Costume designer, director, and teacher François Barbeau is one of the most renowned and respected stage artisans in Canada. In 1998, he joined the team of designers behind the Cirque du Soleil show Dralion, and this creation earned him an Emmy in 2001, awarded by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for "Outstanding Costumes for a Variety or Music Program." His association with Cirque du Soleil continued in 2004 when he designed the costumes for the opening ceremonies of the XIth FINA World Championships in Montreal.
In his career, François Barbeau has designed costumes for hundreds of plays, ballets, and operas presented in Canada, the United States, France, Switzerland, and Israel. He has also directed over fifty plays in Montreal and Toronto since 1984. In 1987, he created the costumes for the opera The Rake's Progress directed by Robert Lepage and presented at the Monnaie theatre in Brussels, Belgium.
François Barbeau was the official costume designer at the Théâtre du Rideau Vert in Montreal for many years. He also works regularly, as costume designer or director, with many other major companies in Montreal, including the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, the Nouvelle Compagnie Théâtrale, Quat'Sous, the Centaur, the Compagnie Jean-Duceppe, and the Théâtre d'Aujourd'hui, as well as the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.
He features, as costume designer or artistic director, in the credits of dozens of Quebec films and television programs. His talent is recognized by French directors as well: Louis Malle called on him for Atlantic City and he worked with Gérard Depardieu on Tartuffe. In 2004, he created the costumes for Jean Beaudin's feature film Nouvelle-France, for which he received the Jutra award for "Best Costumes."
From 1962 to 1987, François Barbeau also played a key role in training the new generation, as a teacher at the National Theatre School of Canada and then as director of the school's Scenography Program. His emulators include Dominique Lemieux, Michel Crête and Stéphane Roy, all designers at Cirque du Soleil.
In 2000, François Barbeau received the Order of Canada, the country's highest distinction. His lifetime achievement has also been recognized with an honorary Masque from the Académie québécoise du théâtre, the Governor General's Performing Arts Award, and the Prix Victor-Morin of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste of Montreal. In 2007, the Université du Québec à Montréal granted him an honorary doctorate for his outstanding contribution to the improvement of performing arts and culture in Quebec.
He has been awarded abundant other prizes and distinctions in the fields of theatre, film, and television.
François Barbeau used highly unusual reflective materials in his costumes to capture the essence of the characters that evolve in the icy and frosty realm of Wintuk. Under his watchful eye, Cirque du Soleil's costume department turned into a full-fledged research lab for many months. "I wanted to move out of familiar waters with Wintuk, particularly in the area of materials and textiles," he notes.
François Barbeau was born in Montreal.