances with the MSO at Place des Arts. He sang Creon opposite Ernst Haefliger and Marilyn Horne in a Massey Hall performance of Oedipus Rex with the Toronto Symphony 17 May 1967 conducted by Robert Craft, with Stravinsky present. The same year he also appeared as Rigoletto with the Vancouver Opera, and sang in Messiah with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. In January 1968 he participated in a concert performance of Verdi's Alzira with the American Opera Society at Carnegie Hall.

Besides appearing regularly, beginning in the 1960s, with the Vienna Opera, the Teatro Colón of Buenos Aires, the Teatro Massimo of Palermo, the Rome Opera and the Paris Opera, Louis Quilico performed frequently with the Canadian Opera Company (COC) (Iago in Otello 1960, the title role in Rigoletto 1962, 1969, 1973, and 1978, Germont in La Traviata 1966 and 1970, the title role in Macbeth 1966 and 1971, Amonasro in Aida 1968, Scarpia in Tosca 1968 and 1972, Enrico Ashton in Lucia di Lammermoor 1971, Michele in Il Tabarro 1975, and the title role in Simon Boccanegra 1979) and with the Opéra du Québec (the High Priest in Samson et Dalila 1971, Germont 1972, Tonio in I Pagliacci 1973, and the title role in Falstaff 1974). In 1969 he sang Scarpia at the Bolshoi Theatre and in Leningrad, Bucharest and Budapest. In February 1972 for the Metropolitan Opera he replaced at short notice the regular Golaud (Thomas Stewart) in Pelléas et Mélisande, and on 1 Jan 1973 he made his official debut there as Germont, performing subsequently in Rigoletto, as Choroebus in The Trojans, and as Amonasro in Aida. He also sang Macbeth on CBC TV in 1973. During the 1974-5 season, he performed in various centres, including Covent Garden (La Traviata), San Francisco (Luisa Miller), Hartford (La Forza del Destino), New Orleans (Il Tabarro and I Pagliacci) and Baltimore (Tosca). For Festival Ottawa at the National Arts Centre he sang Germont (1978) and Pandolphe in Massenet's Cendrillon (1979). In 1979 he was the star of the CBC TV program 'Portrait de Louis Quilico.' With the COC and the Metropolitan Opera, he participated in performances opposite his son Gino, notably in Don Giovanni, Manon, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Simon Boccanegra and Falstaff. Their joint performance in Don Giovanni (1987) is notable as the first father-son performance at the Met.


Louis Quilico also was active as a teacher. He taught 1970-87 at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, McGill University 1987-90; the Royal Conservatory of Music; and the Philadelphia Academy of Vocal Arts 1995-2000. His pupils included Peter Barcza, John Dodington, Avo Kittask, Roelof Oostwoud, Janis Orenstein, his son Gino Quilico, and Gary Relyea.

Later Career

Following a concert at the Montreal Forum with the MSO, Gilles Potvin wrote: 'Completely relaxed and in remarkable form, Quilico dominated the concert, giving stirring performances of two excerpts from Verdi, the great scene of Rodrigo's death from Don Carlo ... and the sombre ''Eri tu'' from Un ballo in maschera ... Quilico's voice, through its power, extremely smooth timbre and evenness of register, is a continual source of wonder and delight ... Here is an artist at the height of his career, an artist whose name for a long time now has been written large in the history of singing in Quebec' (Montreal Le Devoir, 22 Jan 1976). In November 1991 Louis Quilico again sang the title role of Rigoletto at the Opéra de Montréal. Two months earlier, he had triumphed in the role of Tony in a new production of the lyric drama The Most Happy Fella presented by the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center.

Louis Quilico married the pianist Christina Petrowska 30 Nov 1993 in Toronto and embarked on a new phase of his career. As a duo, the couple presented arias and art songs in recitals, benefit concerts, master classes, broadcasts and recordings. Quilico also continued his solo operatic career, performing Rigoletto for the last time in Ottawa in September 1994 with Opera Lyra (his 510th performance of the role), and was often heard in recital singing such repertoire as Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer, which he performed for the Boris Brott Summer Music Festival 1993 in Toronto.

Louis Quilico's appearances at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1990s included several of I Pagliacci, as well as Rigoletto (1991-2), Tosca (1994-5) and others. He celebrated his 25th year at the Metropolitan Opera in 1996-7, and retired from that company in 1998. Analekta issued the CD Mr. Rigoletto: My Life in Music to commemorate the baritone's 75th birthday.

