"Who Am I?"
"My Life Story as an Opera Singer" by Suzanne Rigden
I am a coloratura soprano, born and raised in Halifax-Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, where I began my singing craft on the living room hearth at three years old. Coming from a musical family, with fiddler grandfathers, a music teacher / pianist mom, and a jazz saxophonist / concert band clarinetist dad, music has always been an important part of my life. My musical training included taking voice lessons at Halifax's Maritime Conservatory, achieving Grade 8 piano, playing flute in the school band, dancing ballet and jazz with Coastal Dance, singing in many choirs including the National Youth Choir of Canada and the award winning Memorial University of Newfoundland Chamber Choir and Quintessential Ensemble, performing in many musicals, and playing a lead operetta role with the Nova Scotia Gilbert and Sullivan Society. I have enjoyed returning to G&S at Saint Jacobs Country Playhouse, and finding a new love in giving back to the community with concert tours by the all women show We Are Women.
I studied Vocal Performance at Acadia and Memorial Universities, and Opera at University of British Columbia, graduating in 2009 with my Masters of Music in Opera Performance. Joining Atelier lyrique with Opera Montreal gave my budding opera career such a boost, as did studies and performances at Mozarteum in Saltzburg, Austria, International Vocal Arts Institute in Tel Aviv, Merola Opera Program, San Francisco, Tanglewood, Massachusetts, and the up and coming Lunenburg Academy of Music, Nova Scotia, a place so special to me that I chose it for my wedding this summer! The wonderful coaches who have helped me fine tune my craft, and the opportunities to portray exciting soprano roles with orchestra have given me the confidence to follow my dream.
I have sung in China, Estonia, Czech Republic, Italy, Austria, Israel, France, Germany, England, Indonesia, and from coast to coast in Canada and the United States, including a concert series on board Celebrity Cruise ship Reflection, sailing the Caribbean. I love to travel, especially trips to opera rich New York and Europe. During the summer of 2014, I went to France to work with José van Dam, Michel Plasson and Natalie Dessay, and then to Italy, where I won second prize overall in Orvieto's Spacio Musica Opera Competition, the Audience Prize, and auditions in Torino and Bologna. I am excited to be moving to Berlin for a year this fall, as past studies and travels in Germany have drawn me to its rich cultural and performing opportunities.
I also love returning to my roots to join Opera Nova Scotia in such roles as Blondchen and Zerlina, to sing in their Opera Valentine, their Concert of Excerpts from Lakmé and Mignon, and as featured soloist in their Distinguished Artist Recital. While in Halifax, I have shared the stage with my Dad's saxophone quartet, joined the Sackville Concert Band and Dalhousie Health Professions Chorale in their Portia White fundraiser concert (a Nova Scotia Talent Trust prize in voice that I was fortunate to receive along the way), and debuted in the Dartmouth Community Concert Series. I have collaborated with Canadian pianist Rich Coburn on a recital series with Musique Royale, singing in beautiful historical venues in Nova Scotia, performed with the Maritime Concert Opera numerous times, and look forward to singing again with Symphony Nova Scotia in Mozart’s Messiah this December.
I always enjoy opportunities to sing in Montreal, including Asprano in Vivaldi's Montezuma with Montreal's Ensemble Caprice, Queen of the Night in Mozart's Magic Flute with FestivalOpéra de St. Eustache, Sophie in Werther with Opera Montreal and my upcoming Nonopera concert and Danica in Svadba, also with OdeM. I have recorded with CBC, and made several Noncerto videos in scenic Montreal locations, as well as on a mountain top in British Columbia, another favorite place to sing. With Pacific Opera Victoria I sang my dream role Zerbinetta, as well as Titania in Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and my debut with Vancouver Opera was Adele in Die Fledermaus.
I have had some exciting competition results lately: First Place and the Audience Choice award in the 2015 National Opera Association Voice Competition, Artist division, in North Carolina, being chosen as a Quarterfinalist in the Montreal International Voice Competition, being chosen one of Canada's 30 Hot Classical Musicians Under 30, and finalist in New York Lyric Opera competition at Carnegie Hall.
2016 began with a blast, singing Strauss with Victoria Symphony's Viennese New Year's and debuting as Blondchen in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I got to return to Middlebury, Vermont, to sing Queen of the Night in their Magic Flute. 2017 firsts to date included my first Carmina Burana soprano soloist with Victoria Symphony, Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass in Florida, and my Gilda debut with Maritime Concert Opera. I got to return to sing Mozart's arrangement of Handel's Messiah with Symphony Nova Scotia. Such divine works! 2018 has been an exciting year in so many ways, including presenting Svadba with Montreal Opera, Serpetta in La finta giardiniera with Opera Nova Scotia, co-founding Musique 3 femmes, singing for the World opera Forum in Spain, and learning German in our new home away from home Berlin. I look forward to returning to Canada for several performances in 2019. Keep an eye on my Schedule page as details become public.
Singing is my life, an amazing job, and has opened so many doors for me. Through opera, I have met many wonderful people, both musicians and opera lovers, and found ways to share the meaning of life through the songs I sing and the stories I tell. Thanks to all who come out to experience and support the stimulating world of opera and classical music and to feel the passions of the world unfold through the music we share.