Artist of the Week 19 Qs for Suzanne Rigden

by | Apr 2, 2024 | Artist of the Week, Featured, News

Canadian soprano, Suzanne Rigden is our Artist of the Week. She is in Victoria preparing for one of opera’s longest roles: Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Pacific Opera Victoria which opens tomorrow (April 3) and runs until April 9 (info and tickets here)

Suzanne has performed numerous roles over her career, with highlights including Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte with Opera Company of Middlebury, Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos and Tytania in Midsummer Night’s Dream with Pacific Opera Victoria, Adele in Die Fledermaus with Vancouver Opera, Blondchen in Die Entführung aus dem Serail for Ann Arbor Orchestra Symphony in Michigan and Opera Nova Scotia. She also performed the role of Danica in Svadba  by Ana Sokolovic with Opéra de Montréal which was awarded the Prix Opus for music event of the year in 2018. Active backstage as well as onstage, Suzanne is co-founder of Musique 3 Femmes and Opera Atlantic.

In between rehearsals, Suzanne sat down to talk to us about how she deals with the rejection that comes hand in hand with this industry, the adventures her family took during the pandemic in a camper van, and how a perfectly timed cat appearance made for the best singing in the shower moment. Read on to find out more.

Favourite city that you’ve worked in?
Victoria! The people and company are so kind, the city is very walk-able and you get to enjoy both the mountains and the ocean.


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What’s your favourite thing about singing with an orchestra?
I love the feeling of working with so many people to create beauty and also it feels like my voice just gets so soar on top. There is no feeling quite like it!

What’s something most people don’t know about opera life?
It can be lonely. It always seems kind of glamorous to be able to travel a lot, but it also means that you are away from your family and friends.

Which role do you wish you could sing, but is not in your voice type?
I would love to sing Carmen!

Tent or hotel?
Can I choose our camper? It is a nice way to travel and it has a bathroom! We have seen many different sights that we never would have, had we not had our camper. We bought it in May 2020 while in Germany; when we weren’t allowed to leave the country and we got to explore so much because of it. It also served as my husband’s office during the height of the pandemic, as we had a small apartment and we were all stuck at home and he needed some peace and quiet.

What is one surprising thing that you have learned in becoming an opera singer?
I have learned a lot through the pursuit of becoming an opera singer. I have loved exploring different cultures, languages and histories as well as learning about myself. I also realize how much more forward thinking and inclusive we are in this industry than other industries. Our role in culture and society is to push the envelope of the status quo. We still have a lot of work to do, but I am so humbled and grateful that there are so many like-minded people in this industry having these important conversations.

What was the first opera you ever saw?
Le nozze di Figaro! When I was 18 I traveled to New York with a choir and bought standing seats for New York City Opera. For the first two acts I stood in the “nose bleed” seats and had heard that if people hadn’t arrived by intermission we might be able to slip into other seats. I ended up 7th row centre! It was at that moment that I fell in love with opera and I am so honoured to get to perform the role that made me fall in love with opera.

Are there more musicians in your family?
My whole family is musical. My mom is a pianist and is a retired elementary music teacher, and my dad is a retired engineer but is a passionate jazz musician, playing saxophone and clarinet. They both still play and are busier than ever with their music endeavours. My brothers both played instruments growing up and my son is a wonderful singer. The only person that I can think of that didn’t really play an instrument was my paternal grandmother, but she played the spoons when we had our Christmas Day “family jam” sessions!

What’s your favourite non-classical band?
I love Coldplay. I was lucky enough to see them in Berlin while we lived there. It was one of the most amazing concerts I have ever attended.

 Where did you go to school?
I went to Acadia University for my first year and finished my Bachelors at Memorial University of Newfoundland. I did my Masters at UBC. I went coast to coast and I love them
both equally for different reasons!

Where’s your favourite coffee shop?
I love Blue Bottle coffee in San Francisco. There is nothing quite like it.

What’s the luckiest thing that has ever happened to you?
The luckiest thing that has ever happened to me was meeting my husband, Christophe! After our first date I had this gut feeling that he was the one and that has been confirmed every day since then.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
I was in Verona traveling solo for a singing competition and I went to this small Italian restaurant and had the most incredible pasta dish with pine nuts and edible flowers. I don’t
remember the dish exactly, but more how it made me feel. It felt like time slowed down and every bite was exquisite.

