The 2015 Halifax Summer Opera Festival featured performer: mezzo Stephanie O’Leary!

Artist Name: Stephanie O’Leary
Voice type: mezzo soprano
Role you’re singing this year: Madame de la Haltière (the wicked stepmother) in Cendrillon

Tell us where you’re from! 

I am from London Ontario and currently reside there. I did not grow up in a home that listened to opera or musical theatre, however my father heavily influenced what I listened to with his love for classic rock. I sang all the time and was encouraged to do so. I remember watching ‘Grease’ growing up and that was my first encounter with a musical. I was soon obsessed with the movie and the majority of my friends and family will tell you I probably forced them to watch it with me for the gazillionth time against thier will. I was very fortunate to have an amazing music teacher in elementary school that encouraged me immensely while learning to play the cello. She continued to encourage me in highschool when she taught me in the vocal class offered at the school. I had no idea that going to university to persue a music career was possible and with the assistance of my music teacher, very patient piano teacher, and my extremely supportive parents, we made it happen!

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

I started studying voice at the University of Western Ontario where I completed my undergraduate degree in performance under the instruction on Jackie Short and Torin Chiles. I have continued my studies with Jackie at Western as I persue my Master’s degree.


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

Der Holle Rache (Queen of the Night’s Aria)
Dove sono from Le nozze di Figaro
O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi

Who are your favourite performing artists?

Joyce Didonato
Elina Garanca
Renee Fleming
Jessye Norman 

How can we keep opera a relevant art form for young people? What is the future of opera?

This is such a loaded question and one that I hear being discussed often. I personally feel that education is key to keeping opera and classical music a relevant art form for young people. Cuts to Music education and art departments are taking away the opportunity to expose children and young teens to classical music. It also prevents them from discovering an artistic outlet that they may have never known before and want to pursue. I was lucky enough to see my first show when I was in grade six with my school. I saw more shows and my first opera in highschool. Those experiences are irreplaceable. Even my peers that were not too involved in the music program loved them and I know most of them would be inclined to see another live theatre production or live opera again because of those experiences.

I also feel as artists giving back to the community is always a great thing. Stepping back into those schools we grew up in and talking about our craft can inspire young people to learn more about classical music/opera.

What are you most looking forward to about this summer?

I am most looking forward to working with the faculty and meeting my fellow participants involved with the program. This will be my first year at HSOF and I always find it refreshing and interesting to learn/discover what new teachers and coaches have to offer! It also doesn’t hurt that I get spend a month doing what I love in beautiful Halifax!

Thanks, Stephanie! Are you a participant or staff member this year? Why not submit your own answers to our questionnaire

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