Canadian soprano Catherine Zanon, featured performer with the Halifax Summer Opera Festival

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L’Aurora, Semele, Ora 1 in Cavalli’s L’Egisto

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“Knowing I could be a completely different person onstage and not care what everyone else thought of me made me want to be on stage all the time.”

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Where are you from? How did you first get interested in opera or musical theatre? 

I am from Maple, Ontario, also know as “where Canada’s Wonderland is”. In elementary school I was always the shyest child so my parents started sending me to musical theatre camp during the summer. Knowing I could be a completely different person onstage and not care what everyone else thought of me made me want to be on stage all the time. I’m still that shy person but not when I’m on stage.

When did you start studying voice? Where are you studying now?

This is a long story, I started around 11 years old and had 3 different teachers in a year. It was very difficult to want to continue with voice when my teachers kept changing. So I stopped lessons and continued singing in choir and summer camp until I graduated elementary school. It wasn’t until I turned 16 that I realized I missed singing. So I started voice again at what is now called Kollari Institute of Music, but again I went through 3 teachers in a year. Each teacher taught me about myself and what I needed though. That is when I met my teacher Annalisa Ovcharenko who really helped my voice grow. She also assisted me with my successful audition into the Western University voice program. While there, I had the opportunity to study with Bethany Horst. I graduated UWO this past June and am attending Randolph Academy for the Arts for musical theatre in Toronto this upcoming year. As well as continuing lessons with Annalisa Ovcharenko. I am so excited!!!

What came first for you, theatre or music?

Both seemed to come at the same time. At the musical theatre camp I attended, we would perform a play, create our own commercials for made up products, and then choreograph a musical dance number for the whole company. Also, my dad was teaching me piano at the same time, before I started lessons at Kollari Institute of Music. I also attended St. Elizabeth CHS for music where I joined the dance and drama classes, several choirs and played French horn in band.

What are your dream roles?

I have so many dream roles… I do love baroque operas and performing old music, it sits very nicely in voice, so really any of those roles! I would love to perform as Suor Angelica, it’s just such a heart breaking, moving opera. And the first time I heard Rusalka’s aria I wanted to sing it! I would also love to be any female that goes crazy in an opera haha! I just find it amazing to watch performers sing a mad aria and it looks like fun.

 What arias, songs or entire roles belonging to other voice types would you like to perform?

If I could be a high mezzo for a day I would love to sing the aria Non Piu Mesta from Cenerentola by Rossini! It has honestly been my dream since the first day I heard that aria! I would also love to sing the fairy godmothers aria from Cendrillon by Massenet (I know, both are Cinderella but I can’t help it).

Who are your favourite performing artists?

I have so many, opera and not opera performers that I love. Laura Osnes is my broadway soulmate, I love listening to her sing musical theatre. I also know every Ed Sheeran and Sam Hunt song, they’re my favourite pop artists. As for opera, I listen to Diana Damrau, she almost always has sung a work I am learning, and it’s great using such an amazing singer as a learning tool.

What’s the most embarrassing song on your phone/tablet/streaming playlist?

Oooo, I have a very long playlist of every Disney song ever made and I know the lyrics to every single one of them.

How should we as interpretive artists deal with works that are racist and/or sexist? What can be done to make opera relevant to the next generation?:

Well, approaching these with caution always is necessary. Understanding the reality in which these works were created is also vital. Also, challenging views in the opera is a great way to battle these issues.

What are you most enjoying about this summer?

Getting to work with such amazing people!! Every person who has worked with our cast to put on l’Egisto has been amazing. And I especially liked the stage fighting days because it’s great getting to be mean as a soprano.

Thanks, Catherine! You can see Catherine perform in the final performance of L’Egisto, tonight (Saturday the 12th) at 7:30 pm at the Studio Theatre in the basement of the Dalhousie Arts Centre in Halifax!

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