Our local opera community has been buzzing again with recent news that Winnipeg-based soprano Lida Szkwarek won the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions Upper Midwest Regional competition held in Minneapolis.
The rising star packs her bags for New York City this week to advance to the competition's semi-finals being held at the "Met" on Sunday. Notably, the 30-year old singer, who currently studies with Winnipeg colouratura soprano Tracy Dahl, is the sole Canadian participating in the next round and one of only 20 singers chosen out of 1,500 international competitors from as far as Russia and China.
"It's been pretty unbelievable. It's just a dream come true," Szkwarek says. "When the judge called my name at the semifinals, my jaw just dropped to the ground. I was shocked but also very, very happy. It was a pretty cool moment."
If her luck continues to hold, the soprano will then perform at the grand finals slated for March 30. No matter what happens, Szkwarek is determined to savour the moment, keenly aware that the vast majority of vocal artists never get to perform on the legendary opera house's stage.
"I may never get to be there again so I'm going to just enjoy it," she vows.
Coincidentally, a second Winnipeg soprano, Andriana Chuchman, wraps up her second Met production, The Enchanted Island, the same day Szkwarek arrives in the Big Apple. Both musicians grew up on the same street in Winnipeg and participated in many of the same activities as part of the city's Ukrainian community.
"Andriana has done so well," says Szkwarek, who's also preparing for her lead role of Pamina with Saskatoon Opera's upcoming production of Mozart's The Magic Flute, directed by Winnipeg's Rob Herriot.
"She's a lovely person and is such an inspiration for where I could be one day."
Winnipeg's classical music hero Don Anderson launches his new music-appreciation course, the wittily titled Concerto-Copia, with a choice of two class times. The six-week course runs Tuesday mornings, April 1 through May 6, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Millennium Library, with an evening slot offered Wednesdays, April 2 through May 7, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Arts, 211 Bannatyne Ave.
The concerto is a popular music form that showcases one or more solo instruments with orchestral accompaniment. Chances are if you've attended any symphonic music concerts in the past -- such as last weekend's Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra Masterworks -- you've heard one played.
The latest program, featuring 25 complete concertos, will include music composed both for standard orchestral instruments by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Haydn, Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven, among others, as well as lesser-known works for guitar, saxophone and percussion. Solo artists, including violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Jacqueline du Pré, guitarist John Williams and percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, will be featured on CDs and DVDs from Anderson's own library.
"I think people will just enjoy the sheer variety," the tireless educator says over the phone, adding that it takes him approximately 18 months to develop a course. "I've chosen these works with a great deal of thought and care, and there will be some fabulous artists featured."
As a virtual walking encyclopedia of music history and lore, Anderson is renowned for his comprehensive program notes penned for symphony orchestras across North America, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. The arts advocate also regularly presents "opera primer" chats for Manitoba Opera and recently launched his own radio program on the University of Winnipeg's radio station CKUW 95.9 FM (yet to be titled), heard Wednesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. Anderson is also an avid film buff -- his second great passion -- and regularly teaches a course through McNally Robinson Booksellers' Community Classroom.
For further information about Concerto-Copia, or to register ($90), contact the MCMA at 204-943-6090, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.donanderson.ca.
The Women's Musical Club of Winnipeg's McLellan Competition for Solo Performance with Orchestra holds its final competition concert and awards ceremony April 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Jubilee Place Auditorium, 180 Riverton Ave. Three gifted finalists were chosen March 14 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery: Sarah Kirsch, soprano; Joshua Peters, violin; and Tony Zhou, piano, who will compete for cash prizes and perform with the WSO that night. The biennial competition, first held in 2006, showcases advanced musicians from Manitoba who are pursuing performance careers. It has grown into an eagerly anticipated musical event and season highlight. For further information, go to womensmusicalclubofwpg.org.
If you missed the WMC McLellan Competition finals back in 2012, you'll be given another opportunity to hear two past winners: Madeline Hildebrand, piano and Jessica Strong, soprano, perform April 27 at 2 p.m. at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. Tickets are available at McNally Robinson and the door.