Beloved Canadian baritone Russell Braun and American soprano Tamara Wilson - most recently seen in the COC’s 2019/2020 season as Peter in
Hansel & Gretel and the title character in
Turandot, respectively - open the COC’s 2021/2022 season with
In Concert: Russell Braun and Tamara Wilson with the COC Orchestra. Their first performance on the COC stage in over 18 months, we had a chance to catch up with these two familiar faces and asked how it feels to return “home.”
What’s unique for you about performing on stage at COC’s opera house in downtown Toronto?
What is unique for me is the intensely rich personal connection I share with the musicians on stage. Some of the players were fellow UofT graduates, many of whom have collaborated at other venues and festivals. There are just so many meaningful, happy memories extending across this continent and across different styles of music. The gift of the Four Seasons Centre is what fuses it all together. This includes, of course, the many wonderful, supportive opera and concert goers in Toronto.Tamara:
I have been singing at the Four Seasons Center since around 2008/09. It is one of my favorite houses to sing in. The acoustic is wonderful! Also, hands down the best dressing rooms to warm up in. I wish I could take them to every opera house.
How did you stay connected to the art form while performance opportunities were limited?
It has been challenging staying connected to the art form mainly because the situation just kept getting worse. As artists, we are accustomed to having opportunities disappear for various reasons. I personally have been very lucky to share my life with Carolyn, my wife, who is also my most important musical collaborator. We both had a YouTube “Wishconcert” going for a while, aiming to fill the emptiness in music lovers’ hearts. We also both teach at the University of Toronto and it felt and feels like a privilege to support and instill optimism through the development of such a refined skill with the students. Staying connected to the love of making music never disappeared.T:
I didn’t. It was very hard for me to watch or listen to any opera. Our whole lives had just been cut off and watching others do what I love to do more than anything in the world was extremely hard.Is there a great album or performance recording you listened to during lockdowns? (Opera or otherwise).
I tend not to listen to a lot of music. I did tend to arrive at a deeper understanding of music connected to a sense of spirituality, however.T:
I have listened to the rock band Royal Blood’s new album, Typhoons, about a million times since it was released.Did you take up any new hobbies during the pandemic?
I did not develop any hobbies, except perhaps refine my cooking skills a bit. We were blessed to have both our sons, who are of university age, with us for a long duration. It made for a rich environment.T:
I didn’t do anything new because I was saving my money but I did have all of this time at home that I haven’t had since college so I was doing home improvements, gardening, power washing my driveway. While it was awful to not be singing anymore, it was fun to have a real routine to my life. Something I haven’t experienced in about 15 years.
In one word, how does it feel to be performing again?
Russell Braun, photo: Johannes Ifkovits; Tamara Wilson, photo: Claire McAdams
In Concert: Russell Braun and Tamara Wilson with the COC Orchestra is available to stream next Saturday, September 25, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. ET, available online for six months. Click here to sign up for our Free Digital Membership to stream the performance.