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Friday, April 24, 2015

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Jewish opera star has debut with TSO

Tags: Arts
Lauren Segal

Jewish mezzo-soprano Lauren Segal teams with violinist Hilary Hahn and three other singers in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra production of Mozart’s Coronation Mass Jan. 15 and 16 at Roy Thomson Hall.

The concerts, marking Segal’s debut with the TSO, are part of the Mozart at 258 Festival from Jan. 11 to 23 presented by the orchestra in honour of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 258th birthday.

“The Coronation Mass is a beautiful mix between the chorus, soloists and orchestra, and is memorable as one of Mozart’s most powerful works, often used for royal coronations in Vienna during the 19th century,” Segal said.

 Born in South Africa but raised in Thornhill, Ont., after her family immigrated to Canada in 1986, Segal has already earned acclaim across Canada for her many roles in opera, performing from British Columbia to Nova Scotia with the Canadian Opera Company.


However, the opera star could have been known as the next Albert Einstein instead of the next Beverly Sills. Segal switched careers while she was earning her master’s degree in physics at University of Toronto.

“I loved music even as a child, but took it more seriously as a profession for me when I joined the choir as an undergraduate at York University. Most of my friends in the choir studied opera and I loved it myself. So, I took voice lessons, even while I was considering a career in physics, and have no regrets at all for having a career in music instead of science.”

Segal’s path to becoming an opera singer was quite different from that of many of her peers who planned for a singing career from the time they were children.

Competing with others who had a more traditional pedigree, Segal immersed herself in the study of French, German and Italian, as well as the history of opera, after leaving university.

Hard work combined with her talent paid off. Performing mostly with the Canadian Opera Company since 2006,  Segal has earned standing ovations and critical acclaim for her performances as Sonya in War And Peace, Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, Valencienne in The Merry Widow and Nancy T’sing in Nixon In China, among other roles.

Segal’s prominence as a young opera singer earned her the recognition to be accepted as the only Canadian in the prestigious Salzburg Festival For Young Artists in 2008, and she won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions Encouragement Award twice.

She is only the second Jewish Canadian female opera singer ever to have reached national prominence. The first was the late Maureen Forrester. 

Segal’s grace, impeccable vocals and physical beauty have made her a sought-out artist. “You don’t have to be huge to sing the notes anymore. What is necessary is to exercise the vocal chords, rehearsing and developing a stage presence.”

Of all the roles she played on stage, Segal’s favourite is the title role in Carmen, performed in Hamilton and Saskatoon.

“In the title role, Segal captivates the audience with her acting and her singing. Her beauty and alluring figure present a compelling Carmen as a sultry, smoldering femme fatale,” Opera Canada wrote of Segal’s performance in Saskatoon.

Although she has travelled to Israel, Segal has never performed there. She is proud of her Jewish roots, often being asked to sing in synagogues as a cantor.

“A lot of opera stars have become cantors, but I love performing on the stage and would miss it if I became a cantor. However, singing in the choir is fun to do when I can.”

Segal sings with the choir at both Adath Israel Congregation and Beth Sholom Synagogue in Toronto, often on the High Holidays.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra production of Mozart’s Coronation Mass is Jan. 15 and 16, 8 p.m., at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. For tickets, call 416-593-4828 or go to www.tso.ca.

For more information on Lauren Segal, go to www.laurensegal.com.

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