Artist of the Week 29 Qs for Miriam Khalil

by | Feb 22, 2024 | Artist of the Week, Featured, News

This week’s Artist of the Week is Canadian-Lebanese soprano, Miriam Khalil. Miriam is in Victoria starring as Margarita Xirgu in Golijov’s Ainadamar with Pacific Opera Victoria, running Feb 21 – 27 (info and tickets here).

This two-time Juno Award-nominated artist has sung many roles across Canada and UK, including Mimì in La bohème  with the Canadian Opera Company, Minnesota Opera, Opera Hamilton, Calgary Opera, Edmonton Opera and Against the Grain Theatre (AtG),  Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni  with Opera Tampa and AtG/The Banff Centre/Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival,  Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande and the Governess in The Turn of the Screw both with Against the Grain Theatre, and Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare and Almirena in Rinaldo with Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Later this season, you can catch Miriam with Edmonton Opera performing Osvaldo Golijov‘s song cycle Ayre  (info and tickets here) and Beethoven 9th with Symphony Nova Scotia (tickets and info here).

In between rehearsals, Miriam sat down with us to talk about when she knew she wanted to be an opera singer, what she believes is the goal of opera, and how to deal with the rejection that comes with this career: “don’t let it take anything from your self esteem or your drive, instead use it as momentum to get better each day”. For some more great advice and to learn more about Miriam, read on:

 

What/who inspired you to sing ?
My mom and dad inspired me to sing. My father has a beautiful voice and my mother loves music. We would always have music playing in the house. On road trips to Lebanon from Syria every summer we would sing all our favourite Fairuz songs.

Heels or flats?
Flats all the way please and thank you.

Favourite city that you’ve worked in?
Lewes, East England.

Favourite place? (could be a travel question – could be your couch)
Home.

 Which opera role do you want to be singing right now?
Margarita Xirgu 😉

What’s your favourite orchestral instrument? Why? 
The cello – I find it soothing and so close to the human voice, that when played a certain way, you can hear its soul.

What’s your favourite thing about singing with an orchestra?
What I love about singing with orchestra is the collaboration of so many with one singular goal – to make something beautiful. Having all of that sound is like being lifted onto a cloud of support. But the cloud is a kaleidoscope of colours and dimensions that feeds inspiration to your voice and musicality.

Tent or hotel?
Hotel, but I also love a good tent if it’s not cold out.

Coffee or tea?
Tea- earl grey- Black

What was the first opera you ever saw?
La boheme.

What’s your ancestry?
Lebanese.

Are there more musicians in your family? If yes, who and what do they play/sing?
My brother Wassim plays the electric guitar and he’s amazing.

What’s your favourite mind-calming practice? ex. Yoga/running/meditation?
Yoga, meditation. This did not used to be the case, but as I get older I find I need more quiet and stillness.

What’s your favourite non-classical band?
Queen – (my soon to be 10 year old and my almost 4 year old as well!).

What was your childhood dream job?
To be a singer – the next Whitney Houston.

Which colour best symbolises your personality?
Turquoise – all shades of it, it’s not blue nor not green, somewhere in between. Some days more one than the other, but always with shades of the other.

Do you sing in the shower?
Of course.

What’s a big investment for an opera artist, but totally worth it?
Regular voice lessons, weekly if possible.

Do you have a funny joke for us?
What did one eye say to the other? Between you and me, something smells.

What nickname do your friends call you and why?
I have many nicknames: Is mama or mom a nickname? Here are the rest! Mimi, Mir, Miri, Mira – Why? I don’t know! They want to endear me their own way maybe, and I love all my nicknames and associate each one with the people that call me by them 🙂

Are you superstitious? If yes, can you share what it’s about?
I am. I believe is signs and I try to listen to my inner voice as much as possible. And I try to tune into what is meant to happen for me, rather than pushing for what I think should happen for me.

When did you know you wanted to be an opera singer?
My first year university when I heard my colleagues sing in Dialogues des Carmelites. My mind was blown by the beautiful sounds and I was in awe of the musical story telling.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?
You have to grow with the roles you are given, and you have to let go of roles that no longer help you to grow or thrive in your instrument. Your voice will change and evolve and so should your role choices. It will be scary but it’s the only way you will continue to have a career.

What is one thing that you cannot live without?
My family.