Louis Quilico was awarded the 1965 Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée and was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1974. He received the Canadian Music Council medal in 1985. The municipality of St-Léonard (Montreal) named a street in his honour. In 1996 he was presented with the keys to the city of Sarasota, Florida. In 1999 he received a Governor General's Performing Arts Award, a Spirit of Song Bronze sculpture and was honoured at an event organized by the International Resource Centre for Performing Artists. His last live performance was 15 Apr 2000 at a concert held by the Centro Culturale Italiano del Quebec in St-Léonard, Que. His archives were deposited at the National Library of Canada.

In a career stretching over 45 years Louis Quilico played at least 80 roles. He was nicknamed 'Mr. Rigoletto' not only for the frequency with which he performed that role, but also for the accolades he received for his other Verdi interpretations. Ezra Schabas, in New Grove (2nd ed.), assessed Quilico as having "a clear and ringing dramatic voice, particularly well suited to Verdi." Urdo Kareda called him simply Canada's "greatest Verdi singer" (Opera Canada winter 2001).

See Lina Quilico (his first wife), Christina Petrowska-Quilico (his second wife) and Gino Quilico (his son).

See also The Canadian Encyclopedia.


Adestes Fideles. Toronto Children's Chorus, Bartle dir, Loman harp, L. Quilico, G. Quilico. 1992. SMCD 5119

Bellini I Puritani. Guadagno conductor, Quilico (Riccardo). 1972. 3-Historical Recording Enterprises HRE 311-3

- I Puritani. London Phil O, Rudel conductor, Quilico (Riccardo). 1973. 3-Audio Treasury ABC ATS 20016/3-Angel AVC-34013

Chants français et russes. Petrowska piano. 1998. Welspringe Productions WELCD002-98

Darwin - Song for a City: Verdi Rigoletto 'Cortigiani.' Royal Phil O, Bonynge conductor. 1975. Decca SXL.6719

Donizetti Il Duca d'Alba. O and Ch of the Teatro G. Verdi di Trieste, Schippers conductor, Quilico (Duca). 1959. 2-Melodram 002

- Gemma di Vergy. New York Opera O, Schola Cantorum, Queler conductor. 1977. 3-Col Master M3-34575/3-CBS Master 79-303

- Maria Stuarda. London Phil O, John Alldis Choir, Ceccato conductor. 1971. 3-Audio Treasury ABC ATS 20010/3-Angel AVC-34032/(selections) Angel AV-34015

- Parisina d'Este. New York Opera O, Schola catorum, Queler conductor, Quilico (Azzo). 1974. 3-MRF 107-S/3-BJR BJRS-134-3

- Roberto Devereux. Rudel conductor, Quilico (Nottingham). 1970. 3-Historical Recording Enterprises HRE-374-3/2-Giuseppe di Stefano GDS-21029 (CD)

- Roberto Devereux (selections). London Phil O. Angel AV-34015

Dubois Les Sept paroles du Christ. Duchesneau soprano, Turp tenor, Ch de Montréal, Renaud conductor, Lagacé organ. 1960. Apex ALF-71700

Gluck Iphigénie en Tauride (selections). René Duclos Ch, Cons de Paris O, Prêtre conductor. 1961. Angel S-35632/EMI ASDF-231 (CD)

Great Verdi Arias. Edmonton SO, Mayer conductor. 1984. CBC SM-5043/RCI 609

Handel Hercules. Vienna Radio O, Vienna Academy Chorus, Priestman conductor, Quilico (Hercules). 1967. 3-RCA Victor Red Seal LSC 6181

Massenet Esclarmonde. National Phil O, John Alldis Choir, Bonynge conductor, Quilico (The Bishop). 1975. 3-Lon OSA-13118/Decca 425-651-2 (CD).

