Joseph Quesnel

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A painting of Joseph Quesnel, ca 1808 – 1809, by Gerritt Schipper. Collection du Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges

Joseph Quesnel (15 November 1746 – 2 or 3 July 1809) was a French Canadian composer, poet, playwright and slave-trader. Among his works were two operas, Colas et Colinette and Lucas et Cécile; the former is considered to be the first Canadian opera.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Quesnel was born in Saint-Malo, France, the third child of Isaac Quesnel de La Rivaudais (1712-1779), a prosperous merchant, and his wife Pélagie-Jeanne-Marguerite Duguen.[3] He studied at the Collège Saint-Louis (1766).

Life and career[edit]

Quesnel joined the French merchant marine and sailed to Pondicherry and Madagascar, travelled in Africa, and the Caribbean.[4] He engaged in the Atlantic slave trade. In 1768, as a second-lieutenant on board the Mesny, he sailed to Cabinda (modern-day Angola) where 514 "Blacks of all ages" were purchased and taken to modern-day Haiti where they were sold, according to French archival sources quoted in a novel about him.[5] He carried with him his violin and read the works of French playwrights.[6]

In 1779, Quesnel sailed for New York in command of a French warship which was captured by the British.[7] Quesnel was taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia and allowed to settle in Boucherville, near Montreal, Quebec.[3][8][6] He married Marie-Josephte Deslandes there and became partners in business with Maurice-Régis Blondeau, his mother-in-law's new husband. He became wealthy by trading in slaves.[9][10]

Quesnel published a number of theatrical works, including Colas et Colinette, which was written in 1788 and first performed in 1790,[7] and Lucas et Cecile;[11][12] he also wrote poetry; his best known poem was titled "L'Épître à M. Labadie".[13]

Besides several songs, he composed sacred music for the parish church of Montreal,[6] and some motets, and wrote a short treatise on the dramatic art (1805). He founded and was part of the troupe of Montreal's Théàtre de Societé.[14][15][8]

He died of pleurisy at Montreal in 1809 several months after he had dived into the Saint Lawrence River to save a drowning child.[16]

Quesnel was the subject of the comic opera Le Père des amours, written by Eugène Lapierre in 1942.

Family[edit]

Quesnel's son Jules Maurice Quesnel travelled with Simon Fraser on his journey to the Pacific Ocean; the town of Quesnel, British Columbia is named for him. Another son Frédéric-Auguste became a lawyer and politician; his daughter Mélanie married lawyer Côme-Séraphin Cherrier.

Works[edit]

  • Colas et Colinette, a vaudeville (1788)
  • Lucas et Cecile, an operetta
  • L'Anglomanie, a comedy in verse[17]
  • Les Républicains Français, a comedy in prose, afterward published in Paris
  • "L'Épître à M. Labadie" - poem

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Canadian Songs for Parlour and Stage". Carleton University. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
  2. ^ Helmut Kallmann (25 May 2013). Mapping Canada’s Music: Selected Writings of Helmut Kallmann. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press. pp. 50–59. ISBN 978-1-55458-892-3.
  3. ^ a b Leonard E. Doucette (1984). Theatre in French Canada: laying the foundations, 1606-1867. University of Toronto Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-8020-5579-8.
  4. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Quesnel, Joseph" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
  5. ^ Arseneault, Michel (2012). Méfiez-vous des poètes. Montreal: Fidès. pp. 32, 44, 74. ISBN 978-2-7621-3120-8.
  6. ^ a b c William White (1890). Canadiana. 2. Gazette Print Company. p. 22.
  7. ^ a b The Sonneck Society Bulletin. The Society. 1993. p. 58.
  8. ^ a b MusiCanada. Issues 17-29. The Centre. 1969. p. 18.
  9. ^ University of Ottawa. Centre de recherche en civilisation canadienne-française (1970). Bulletin du Centre de recherche en civilisation canadienne-française, Université d'Ottawa. Centre de recherche en civilisation canadienne-française, Université d'Ottawa. pp. 22, 59.
  10. ^ Frank Mackey (1 February 2010). Done with Slavery: The Black Fact in Montreal, 1760-1840. MQUP. pp. 439, 539. ISBN 978-0-7735-8311-5.
  11. ^ Maurice Lemire (1991). La vie littéraire au Québec: 1806-1839 : le projet national des Canadiens. Presses Université Laval. p. 351. ISBN 978-2-7637-7282-0.
  12. ^ Opera Canada. 9–11. Canadian Opera Association. 1968. pp. 32, 79.
  13. ^ Robin Elliott; Gordon E. Smith (19 April 2010). Music Traditions, Cultures, and Contexts. Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press. p. 230. ISBN 978-1-55458-199-3.
  14. ^ Daniel Mendoza de Arce (2006). Music in North America and the West Indies from the Discovery to 1850: A Historical Survey. Scarecrow Press. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-8108-5252-5.
  15. ^ Guy Beaulne (1976). Le Théâtre canadien-français: évolution, témoignages, bibliographie. Fides. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-0-7755-0583-2.
  16. ^ Contemporary Canadian Composers ed. by Keith MacMillan and John Beckwith. Toronto : Oxford University Press, 1975
  17. ^ Littérature canadienne (1848). Le répertoire national ou recueil de littérature canadienne, compilé et publ. par J. Huston. pp. 7–8.

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