The music industry is tough, and filled with rejection. How do you cope? Does it get easier??
I’m not sure it gets easier, but you become more resilient and the ability to bounce back becomes stronger. I also think, as I get older, I have more to prioritize and more to think about. Rejection feels upsetting in the moment but I’m also a believer in “if it’s meant for you, it won’t pass you by” I really believe that what is going to happen for you, will happen and no one can take that away. In Canada especially, there is only so much work and in a lot of ways you have to create your own opportunities and find where you shine. Understanding that rejection is more about something not being right for you rather than you not being good enough is imperative. Continuing to hone your craft and working with people that you trust is key. This will help keep you in a positive mind set and help you keep a healthy perspective. Maybe you weren’t ready today but with discipline and work, tomorrow you will be and it’s so important to keep trying. We are very lucky to make music for a living but it does come at a cost. How much it costs is up you, so don’t let it take anything from your self esteem or your drive, instead use it as momentum to get better each day.

Do you think singers and performers have a more powerful inner life?
I think singers take the time to study and to listen. A great deal of performing (certainly in earlier stages) is confronting inner ‘demons’ and overcoming different degrees of stage fright and self doubt. I think this certainly helps, because to perform well, a certain amount of practice goes into trusting oneself and one’s ability to deliver what the composer intended, through their individual lens. This is a gift and I do believe it translates to regular situations. Singer are often very intuitive because they are able to pick up on things that some may be too clouded or distracted to notice.

Does singing help keep you young?
Ask me again in twenty years:) But seriously, singing and acting well is akin to being childlike, playful and receptive, so I do think it helps you stay in touch with your inner child.- so yes, I do!

As a performer, have you achieved everything you wanted to achieve?
I’m still working on things I’d love to achieve. They are not specific roles or engagement, but I’m always striving to improve technically and musically. I don’t think this will ever end. I will always want to be better- and I will likely always thirst for self growth.

What is the ultimate goal of opera?
To tell a story that moves and inspires- to tell the story through the music that reaches emotions that could never be described in words alone. To help create empathy and growth in our collective communities.

LEARN MORE ABOUT MIRIAM KHALIL
VISIT HER WEBSITE
©Trudie Lee Photograph
As Mimì and Antoine Bélanger as Roldolfo- La Bohème
Calgary Opera
©Darryl Block
Bound – Against the Grain Theatre
©Shayne Grey

Golijov’s Ainadamar
Pacific Opera Victoria

Feb 21 – 27

CONDUCTOR:Giuseppe Pietraroia
DIRECTOR: Brian Staufenbiel
VICTORIA CHOREOGRAPHER: Veronica Maguire
ORIGINAL CHOREOGRAPHER :Rocio Vadillo Molina
COSTUME DESIGNER: Dominique Guindon
SET DESIGNER: Brian Staufenbiel Pierre & Charbel Massoud
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Claude Accolas
STAGE MANAGER: Stephanie Marrs
STAGE MANAGER:
Bonni Baynton
ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGER:
Katerina Sokyrko & Sara Robb

VIDEO DESIGNER:
David Murakami

ASSISTANT VIDEO DESIGNER: Sam Clevenger

MARGARITA XIRGU: Miriam Khalil
NURIA: Sarah Shafer
FEDERICO GARIA LORCA: Hanna Hipp
RUIZ ALFONSO: Alfredo Tejada
JOSE TRIPALDI: Neli Craighead
MAESTRO: Louis Dillon

TORERO: Tim Carter
VOICES OF THE FOUNTAIN: Chelsea Kutyn & Cassidy Stahr

With the Victoria Children’s Choir

 

Step into the mesmerizing world of Golijov’s Ainadamar, a gripping and evocative opera that transports you through time and space. Set against the backdrop of 20th-century Spain, this musical masterpiece delves deep into the tumultuous life of acclaimed queer playwright Federico García Lorca and his muse, Margarita Xirgu. The opera’s intensity swells with passion as it intertwines history, fantasy, and the relentless pursuit of artistic freedom. With lush orchestrations, haunting melodies, and soaring vocals, Ainadamar engulfs the senses, painting a vivid tableau of love, sacrifice, and the power of art to transcend the darkest of times. From the haunting echoes of Lorca’s poetry to the turbulent echoes of a nation in upheaval, this gripping tale takes the audience on an emotional journey, leaving them breathless and spellbound, forever changed by its timeless beauty. Lorca insisted that he bear witness to the suffering of the people of his homeland and memorialize the dead, and so too, the audience will be spellbound by the resilience of art among war.

As the music rises and falls, Ainadamar pulsates with a sense of urgency, inviting you to explore the blurred lines between reality and memory. Golijov’s exquisite composition weaves together traditional Spanish folk elements, rich operatic textures, and contemporary flamenco sounds, creating a sonic tapestry that captivates the imagination. The stage becomes a canvas for a visual spectacle, immersing the audience in vibrant colors, dynamic choreography, and powerful storytelling. With each scene, Ainadamar unveils a new layer of mystery and intrigue, revealing the resilience of the human spirit in the face of oppression. It is an immersive and electrifying experience that resonates long after the final notes are cleared from your plate, leaving an indelible mark on your soul.

 


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