By Tanya Morgado, Public Relations Intern
While Torontonians are sweltering under back-to-back heat alerts, new Ensemble Studio member tenor Andrew Haji is enjoying the friendlier weather in California. “Santa Barbara's weather is phenomenal,” he says. “It’s just the right temperature, with very little rain and lots of sun.”
Andrew (last seen at the COC winning second-place in the Ensemble Studio Competition) is having a busy summer attending the Music Academy of the West, a two-month program for opera singers and instrumentalists. The musicians participate in daily rehearsals, masterclasses, and individual lessons with prestigious faculty members, including mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne who has directed the vocal program since 1997.
“I was very excited to work with Marilyn Horne,” confesses Andrew. “I've had one voice lesson with her so far, and she’s fantastic. She's been in the business for a good amount of time so she knows all the secrets and the tools of the trade. I have also had a chance to work with some great coaches from around the country: Carrie-Ann Matheson, who is a prompter at the Met; Warren Jones, a superb pianist and coach; and Jonathan Kelly, assistant conductor at the Met and San Francisco Opera.”
The program also offers Andrew many performance opportunities, beginning with a “Death by Aria” concert which took place in the first week. Each Academy Voice Fellow sang an aria, and Andrew explains that it was “similar to a ‘sing-in’ but with a paying audience.” A few days later, he sang in a masterclass led by Russian baritone, Vladimir Chernov: “Vladimir gave a recital shortly after, and it was phenomenal. It was truly a wonderful experience to work with him, and to listen to his exquisite music-making.”
Andrew and the Voice Fellows made some exquisite music of their own in the Academy’s “Opera Scenes” concerts on July 8 and 10. The performance featured scenes from Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and L’elisir d’amore, R. Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, Britten’s Albert Herring, Verdi’s Il Trovatore, and Menotti’s The Saint of Bleeker Street. Guest artist Gregory Fortner directed the operatic mosaic, and Andrew says “it was an incredible experience. It was like a ‘highlights’ show, and the audience seemed to really like it. I was in the Elixir scene – we did the duet with Nemorino and Dr. Dulcamara. It's a tough scene, vocally, but it is one of the most enjoyable to perform.”
Performing far from his hometown of London, Ontario is made easier by the Academy’s Compeer Program, an innovative community engagement program. The program matches each Fellow with a Compeer—a member of the local community and Music Academy sponsor. “Compeers support their students by cheering them on in performances, showing them around town, and taking them out for the occasional meal,” explains Andrew. “It's actually a really cool program, especially since it gives you a friendly face to look for in the audience every time you're up on the stage.”
Andrew will find a familiar face on stage when he sings the role of Tamino in the Academy’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute on August 2 and 4. He’ll perform alongside returning COC Ensemble Studio member Claire de Sévigné, who’s singing the role of The Queen of the Night. The COC duo will also share the stage at the Academy’s gala event, CABARET, on August 8. The Voice Fellows will perform classical, Broadway, and pop favourites under the stars and Andrew reveals he’ll be “singing a song popularized by Mario Lanza: “Be My Love”. All the men will be dressed in tuxedos and the women in very lavish gowns. It's a very elegant evening.”
The Music Academy schedule gives Fellows a day off on Sundays, but Andrew admits he hasn’t had time to explore California. When he does get to travel and play the role of tourist, you’re most likely to find him behind the wheel: “I really don't like flying very much. All the security and waiting in lines and the tiny seats aren't my idea of fun. Trains are great, but I really prefer to be in the driver's seat.” And what does this talented young tenor listen to while on the road? “My non-classical tastes are very eclectic. I listen to a lot of electronic music, including Skrillex and deadmau5, but I also enjoy listening to the likes of Coldplay, John Mayer, and Maroon 5.”
We wish Andrew the best of luck with the last month of the program, and look forward to hearing him on September 26 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, where he and his fellow Ensemble Studio members will kick off the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in a “Meet the Young Artists” performance!
Photo: (top) Andrew Haji; (middle) Vladimir Chernov and Andrew Haji at Vladimir Chernov’s masterclass on June 21, 2013. Photo credit: (middle) Music Academy of the West.
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Ensemble Studio / comments (1) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001