By Jennifer Pugsley, Media Relations Manager
In recent years, the Canadian Opera Company has lured Canada’s internationally acclaimed soprano Adrianne Pieczonka from the world’s stages of New York, London, Paris, Milan, Berlin, Vienna, Bayreuth and Salzburg to the Four Seasons Centre for one riveting performance after another. This winter, COC audiences are the first to witness Pieczonka in a role she calls “more dramatic than any other Verdi role I have sung to date” – Amelia in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera.
“I have sung more lyric Verdi parts in the past, such as Alice Ford, Desdemona, Elisabetta and Amelia in Simon Boccanegra. For a time, I considered singing Aida and Elvira, but I realized that these roles didn’t fit me quite right, vocally. Amelia in Ballo fits better as it lies in a slight lower tessitura where my voice feels more comfortable,” she says.
Adrianne Pieczonka as Elisabeth in Verdi's Don Carlos.
It’s also a role that requires a singer who can mine vast reserves of musical power and sensitivity. “Personally, I find that singing Verdi is more technically demanding than singing Wagner or Strauss. In Verdi, the voice is the main focus. In Wagner and Strauss, the voice can sometimes hide a bit in the thick orchestrations,” shares Pieczonka. “[In Verdi], the art of bel canto is required, the ability to spin long legato lines and imbue phrases with many vocal colours. Verdi operas challenge singers technically, but they are so highly rewarding and thrilling to perform.”
“Amelia appeals to me because she is a mature woman – she is married and she is a mother, both of which I can relate to,” shares Pieczonka. “Amelia sings a heartbreaking aria begging her husband that, before she is killed, she be allowed to say goodbye to her young son. It’s this kind of emotion which really affects me deeply.”
Learn more about Adrianne's career from her COC debut in 1988 to more recent moments in this world-renowned soprano’s career abroad and here at home in our current winter issue of Prelude magazine. Sign up here to receive a digital copy.
You can follow Adrianne on Twitter and learn more about her on her website.
Photos: (top) Carlo Ventre as Cavaradossi and Adrianne Pieczonka as Tosca in the Canadian Opera Company production of Tosca, 2012. Photo by Michael Cooper; (middle) Adrianne Pieczonka. Photo by Johannes Ifkovits; (bottom) Adrianne Pieczonka as Elisabeth de Valois and the COC Chorus in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Don Carlos, 2007. Photo by Michael Cooper.
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On November 26, 2013, for the first time, nine finalists in the Ensemble Studio Competition will now perform from the mainstage of the Four Seasons Centre, accompanied by the internationally acclaimed COC Orchestra conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus and hosted by Grammy-nominated and multi-Juno Award winner, singer-songwriter and composer Rufus Wainwright. To watch the competition and see Canada's rising opera stars, visit our Centre Stage website and buy your tickets today! Over the next two weeks, follow along on Parlando as we introduce you to each of our finalists.
The life of an opera singer can mean a lot of time spent living out of a suitcase and that’s certainly true for London, Ontario native Rachel Wood.
In the last few years, Rachel's career has taken her across Europe and the United States. She spent last year in Amsterdam as an ensemble member of Opera Studio Nederland, has studied at the Centre for Opera Studies in Italy and the Accademia Europea dell’Opera, and is currently continuing her vocal studies at Indiana University. And while she’s not fluent, along the way, she’s picked up bits of Italian, French, German and even Dutch! According to Rachel, taking Italian lessons in Amsterdam alongside native Dutch speakers was “quite an experience.”
Despite all her travels, Rachel still calls London home and it’s the city where she first discovered opera.
“For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a performer!” she says. “I come from a very musical family – both my parents are music educators – so I studied piano and oboe, and sang in choirs when I was younger.” She also began private voice lessons when she was 13 years old.
Rachel’s first performing experiences were through her high school’s musical theatre productions and The Grand Theatre’s High School Project, a program that allows students in London to perform musicals in a professional theatre setting. It wasn’t until she was cast in University of Western Ontario productions during her undergraduate studies at the UWO that she began to seriously pursue an opera career.
“It’s an incredibly powerful medium,” Rachel says of opera. “I really can’t think of any other art form that’s as all-encompassing or has the transformative power of opera.” She finds the physicality of singing, especially when performing with an orchestra, “exhilarating!” She’s equally awed when sitting in the audience. “I come to the opera to be moved, inspired and transported, even if it’s only for a little while.”
Rachel’s operatic credits include Lucretia in The Rape of Lucretia and La Natura/Endimione in La Calisto (Opera Studio Nederland); Zita in Gianni Schicchi (Opera Experience Southeast and Indiana University Opera and Ballet Theater [IUOBT]); Penelope in Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria and Madame Croissy in Dialogues des Carmélites (Accademia Europea dell’Opera); Dorabella in Così fan tutte (IUOBT); and Cornelia in Giulio Cesare (Centre for Opera Studies in Italy).
She doesn’t have a dream role yet, but she’s fascinated by the strong, dramatic female characters of the mezzo-soprano repertoire. “In portraying these types of characters, it gives the singer the opportunity to explore different aspects of their personality or to become a completely different person on stage,” Rachel says. “They provide the singer with numerous opportunities for dramatic exploration and freedom.”
Right now, Rachel can’t imagine pursuing any other career, but when she has spare time her interests outside opera include teaching, studying, travel, and spending time with family and friends.
To learn more about Rachel, visit her website: http://rachelwoodmezzo.com/
The Ensemble Studio competition is Tuesday, November 26, 2013. Tickets to the Ensemble Studio Competition and Centre Stage cocktail celebration are $100. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit COCCentrestage.ca. You can also buy tickets here, call COC Ticket Services at 416-363-8231, or go to the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). You can also chat about the event with us on Twitter using #COCCentrestage.
Photo: (banner) BT/A.
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Jean-Michel Richer was born in Montreal, and raised in the city’s Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood. He was a scout leader for nine years and, like most Canadians, has a major interest in this country’s national pastime – hockey!
Music has always been a part of his life, but it wasn’t a given that it would be his chosen profession. In fact, a career as a civil engineer is likely what this young tenor would be pursuing instead, if not for having a change-of-heart at the age of 17.
“Music has always been a great part of my family. My father's mother was a singer and my mother's father was an organist. After completing eight years of training at Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal, a famous boys’ choir in Montreal, I realized I wanted to become an operatic singer,” says Jean-Michel. “When I was 17, I was in CEGEP in both science and trombone studies, and I decided to put the science on hold to take private voice lessons and put everything into music.”
And put everything into music, he did.
Jean-Michel went on to the University of Montreal where he completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree of music in voice performance. He’s also a grant recipient of the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation.
As a current member of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, Jean-Michel has sung the role of King Kaspar in Amahl and the Night Visitors and Ben in The Telephone. Additional credits include Pong in Turandot, Bardolfo in Falstaff, Gastone in La Traviata and Zingaro in Il Trovatore (Opéra de Montréal); and Chevalier de la Force in Dialogues des Carmélites and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni (Chautauqua Music Festival).
Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème and the title role of Massenet’s Werther aren’t in his repertoire yet, but those are two roles Jean-Michel dreams to take on one day.
For opera fans who want to see more of Jean-Michel after catching his performance in the 2013 Ensemble Studio Competition at Centre Stage on November 26, take note of his next gig. On December 11, 2013, Jean-Michel joins an exciting roster of singers from Quebec and across Canada to perform in the annual Gala de l'Opéra de Québec, which also features Ensemble Studio alumni Peter McGillivray, Luc Robert and Lauren Segal.
Perhaps he’ll be asking them for tips about the Ensemble Studio by then?
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001