Every Christmas Eve, Winnipeg-born opera singer Andriana Chuchman would bundle up with her older sister, Olesia, and their parents to trek down to Sts. Vladimir and Olga Cathedral to raise their voices in traditional Ukrainian carols during midnight mass.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/11/2016 (2035 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Every Christmas Eve, Winnipeg-born opera singer Andriana Chuchman would bundle up with her older sister, Olesia, and their parents to trek down to Sts. Vladimir and Olga Cathedral to raise their voices in traditional Ukrainian carols during midnight mass.

The raven-haired lyric soprano returns to those musical roots when she takes the stage Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. at Westminster United Church. The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra’s upcoming concert, informally titled Christmas from Winnipeg to Ukraine, marks her MCO debut and sole Winnipeg performance this season.

CHIA MESSINA PHOTO</p><p>Opera singer Andriana Chuchman</p>

CHIA MESSINA PHOTO

Opera singer Andriana Chuchman

"Coming home is always very special to me," says Chuchman, 34, who’s on the road up to 10 months each year gracing such iconic world stages as New York City’s Metropolitan Opera. "I already know a lot of my friends and family are coming that night, so that makes it even more exciting. I don’t get that in the other places I perform. I also feel that every season I grow as an artist and I’m excited to share that with my hometown."

Chuchman, who is praised by the New York Times for her "vocal brilliance, physical agility and vintage calendar-girl looks," has hand-picked her own repertoire for the eclectic chamber program being led by guest conductor Mark Morash.

One of its cornerstones is Vasyl Barvinsky’s The Great Miracle, a popular Ukrainian carol that Chuchman first warbled as a solo with her church choir at age 12.

"The music is so beautiful and rich," she describes of the soulful work, composed in an unusual minor key with the orchestra filling in the original choral harmonies. She’ll also offer her debut performance of Mozart’s joyous Exsultate, jubilate and Rachmaninov’s hauntingly lyrical Vocalise.

"The Vocalise is stunning. It’s incredibly romantic and beautiful, and you get lost in the melody," she says of the evocative solo frequently transcribed for instrumentalists. There’s even an audience singalong of The Twelve Days of Christmas with Chuchman leading the vocal charges — sure to be an early Christmas treat.

Born to her economics professor father and pianist mother — and longtime accompanist for the O. Koshetz Choir — Chuchman grew up Winnipeg’s leafy Garden City, graduating from the University of Manitoba’s School of Music in 2004 where she studied with another local opera superstar, soprano Tracy Dahl. She pursued further vocal training at the Ryan Opera Center at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, where she coincidentally first worked with the Dartmouth, N.S.-born Morash in 2005.

She made her auspicious Met debut in January 2014, with a rapidly expanding A-list of companies she’s now performed with including the Canadian Opera Company, Washington National Opera, Opera Theater of St. Louis and Dallas Opera, among others, as well as making her professional opera debut during the Manitoba Opera’s staging of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore in 2005.

"Andriana has a beautiful voice. She’s also very good onstage," Manitoba Opera general director/CEO Larry Desrochers, told the Free Press in 2014. "This is also a real Winnipeg story. We have an impressive reputation internationally for creating great artists and she’s going to continue to carry the torch."

Part of that "torch-bearing" includes rubbing shoulders with such world-class luminaries as fabled tenor-turned-baritone Plácido Domingo during her Los Angeles Opera debut in September 2015. Chuchman speaks with palpable reverence for the Spanish-born singer, whom she sang with during its season-opener of Puccini’s comic masterpiece Gianni Schicchi originally designed by Woody Allen, who also once slipped briefly into rehearsals ("that was kind of cool," she remarks nonchalantly).

"It was amazing," Chuchman says of performing with Domingo, whom she first met during her Metropolitan debut in 2014. "I think he took a liking to my voice and stage presence, and he presented the idea to do the show in L.A."

But she sings even greater praises for his offstage presence, referring to him simply as "maestro." "Plácido Domingo is such a special artist. But not everybody knows he’s also an incredible human being, and one of the genuinely nicest people you could ever meet. He has a lot of heart and really supports emerging artists."

Perhaps it was in her atmospheric hometown cathedral sanctuary long ago where Chuchman’s passion to sing first took root. She says she has known since her youth where her musical aspirations lay.

"I’ve long believed that this was what I was meant to do. Even in my teenaged years I was pretty sure that I’m going to sing," the soprano reveals. "I’ve always felt that I was destined to do this. And I still know it."

Mere days after her MCO concert, Chuchman departs for her next gig with the Houston Grand Opera. She’ll be making her role debut as Pat Nixon in its January production of John Adams’ Nixon in China.

She’s also about to realize another dream when she appears professionally for the first time with her beloved mentor/coach, Tracy Dahl who portrays Madame Mao.

The down-to-earth artist who practises yoga and like to binge on Netflix in her limited spare time is keenly aware of the golden opportunities she has received thus far. She enthuses about the opera world that is very much her oyster these days.

"I know there’s still a lot more for me to come," she says. "More performances in Europe. More in the ‘big houses.’ I’m excited about the future and only hope to grow. It’s such an amazing gift being able to do what you really love most."

holly.harris@shaw.ca