The Rubies 2017: Spotlight on Yves Abel

by | Sep 15, 2017 | Featured, Rubies Awards

On October 30, Opera Canada hosts its 18th annual awards gala The Rubies. One of this year’s three honourees is Yves Abel, Chief Conductor of the Nordwestdeutsche Philarmonie. Originally from Toronto, Abel’s career spans over twenty years and is truly international. Writer Victoria Stapells met with Abel to discuss his career, his childhood, and the vital, close connections he makes with the artists he conducts for the upcoming issue of Opera Canada.

“My job as conductor is to bring the singers as close to their vocal comfort zone as possible, and perhaps even beyond it, without compromising technique or skill.”   

Abel rehearsing with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in 2013

Yves Abel rehearsing with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra in 2013; Source:

“It’s vital to support a singer facing the audience. I’m not! I have my back to the audience. They have the blinding lights in their faces and a costume that is perhaps too tight around the neck.  They are worried about their singing technique, at the same time as having to remember the words, the music, and what the conductor, stage director and their colleagues want. There are a million things to think about. I have the greatest sympathy for singers because you have to be highly intelligent to combine all of the factors to be successful in an opera career.”

Abel (right) with Juan Diego Florez (left) at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 2013

Yves Abel (right) with Juan Diego Florez (left) at the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 2013; Source:

“Let’s not forget these composers were facing words and somehow had to translate them into music. So that’s what I always say to singers, I want to go back to that spark, to the composer’s ‘Aha!’ moment.”

Photo by Richard Crean

Photo by Richard Crean

(On being someone who lives in the present): “I have no choice! I have so much music to learn, I’d better be living in the present.”  


The full feature on Yves Abel will be available in the upcoming issue of Opera Canada, due out in late October.

Abel is an honouree this year alongside soprano Karina Gauvin and director/teacher Michael Park Albano.

This year’s Rubies will be held on October 30 at the First Canadian Place in Toronto. For more information on The Rubies or for tickets please visit



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