- Thérèse. New Philharmonia O, Linden Singers, Bonynge conductor, Quilico (André Thorel). 1973. Lon AOSA 1165

Milhaud Pacem in terris. Utah Symphony, University Choir, Abravanel conductor. 1964. Vanguard 71134

Monteverdi - Smith - Morawetz - Vaughan Williams - Cadoret - et al. Newmark piano. 1967. CBC Expo 22

Mr. Rigoletto: My life in music. 2000. Analekta FL-23143

The Most Happy Fella. National Symphony Orchestra, John Owen Edwards conductor, et al. 2000. CDTER3 1260 TER

Opera Gala: Campra 'Quittez vos fers, goütez un sort plus glorieux.' from Tancrède. Provincial Instr Ens. 1973. DG 2538 244

Pacini Saffo. Teatro San Carlo of Naples O and Ch, Capuana conductor, Quilico (Alcandro). 1967. 2-Hunt HUNTCD-541

Puccini Tosca. Lorange soprano, Aragall tenor, Bisson bar, New Philharmonia O, Guadagno conductor, Quilico (Scarpia). 1978. 2-Safiro SA ZOR-1011

Recordi d'Italia: Italian songs. Claudio Vena O and Ch, Vena conductor. 1991. Analekta AN-2299101 (CD)

Two of a kind. Petrowska piano. 1996. York Fine Arts YFA 001 95

Verdi Aida (extracts). Royal Opera House O, Pritchard conductor. 1963. Lon OS-25798

- Luisa Miller (selections). Kobos conductor, Quilico (Miller). 1974. Unique Opera UORC-239

- Rigoletto. Rudel conductor. 1973. 2-Robin Hood RHRS-513-B

- Il Trovatore. (excerpts). Lamoureux O, Raymond Saint-Paul Chorus, Fournet conductor. 1966, Quilico (The Count). 1966. Philips 837.469

Vocal Gems: Live from New York March 30, 1998. Petrowska-Quilico piano. 2002. Welspringe WEL0006


'Something to hear,' Time, 23 Oct 1964

Stevenson, Florence. 'Return of the native,' Opera News, vol 31, 13 May 1967

Ashley, Audrey. 'Except for his income tax life is sweet for the singer,' Montreal Gazette, 22 Jul 1978

Roewade, Svend. 'Louis Quilico... a man of many parts,' Performance, Sep-Oct 1978

Moisan, Daniel. 'Louis Quilico après 183 opéras,' Aria, vol 2, Summer 1979

Roewade, Svend. 'Opera is the Quilico family business,' Music Magazine, Oct 1979

Michaud, Marie-Andrée and Maurice Tourigny, 'Louis Quilico,' Opera Canada, vol 24, Mar 1983

Lipton, Gary D. 'Like father, like son: the family Quilico now boasts two baritones,' Opera News, 47, 26 Mar 1983

Schupp, Patrick. 'Louis chantera enfin Macbeth à Montréal,' SonHiFi, 26, 1983

Gingras, Claude. 'Un rôle qui me fait pleurer,' Montreal La Presse, 19 May 1984

Kaptainis, Arthur. 'Still singing after all these years,' Montreal Gazette, 28 Mar 1987

Hambleton, Ronald. 'The Quilicos make Met history,' Opera Canada, vol 29, Spring 1988

Méthot, Ève. 'Quilico, le maître de musique,' Châtelaine, Aug 1989

Mercer, Ruby. The Quilicos (Oakville, Ont 1991)

Petrowska, Christina. Mr. Rigoletto: In conversation with Louis Quilico. (North York, Ont, 1996, revised 1999)

Chan, Wah Keung. "Second debut: Louis Quilico, 73, is going strong," La Scena Musicale, Sept 1998

"Tribute: Louis Quilico," Opera Canada winter 2000

Petrowska, Christina. "Quilico's nine laws," La Scena Musicale, Dec 2000-Jan 2001

Creative Canada, vol 2 (Toronto 1972)

Sadie, Stanley, and Tyrrell, J., eds. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London 2001, 2nd ed.)


Leoncavallo I Pagliacci. Orch de Radio-Canada, Mueller cond. 1955. 69203 VAI

Verdi Un Ballo in Maschera. Metropolitan Opera O and Ch, Patane conductor. 1980. Home Vision BALO-4/Paramount 2363/Pioneer Artists 84089

- Don Carlos. Metropolitan Opera O and Ch, Levine conductor. (1983). Home Vision DONO-3/Paramount 2363/Pioneer Artists 84075

The voice lesson, masterclass by Louis Quilico. Petrowska piano, Jim Fisher director. York Univ Faculty of Fine Arts. 1995. YFA 00897