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.
Early life and educationEdit
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. He studied at the Collège Saint-Louis (1766).
Life and careerEdit
Quesnel joined the French navy and shipped on board a man-of-war, sailed to Pondicherry and Madagascar, travelled 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. He carried with him his violin and read the works of French playwrights.
In 1779, Quesnel sailed for New York in command of a French warship which was captured by the British. Quesnel was taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia and allowed to settle in Boucherville, near Montreal, Quebec. 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.
Quesnel published a number of theatrical works, including Colas et Colinette, which was written in 1788 and first performed in 1790, and Lucas et Cecile; he also wrote poetry; his best known poem was titled "L'Épître à M. Labadie".
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). He founded and was part of the troupe of Montreal's Théàtre de Societé.
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
- "L'Épître à M. Labadie" - poem
- "Canadian Songs for Parlour and Stage". Carleton University. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
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