Growing up in Kiryat Ono, Israel, soprano Nofar Yacobi enjoyed watching Disney movies.
She said it was like a dream when she was asked to sing the role of Madame de Garderobe, an opera singer who’s cursed and turned into a wardrobe, in the Hebrew version of Beauty and The Beast, released in 2017. “It was very cool for me,” she said.
Yacobi, a graduate of the opera program at the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music at Tel Aviv University, has been living in Toronto since last September, one of the artists who’s part of the 2018-19 Rebanks Family Fellowship and International Performance Residency at the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School.
In March, Yacobi made her Canadian debut in the role of Queen of the Night in Glenn Gould School’s production of The Magic Flute at Koerner Hall. The role features two of the most difficult arias ever composed for sopranos. One of them is the famous Queen of the Night aria, “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen (Hell’s Vengeance Boils in My Heart).”
In 2014, while she was attending Tel Aviv U, Yacobi and other music students created a parody of the Queen of the Night aria for a Purim concert, called “Queen of the Chocolate.” Days before the concert, a video of airplane passengers who flew into a rage because a flight attendant couldn’t provide them with chocolate went viral in Israel.
“The music of the Queen of the Night aria is totally crazy and totally angry and with a lot of rage and super energetic,” she said. “We took the text of the original video and put the words in the Queen of the Night aria. It couldn’t work better, with that music and those words.” The student video of the parody went viral, too, with 120,000 views on Facebook and about 35,000 views on YouTube.
Yacobi said piano was her main passion until she joined a choir at the age of 12, and as the years went by, she fell in love with classical singing.
Just before her military service, she decided to audition for the Israeli Opera choir. At first, she was turned down, told she was too young, but a few months later she was invited back to sing for a panel of three people, including the company’s conductor, Yishai Steckler.
“He told me that he doesn’t think I need to be in a choir because he hears a lot of potential and I should be a soloist,” Yacobi said. “He gave me many compliments and that was really special for me and gave me a drive really to pursue this.”
Yacobi is appearing in two recitals with pianist Coral Solomon in May. Her piano studies come in handy when she works with a pianist, she said.
“Even sometimes I just hear they’re not playing the right note and tell them. It’s very helpful because then you can really work. It’s all a matter of understanding each other.”
She thinks of a pianist who performs with her as a collaborator. “It’s an ensemble and I don’t like to say, ‘This is my accompanist’ because it takes out the collaboration,” Yacobi said. “Collaborating is a totally different thing.”
Yacobi’s upcoming performances include:
• May 2, With pianist Coral Soloman at Temerty Hall, Royal Conservatory, 273 Bloor Street West, Toronto, free admission, 8 p.m.
• May 4, Tradicious: Ode to Spring, a program featuring works by Romanian composers and others: with pianist Coral Solomon, Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front Street West, Toronto, 7 p.m. For tickets, visit eventbrite.ca.
• May 27, From Broadway to the Met: With mezzosoprano Lauren Segal, tenor Guy Mannheim, tenor and conductor Alexander Veprinsky. Beth Tikvah Synagogue, Toronto, 7 p.m. For tickets, visit bethtikvahtoronto.org.
For more information, visit nofaryacobi.com.