We were heartbroken to learn of soprano Erin Wall’s death from cancer last week in Toronto. Known for her remarkable versatility as a performer, she was an unforgettable presence on the international opera scene and a valued member of the Canadian Opera Company community.
Born in Calgary to American parents, both of whom were musicians, Erin grew up in Vancouver and studied music from a young age. After high school she pursued classical voice formally at various institutions in the United States, including Western Washington University, Rice University, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Music Academy of the West.
After making her professional debut with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2001 through the Ryan Opera Center training and mentorship program, she went on to represent Canada at the finals of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition in Wales in 2003, attracting international acclaim and attention for her performance.
From then on, she developed a successful career in both opera and concert repertoire, appearing with leading companies and orchestras throughout North America and Europe. Erin’s extensive repertoire included everything from Mozart to Beethoven and Britten to Strauss.
In 2012, she made her COC debut as Antonia in The Tales of Hoffmann. Audiences will also remember her critically acclaimed performances as Clemence in the Canadian premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s Love from Afar, the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro, and in the title role in the Canadian premiere of Arabella in 2017. Most recently, she sang the role of Chrysothemis in 2019’s Elektra.
Outside the opera house, Erin was an avid runner who kept up with her training throughout her treatments. She even completed the New York City Marathon – a lifelong dream – in November 2018, also her 43rd birthday.
She was frank and open about her diagnosis, and even penned a candid first-person essay chronicling the impact of cancer on her personal life and career.
Photo credits: Erin Wall; Erin Wall in Love from Afar (COC, 2012), photo: Michael Cooper; Erin Wall with her New York City Marathon medal, photo: courtesy of Erin Wall; Erin Wall in Arabella (COC, 2017), photo: Michael Cooper