Artist of the Week 25 Qs for Anna-Sophie Neher

by | Sep 27, 2023 | Artist of the Week, Featured, News

Canadian-German soprano Anna-Sophie Neher is in Toronto, preparing to return to the Canadian Opera Company‘s stage as Marzelline in Beethoven’s Fidelio which opens this Friday, running Sept 29 to Oct 20 (tickets here). She performs alongside Miina-Liisa Värelä (Leonore), Clay Hilley (Florestan), Dimitry Ivashchenko (Rocco), Josh Lovell (Jaquino), Johannes Martin Kränzle (Don Pizarro), Wesley Harrison (First Prisoner), and Alex Halliday (Second Prisoner).  

Upcoming highlights for Neher include performing Handel’s Messiah with Ensemble Caprice in Quebec City on December 9 (tickets here), and appearing in concert with Choeur Classique de Montréal in Bach’s Magnificat and Rutter’s Gloria on Jan 20, 2024 (tickets here). Neher is an alumna of the COC’s prestigious Ensemble Studio, McGill University and the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal. 

This week, we sat down with her to discuss her life and career, singers that keep her inspired, roles she’d like to be singing and what it’s like to juggle family with a career in opera. Neher says, “being an opera singer is what I do, something that I love, but it is not who I am. It is a part of who I am of course, but it cannot be all of who I am.”

When was your first singing lesson?
I was about 17 years old and it was with a local teacher called Dominique Cimon.

What inspired you to sing?
I think I have always loved singing and music so much. Since I was a young child, it was part of my life and I was fortunate enough to have different people in my life, who at different times, encouraged me to find my voice and to pursue singing as a career.

Drink of choice?
Gin and tonic! With a good tonic and a lime.

Heels or flats?
Flats, 99% of the time. But a nice heel on a special occasion always makes me feel a little extra.

Favourite city that you’ve worked in?
Montreal! I have always thought there was something quite unique about that city, especially in the spring or summer months.

Favourite place?
In my comfy robe. It can be difficult to travel for work and be away from loved ones and from your home. I always bring my comfy robe with me and wherever I am in the world, I can feel at home in my robe and a nice bowl of pasta.

Top 3 favourite composers
Too hard to choose only 3… maybe Mozart, Poulenc and Debussy.

Top 3 favourite operas
Dialogue des Carmélites, Le Nozze di Figaro, Le Comte Ory

What’s your favourite opera house?
I sang last winter at the Palais Garnier in Paris and I have to say that the first time I stepped on that stage was pretty magical. It was not my favourite house acoustically speaking though..

 Palais Garnier Ⓒ Viator

Which opera role do you want to be singing right now?
Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro

Which opera role do you want to be singing in 10 years?
Blanche in Dialogue des Carmélites

Who is a singer you admire that is currently working?
Karina Gauvin! My mom had a CD of her when I was growing up and her voice was always so enchanting to me. Having worked with her a couple of times now, I am in awe of her passion for the art of singing, her generosity and her voice!

Who is a singer you admired from the past?
Maria Callas. When I was a teenager studying piano at the Conservatoire in my hometown, a musical theory teacher heard me sing solfège and noticed that I had a good voice. He then called me ‘La Callas’ for the rest of the year. I did not know who she was but I became obsessed with her – her persona, her distinctive voice, the drama in her whole body when she sings!

What’s the strangest thing that has happened to you on stage?
I once cut one of my finger open on a nail during a performance of Rusalka. It was not so bad, but it was bleeding a lot and I had to be on stage for another 5 minutes dancing around jumping and singing. I was one of the woodsprites. Thankfully our costumes for this production were already covered in dirt and blood so it just added a bit of reality to the show!

What’s your favourite orchestral instrument? Why?
Probably the bassoon—I always like its warmth and distinct tone.

What’s your favourite thing about singing with an orchestra?
I love singing with orchestra because it can produce so many different colors. I always feel very inspired and supported by all these beautiful sounds coming from the orchestra. It always makes me feel a little special.

What’s something most people don’t know about opera life?
IT’S HARD! Yes, we are lucky to be able to sing as a job, but for me it also comes with a lot of negative points: stress, always worrying about your voice, wondering if there is too much air conditioning in the performance space, missing special occasions with family and friends, and being alone in a hotel room or apartment in a city you don’t know anyone in. I always imagined that being a singer would be a cool way of living, but when you have a husband, a daughter, parents and friends that you love, it can be quite difficult to be far away from them.

Which role do you wish you could sing, but is not in your voice type?
I would love to be a dramatic soprano for a night and sing one of these crazy big roles that just drop everyone’s jaw to the floor, like Elektra or Salome!

Tent or Hotel?
TENT! I love camping!

What are you afraid of?
I could say snakes but if I am really honest, my biggest fear is probably failure. I know that with every failure you learn something valuable, but my brain has not integrated to this notion yet.

What is one surprising thing that you have learned in becoming an opera singer?
I have learned that being an opera singer is what I do, something that I love, but it is not who I am. It is a part of who I am of course, but it cannot be all of who I am.

What was the first opera you ever saw?
Madama Butterfly at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and I cried!

Are there more musicians in your family?
My brother is a pianist. He has accompanied me in MANY concerts over the years and I still love singing with him.

Which TV show did you binge-watch last?
“Only Murderers in the Building”

What does success look like to you?
My vision of success changed a lot on the last couple of years. I think, first of all, we have a problem with ‘success’, as a word, in our industry — success is not the same for everybody. Somehow, pressure of the industry, the universities etc., makes us believe in one specific idea of success where we sing in all major houses, travel the world, and make a lot of money. And that is success, for some people, I’m sure. I’m just not sure that is what I want.

I think to know what success looks like to you, you have to ask yourself what makes you happy. To me, success looks like a life filled with singing, but also a life surrounded by my daughter, my husband, my family; baking pies for thanksgiving with my neighbours, taking my daughter to her swimming lessons, and decorating a Christmas tree. It seems a little utopic to want to have it all, but I am excited to discover what my version of success will be.

Ⓒ Andreanne Gauthier
Ilker Arcayürek (Tamino) and Anna-Sophie Neher (Pamina) in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, 2022 Ⓒ Michael Cooper
Anna-Sophie Neher (First Niece) in Opera National de Paris’s production of Britten’s Peter Grimes Ⓒ Vincent Pontet

Beethoven’s Fidelio 
Canadian Opera Company

Sept 29-Oct 20, 2023

CONDUCTOR Johannes Debus
DIRECTOR Matthew Ozawa
STAGE MANAGER Stephanie Marrs


LEONORE Miina-Liisa Värelä
ROCCO Dimitry Ivashchenko
MARZELLINE Anna-Sophie Neher
JAQUINO Josh Lovell
DON PIZARRO Johannes Martin Kränzle
FIRST PRISONER Wesley Harrison
With the COC Orchestra and Chorus

Beethoven’s only opera follows the story of Leonore, a woman who disguises herself as a man to go undercover into the very prison where she suspects her husband is being held as a political prisoner. As she descends deeper into the prison’s cells, she uncovers a sinister plot of abuse and oppression.

Acclaimed director Matthew Ozawa transports the action to a modern-day prison facility, reminding viewers that Beethoven’s warnings in Fidelio—about power, corruption, and tyranny—remain as relevant today as they were 200 years ago, while crystallizing the composer’s vision for justice and freedom.

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