Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.
Emily D’Angelo is on many people’s minds just now.
Last September, I met my friend Ericka for an impromptu breakfast. When our conversation invariably turned to music, she asked if I had heard of a young local singer named Emily D’Angelo. As it happens, I had … and quite recently. Just days before, I had received an email from the Faculty of Music at U of T (where Ms D’Angelo completed her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance). Among other news, the email announced the names of students who had graduated with distinction, and noted Ms D’Angelo was the recipient of the coveted Tecumseh Sherman Rogers Graduating Award. Ericka had been Ms D’Angelo’s teacher in grade 2. She was thrilled that the sweet girl she had taught at a public school in a leafy Toronto suburb so many years ago was being recognized for making good on promise she had shown even at that age.
The following week, I was chatting with an undergraduate student enrolled in the same vocal program at the University of Toronto. In speaking about singing techniques, she spontaneously brought up Ms D’Angelo, and hailed her as an exemplary peer, noting “Emily’s amazing.”
And since that time, Ms D’Angelo’s name has popped up semi-regularly in press releases from the Canadian Opera Company (COC): first, to describe this year’s Free Concert Series, in which she (as part of the Ensemble Studio) performs several concerts and the COC School Tour over the course of the season. And then to announce the details of Ariodante, in which she was an understudy to Alice Coote in the title role; and subsequently to announce the COC’s production of The Magic Flute (currently onstage at the Four Seasons Centre), in which she plays the Second Lady.
Ms D’Angelo graduated from university only last June, and already her future is bright. This makes her former teacher Ericka beam: “Lovely girl. She’s a lovely girl from a lovely family. And she deserves it.” I recently had the chance to interview Ms D’Angelo, and her responses to my questions confirm the validity of Ericka’s praise. Critics and reviewers have noted her considerable talent, but what I also notice in her words is an earnest enthusiasm for her chosen career, alongside a grateful humility about her accomplishments, her opportunities and the mentors who have influenced her. When I mention her second-grade teacher’s comment, her response indicates both delight and surprise.
Clearly, she has an enviable ability to create a lasting impression on those who interact with her. They recognize her talent as well as an innate relatability – a vital combination that is as impressive as it is necessary, in a field where travelling and working with a diversity of personalities are the norm. In this light, Ms D’Angelo seems an ideal peer, one who aims high but remains firmly grounded. She may play a diva, but it seems doubtful she’ll become one — making her an artist and role model that aspiring young singers can look up to.
I am thrilled to have the opportunity to perform in the (Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre) RBA Free Concert Series! It is a wonderful experience to sing for such a music-loving audience in that beautiful space. I think it is always very special when main stage artists perform in recital at the RBA – to see these world-class singers in an intimate recital setting is a rare and exciting opportunity! The Ensemble Studio also presents several performances at the RBA throughout the year – I’m looking forward to singing French mélodies with pianist Hyejin Kwon on February 9th.
Thank you! I am already having an incredible experience as an understudy in the production of Ariodante, and am really looking forward to singing the role of Second Lady in The Magic Flute this winter. Ariodante is a phenomenal role, and to be understudying Alice Coote, a truly extraordinary artist, has been surreal. The COC is home to world-class performers and musicians, and being involved in their productions is an amazing opportunity to learn from these great artists.
3. Looking ahead, what role are you dying to play? Ideally, who would share the stage with you?
It’s almost impossible to choose just one… But if I have to choose, Octavian in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier is definitely a role I would love to sing. A beautiful character with sublimely gorgeous music. As for with whom I would share the stage, it is a joy to perform alongside ANY talented singer who is passionate and committed to the music and character.
4. Conversely, is there a role you’d rather avoid?
The only reason I would avoid a role is because it is not a good fit for my voice – I am very open to all styles of music and types of characters.
5. You just graduated and have already earned awards and honours galore–and even been listed on CBC’s annual list of Canada’s Hot 30 Classical Musicians Under 30. Clearly, you can sing! What I know about you, though, is personal. My friend and colleague, who taught you in grade 2, describes you as a “lovely girl from a lovely family.” Clearly, you can make an impression, even at the age of 6. What’s one thing that you’d like her (and others who know you from a young age) to know about the now-grown-up Emily, the opera singer?
Well, I’m so pleased to hear that my impression as a 6-year-old was a positive one. I have been very lucky to have had great mentors, role models, and teachers in my life (including my amazing family.) The “grown-up” Emily is… still growing up! Constantly learning, seeking new experiences and knowledge. I’m very happy to get to do what I do because, as a musician there is no “perfect,” no “finished product.” We are always striving to be better – more virtuosic in our musicianship, more honest in our performances, more free in our artistry. It is very humbling, and I am so lucky to be on this journey.
6. What’s a question a writer should never ask an opera singer?
“Why don’t you audition for American Idol?”
News You Can Use
What: Selected performances featuring Emily D’Angelo
Where: Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, 145 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON
For Performance Calendar and Information: COC.ca
© 2017 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya