Joseph Quesnel (15 November 1746 – 2 or 3 July 1809) was a French Canadian composer, poet, and playwright. Among his works were two operas, Colas et Colinette and Lucas et Cécile; the former is considered to be the first Canadian opera.
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. On completing his education at the Collège Saint-Louis (1766) he shipped on board a man-of-war, visiting Pondicherry and Madagascar, travelling in Africa, and after three years returned to France. After resting a few months, he set out for French Guiana, and afterward visited several islands of the Antilles and explored part of Brazil. In 1779, he travelled to North America on a French vessel which was captured by the British. Quesnel was taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia and then Montreal, Quebec. He married Marie-Josephte Deslandes there and became partners in business with Maurice-Régis Blondeau, his mother-in-law's new husband.
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.
- Colas et Colinette, a vaudeville (1788)
- Lucas et Cecile, an operetta
- L'Anglomanie, a comedy in verse
- Républicans Français, a comedy in prose, afterward published in Paris
Besides several songs, he composed sacred music for the parish church of Montreal, and some motets, and wrote a short treatise on the dramatic art (1805)
- "Canadian Songs for Parlour and Stage". Carleton University. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
- Famille Quesnel de Saint-Malo
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Quesnel, Joseph". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- Contemporary Canadian Composers ed. by Keith MacMillan and John Beckwith. Toronto : Oxford University Press, 1975
- Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia
- Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
- Entry from the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada
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