Editor’s note: As the Juno Awards 2013 prepare to celebrate the best of Canadian music this weekend, Western Journalism students help us celebrate the best in Western Music. Read the full Music Issue.
* * *
The setting sun on the villa was her stage, seating was in the backyard, and there were rugged mountains in the background of the Tuscan landscape. Kelsey Vicary was ready to step out on the stage in the role of Countess Almaviva last year in Le Nozze di Figaro.
“It was amazing having this old Italian building as the set of this opera that was written in Italy at the time that this building was already made. Everything just kind of came together,” she said.
Vicary, 23, is a second-year master of music in Literature and Performance student at Western. But about three years ago, she almost gave up her dream of becoming a professional singer.
When Vicary graduated with a bachelor of music from Western in 2010, her graduation wasn’t what she expected. “I had these grand hopes of going away to some grad school in The States, and it was a reality shock,” Vicary said. “It didn’t really click how competitive it was until I applied to all these schools and I was rejected from every single one.”
Vicary took the year off from singing and travelled around Australia for a year with a friend, but decided to return to Western and pursue her masters. After not singing for an entire year, Vicary had a difficult time adjusting to her intensive vocal training; however, her teacher, Christiane Riel, heard something special.
“I heard a student was coming, but once in a while I hear fantastic potential, and I said, ‘Oh, that girl has something,’” Riel said.
For Riel, music is a life-long lesson and only a few have the discipline and passion to succeed. “You can see she’s ready to embrace all the labour that needs to be done.”
Vicary practices about four hours each day in 40-minute increments. When she starts her vocal exercises, she picks one piece of music and works on the notes she’s having difficulty with.
But one of the most important things Vicary does while practicing is the translation. Many operas are written in Italian, French or German. By understanding the words, Vicary said she’s able to get the emotions of the character.
“Heartbreak. First love. Drama. And death. That all happens now, and I guess the task is to create beautiful music and make it real for people,” Vicary said.
Vicary has had the opportunity to study abroad during the summer through the Canadian Operatic Arts Academy (COAA) at Western and AIDO in Italy. These opportunities have allowed her to develop as a performer. Vicary has studied in California and twice in Italy.
During her time at Western, most of her studies focus on perfecting her voice. But performance, Vicary said, is just as important.
“There’s a really strong pull in the opera community right now towards opera as drama, and really finding other ways to find relevancy in a modern audience,” Vicary said. “Acting is a way to get this across.”