While she has favored concert work and recitals over the operatic stage, Catherine Robbin has achieved acclaim in all three venues, earning a sizable following of admirers who have often asserted her vocal skills placed her among the finest Canadian mezzo-sopranos of her generation. Although some have contended that Robbin's voice is best suited to Baroque music, her repertory on the concert stage has included works not only by J.S. Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, Pergolesi, and other Baroque masters, but music by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Berlioz, Brahms, Mahler, Britten, and contemporary composers John Greer and Sasha Matson. Her recital repertory takes in songs by Duparc, Ravel, Wolf, and many others, and on the operatic stage she has sung a range of roles from Eduige in Handel's Rodelinda to Olga in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and Lucretia in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia. She has appeared with many of the world's leading orchestras, including the Boston and Saint Louis Symphony orchestras, and at such major venues as Carnegie Hall and Kennedy Center. Robbin has sung in broadcast concerts over Radio France, the BBC, and CBC, and has made numerous recordings for such labels as DG, EMI, and CBC Records.
Catherine Robbin was born in Toronto, Canada, on September 28 1950. She made her official concert debut in 1972 in a performance of Handel's Messiah, with the St. Catherine's Symphony Association (now the Niagara SO). In 1978 she earned a bachelor's degree at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where her teachers included Dorothy Allan Park. She continued her studies privately and among her teachers were Phyllis Mailing, Ré Koster, and Peter Pears.
While 1978 was the year of her graduation, it was a crucial time for Robbin in other ways too: she was cited at the Concours International de Chant de Paris with a Caplet award; she captured the silver medal at the Geneva Concours International; and she joined a trio with bass singer John Dodington and pianist Jane Coop.
In 1979 Robbin appeared at the Bordeaux Festival in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and at Aldeburgh, U.K. as Lucretia in Britten's The Rape of Lucretia. In 1981 she gave her New York City recital debut and also appeared at Alice Tully Hall in a performance Bach's B minor Mass.
Robbin made numerous other notable debuts and appearances throughout the 1980s, including her portrayal of Olga in Eugene Onegin at the Lyons Opera in 1984 and Medoro in Handel's Orlando during the Academy of Ancient Music's 1989 U.S. tour.
Robbin's 1991 L'oiseau Lyre recording of that role, with Christopher Hogwood conducting, was highly praised. While she scored numerous successes throughout the 1990s in her live concerts and operatic appearances, her recordings were especially noteworthy, as evidenced by her 1998 Berlioz Romeo and Juliette on Philips, and her 2002 collection of Duparc songs on CBC Musica Viva. Robbin retired from performance in 2003 and has since devoted herself to teaching. She has been on the faculty at York University in Canada since 2002.