Are you happiest in the country or in the city?
I am definitely a city girl, but there is nothing like being out in nature. We now live in the suburbs and I really miss being able to walk and bike everywhere.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
Oh gosh… Love is Blind. Don’t judge! I think there is something really interesting about the whole experiment in the pods. I watch tv to zone out a bit, so it is an “easy” watch.

Do you sing in the shower?
I definitely sing in the shower! It has the best acoustics and the humidity is great for the voice. One time I was singing the “circle of life” from the lion king while in the shower and my husband showed up unexpectedly for the with our cat at the exact right moment and presented her as Simba. Our poor cat didn’t know what was going on!

The music industry is tough, and filled with rejection. How do you cope? Does it get easier?
The music industry is tough. Rejection is the worst part. I have been in many years of therapy and have realized that this rejection doesn’t define me. There are many reasons why you might not be chosen for something and you can’t take it all personally. We can’t control everything. I have found keeping a life that is separate from my musical life has been important. I have re-joined a soccer team since moving back to Canada, and I find that keeping your other interests alive helps to make you realize that you are more than your voice.

Are you a perfectionist?
I am a recovering perfectionist. While we strive for precision and accuracy, perfection is unattainable. Art is rarely perfect, and arguably, it is the imperfections that make it interesting. As a listener I don’t want to hear a perfect voice- I want to hear an artist, who they are and what makes them different. I spent many years trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be. As a young artist we get a lot of feedback and what I realized was that I can never make anyone else happy. I need to make myself happy first. Love my own voice, before anyone else will love it. Now I focus on the story and draw on life experiences to allow the character to come to life.

What’s the most important lesson you learned from childhood?
My most important lesson I learned from childhood was that I don’t want to be the “nice girl.” Don’t get me wrong; I want to be a kind person in the world, but I no longer let people push my boundaries. I learned this the hard way in many situations, but I love that I am able to now be my authentic self and speak up for myself.

What does success look like to you?
Success is pushing through the “not-so-perfect times” and learning from them. Success is picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and getting back out there. Regardless of where you are on your artistic journey, you are an artist. No one else can define what being an artist looks like for you. It could mean singing one concert a year or being busy every weekend. The ultimate goal for me is to look back on my life and say, “Did I do it with all of my heart?”

©Emily Cooper
Ariadne auf Naxos as Zerbinetta with Pacific Opera Victoria
©Chris Hutcheson
“New Wave Workshop” with Musique3Femmes at the COC Amphitheatre. 
©Brent Callis

Le nozze di Figaro
Pacific Opera Victoria

April 3 – 9

CONDUCTOR: Timothy Vernon
DIRECTOR : Morris Panych

STAGE MANAGER: Bonni Baynton
ASSISTANT STAGE MANGER: Kelsey Cain/Lisa Russell

FIGARO: Donovan Singletary
SUSANNA: Suzanne Rigden
MARCELLINA : Megan Latham

CHERUBINO: Cécile Muhire
ANTONIO: Peter Monaghan

BARBARINA: Katelyn Bird​


Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is a whirlwind of love, desire, and witty schemes set in opulent 18th-century Spain. The story follows the complex web of relationships between the Count, his young wife Rosina, their clever and charming valet Figaro, and his betrothed Susanna. As the plot unfolds, a series of passionate encounters, hilarious misunderstandings, and daring disguises ensue, all driven by a desire for forbidden romance and social equality.

In this enchanting masterpiece, Mozart’s genius shines through every note, bringing to life the vivid characters and their emotional turmoil. The opera brims with delightful melodies, intricate vocal harmonies, and rapid-fire dialogue, capturing the essence of the characters’ emotions. From the flirtatious exchanges between the quick-witted Susanna and the amorous Count, to the heartfelt soliloquies of Figaro and the passionate outbursts of the lovestruck Cherubino, The Marriage of Figaro enchants the audience with its dynamic interplay of comedy, drama, and musical brilliance. With its timeless themes of love, power, and social class, Mozart’s masterwork continues to captivate audiences around the world, offering a thrilling and unforgettable experience for all who immerse themselves in its exuberant banquet of a world.

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