This Wednesday, April 4, at 12 p.m., COC Ensemble Studio soprano Jacqueline Woodley performs a special 'farewell' concert, Les Adieux, as part of the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Jacqueline has been a member of the Ensemble Studio since 2010, and this final concert celebrates her impending graduation at the end of this season. (But this isn't quite her final appearance with the COC this season - you can also catch her in the Ensemble Studio performance of Semele on May 23, 2012).
We sat down with Jacqueline to talk about her background, reflect on her time in the Ensemble Studio and look ahead to what’s next for this rising Canadian opera star.
How did you get started in opera?
JW: When I was in high school my Nana started to take me to Opera Hamilton and I had my first opera experience. I remember very clearly hearing the music and experiencing the emotions for the first time and being caught up in it all. I started dreaming of doing it, even though all I had done until then was art song and choral work. My friends didn't understand at all why I would want to spend my Saturday nights singing in concerts when the whole town was at a hockey game. I'm surrounded by a family of athletes so I'm sort of the odd one out in my immediate family. In spite of that, there was a lot of support from my piano and voice teachers, and my parents even let me miss afternoon classes in high school to travel 45 minutes for my piano lessons, so I was lucky. Growing up, we never listened to classical music, it was kids’ music and oldies all the way, but my parents have been to every one of my concerts that they could attend, and their first professional opera was last year at the COC, Death in Venice.
When I was little, all the way through high school, however, I wanted to be a French teacher. Initially, I rebelled against the fact that everyone expected I would study music, but eventually realized they were right: I loved it. I just didn't consider it a possible career move because I didn't personally know anyone that made a living from singing or performing!
What are you taking away from these two years in the Ensemble Studio?
JW: It is incredible to me how much can change and be experienced in two years. I had never before had the luxury of spending so much time only on singing. The act of singing every day through the good and bad vocal days taught me a lot about my own voice, strength, and ability. The amount of lessons and coachings we get is really outstanding and has been invaluable - literally (I could never have paid for all that!), and also tangibly, the amount of learning and knowledge offered to us every single day is really remarkable. To be warming up in rooms next to great singers that you’ve spent years listening to on recordings and idolizing is also incredible. I have learned so much just watching the process and sitting in on countless rehearsals watching what and how the “pros” do it and what works for them.
I’ve been so grateful too, to have been given the opportunity to do so many concerts. It’s not just an opera training program, it’s really an all-inclusive singing and performance program. To have had the opportunity to work briefly with Kaija Saariaho on her songs, for example, was really exciting (and terrifying!). The Ensemble Studio program has really let me explore and given me a platform to do so.
What’s your favourite (or most unforgettable) Ensemble Studio experience?
JW: There are so many amazing experiences and moments that stand out, but I think the most memorable one was the very first time I stood and sang onstage at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. I was singing a small part in Death in Venice (I was the Lace Seller) and it was the first piano tech rehearsal, and I was terrified. But looking out at the theatre and letting out those first few words and notes was really exciting. It was so beautiful to look out at the theatre and experience singing in an opera house with these amazing acoustics!
What’s next for you?
JW: Well, it’s always a bit exciting and scary to move on to the next chapter, but there are some really fun things coming up. I have been enjoying doing a lot more contemporary works and had a chance to premiere an opera called Svadba-Wedding (by Ana Sokolovic) last summer with the Queen of Puddings Music Theatre, and we’re taking it on tour. We’ll be doing a European tour in the fall and then taking it to Edmonton Opera and on a little Western-Canada tour in the winter.
To add to the earlier question of what I learned personally from the two years, I also learned how patient and wonderful my partner-in-crime is. He has stuck out these seemingly endless two years of a long distance relationship, doing most of the travelling back and forth, and so now that we’ve made it through, we’re getting married this summer! It can be a very lonely career, and I’ve learned how important it is to me to really have a strong family base. I’m very lucky to have this.
You can see Jacqueline perform on Wednesday, April 4 in a free noon-hour concert at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and also catch her as Iris in the Ensemble Studio performance of Semele on the COC mainstage on May 23, 2012.
Posted by Maria Lioutaia / in Ensemble Studio / comments (0) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001