Catherine Robbin mezzosopran
Bach Cantatas In English
Born: September 28, 1950 – Toronto, Canada
The Canadian mezzo-soprano, Catherine Robbin, studied with Dorothy Allan Park at the RCMT, with Jacob Hamm and Phyllis Mailing in Vancouver, and with Audrey Langford in London and took master classes and private lessons with Ré Koster in Canada, the USA, and France and with Sir Peter Pears in England. Her professional debut as a singer took place in 1972 in Messiah with the St Catharines SO (Niagara Symphony). She won the Caplet Award at the 1978 Concours international de chant in Paris, a silver medal at the 1978 Geneva Concours international, and the Gold Award at the 1979 Benson & Hedges International Competition for Concert Singers.
In 1978 Catherine Robbin began to perform in a trio with John Dodington, bass, and Jane Coop (later replaced by Valerie Tryon), piano. Also in 1978 with Coop she performed Michael Colgrass’ set of songs New People for the CBC. In 1979 for JM she made the first of several tours to France and appeared at the Bordeaux Festival (in L.v. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9) and the Saint-Lizier-en-Ariège Festival. She made her New York recital debut March 1981. In 1982 she sang Dido in the Stratford Festival production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, after which John Kraglund wrote that she had ‘made sensitive use of a voice which is unquestionably the greatest, in its range, that Canada has produced in several decades’ (Toronto Globe and Mail, July 7, 1982). She performed several times at the Baldwin-Wallace College Bach Festival (1988, 1997, 1999).
Catherine Robbin has performed in recital and in oratorios and concerts with major Canadian orchestras and choirs. She also has sung with the Boston Sympgony Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the English Baroque Soloists, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, among others. She has been heard on the BBC, the CBC, and Radio France, and has performed extensively throught North America and Europe.
Although she has preferred oratorio and concert work, Catherine Robbin has performed such operatic roles as Frédéric in Mignon (1976, for Stuart Hamilton’s Opera in Concert series), Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia (1979, Aldeburgh, England), the title role in Mignon (1984, Opera in Concert), and Olga in Eugene Onegin (1984, Lyons Opera). She has sung many George Frideric Handel opera roles, including Cleone in Alessandro (1985, Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall), the title role in Julius Caesar (1987, Edmonton), Medoro in Orlando (1989, Academy of Ancient Music USA tour), Bradamante in the Canadian premiere of Alcina (1990, Vancouver Opera), and the title role in the North American premiere of Floridante (1990, with Tafelmusik).
Catherine Robbin’s voice has a remarkable timbre which, through its focus, range and evenness is ideally suited to baroque music. In the early 1980’s she came to international prominence in this repertoire, collaborating with renowned specialists such as Christopher Hogwood, Trevor Pinnock, and in particular, John Eliot Gardiner, with whom she made the 1982 recording of Messiah. There is, however, a richness and resonance in her voice, which has been compared to Janet Baker’s, and this allows her to be equally at home in the romantic German and French repertoire.
Catherine Robbin’s many recordings include Haydn’s Stabat Mater with Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert for Archiv which received the Grand Prix du Disque, Annio La Clemenza Di Tito with John Eliot Gardiner for DG, Beatrice and Benedict with John Nelson for Erato, the Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and Antonio Vivaldi Stabat Mater with Bernard Labadie and Les Violons du Roy for Dorian which was nominated in the Cannes Classical Awards, Gustav Mahler Songs with Raffi Armenian and the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony Orchestra and Robert Schumann song cycles with Michael McMahon for CBC Records, Mozart’s Coronation Mass and L.v. Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 with Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music for Decca, G.F. Handel’s Belshazzar and Haydn Masses with Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert for Archiv, Berlioz’ Romeo And Juliette with John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra for Philips, Benjamin Britten’s Spring Symphony with John Eliot Gardiner and The Philhamonia for DG, Mozart’s Requiem with Roger Norrington and the London Classical Players for EMI and Eduige in G.F. Handel’s Rodelinda with Nicholas Kraemer for Virgin Classics.
In recent seasons Catherine Robbin sang a recital of Henri Duparc with Gerald Finley in Toronto, which was alse recorded for CBC records, G. Mahler’s Lieder eines Farhenden Gesellen with the Calgary Symphony, Schubert, Johannes Brahms and L.v. Beethoven Lieder at the Montreal Chamber Music Festival and Bach and Haydn at the Carmel Bach Festival. The 2002-2003 season – her final year of public performance – was marked by return engagements with many of the organizations that have been important throughout her career. Praised as a recitalist, she was heard in Vancouver (Music in the Morning), Victoria (Musica Victoria), and Toronto (Aldeburgh Connection and for the Women’s Musical Club). She has had a very rewarding relationship with Bernard Labadie and Les Violons du Roy and this season she returned to both Québec and Montréal for Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem with this unique ensemble.
Catherine Robbin has now retired from performance and is completely dedicated to teaching, privately and most especially as Director of Vocal Studies at York University. She also gives regular master-classes at universities all over Canada, at the Carmel Bach Festival and is President of the Canadian Aldeburgh Foundation, an organization that supports young Canadian Artists studying and performing in the Britten- Pears Young Artists programme in the UK.