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Jane Archibald, Soprano


© John Rennison

If the name Jane Archibald is not familiar, it is a name you will want to take note of as she continues to ascend the arc of a brilliant international career: at just 34 years of age, this Nova Scotia-born soprano is heralded as “the coloratura of our time.” She has achieved stunning success as a Canadian singer on the world stage, most recently in a house and role debut at the MET where she stepped in at short notice for Natalie Dessay as Ophélie.

With a decade-long professional career under her belt, Archibald has sung in some of the world’s most prestigious opera houses, including the Opéra National de Paris, the Bavarian State Opera Munich and the Vienna State Opera and has upcoming debuts at La Scala Milan and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. This year, she also makes her Canadian Opera Company debut as Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos — a demanding role that she has positively owned since 2007, when she stepped in on short notice in Geneva to perform "... with an unbelievable mastery of singing, controlled with apparent ease… technical ease combined with a remarkable dramatic presence.” (Le Figaro)

Since that role debut, critics have been tripping over each other’s superlatives for her portrayal of Strauss’ comic heroine: “The exceptional performance of Jane Archibald as Zerbinetta remains unforgettable. Her beauty, physical and vocal, her ease in all the tessituras, from the extreme lows to the extreme heights, and the naturalness with which she brings this great-granddaughter of Despina to life, leaves us speechless.” (Forum Opera)

Archibald’s solo recording debut, Haydn Arias with the the Orchestre Symphonique Bienne of Switzerland under the direction of Thomas Rösner, features her breathtaking voice in excerpts from Joseph Haydn’s operas Orlando Paladino, Il mondo della luna and L’isola disabitata.

Archibald was raised in a musical household in Truro, Nova Scotia. Her late physician father was also a jazz pianist in his spare time. “For him music was a kind of therapy. He would play it to unwind at the end of a long day; he would play it during both difficult and happy times in his life, so our house was always filled with piano music,” recalls Archibald. This, together with the pure luck of having grown up in the intensely musical community that was Truro during the 1980s, is what Archibald credits with having planted the seeds for her musical life.

Though she took cello lessons, played trumpet in the school band, and performed in her school musical, it was singing classical music that captured her imagination. Archibald sang in various choirs, including Truro’s nationally renowned First Baptist Girls' Choir, and by the time she was 12 years old she was taking singing lessons and dabbling in German lieder and French mélodies. “I just loved it and found it so thrilling to be singing in other languages. It was an instant passion. By the time I was 15 or 16, I was pretty sure that being a singer was what I wanted to do. I knew there would be sacrifices and challenges, though of course, I didn’t know quite what they would be – you don’t really understand that until you’ve been through it.”

Archibald landed at the Faculty of Music at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo under the tutelage of Victor Martens, where she was exposed to a wider range of repertoire and styles. “I was like a kid in a candy shop. I just wanted to sing it all – Haydn and Mozart, and Bach – I just went nuts! That was a very exciting time in my life, the university years – just an amazing experience,” she says.
For someone with enormous personal charisma and presence who likes to meet challenges head-on, it’s surprising to hear that Archibald considers herself a somewhat reserved person who was very self-conscious in earlier years. “I didn’t like the feeling that people were looking at me and judging me,” she laughs. “As a singer, it was not the best hang-up to have!”

So how is it that Archibald is able to perform fiendishly difficult roles under the increasingly bizarre circumstances — including her bikini-clad Zerbinetta in the Opera de Paris’ production last December —demanded by many opera directors today? She credits a pivotal moment during her time at Laurier. “I remember being in 2nd or 3rd year, performing some Schumann songs with an original fortepiano from the time that the school had acquired. I just decided it was the right place to let go and connect with the audience and find that connection with them, removing that barrier between me and the audience, lifting the veil, I guess. And it was such rush! It was scary, because it felt like I was taking a big risk. I learned to grow and come to a place where I was ready and wanted to do that. It was just a feeling of reaching out, and finding for the first time, that symbiotic relationship that an artist can have with an audience.”

“I like challenges generally – that’s definitely something that could be said of me, so the fact that this art-form requires me to be in top form as a singer, as an actress, and try to do all these things — sing different languages, travel to different cities – it’s a lot, but when it works it’s really thrilling.”

Archibald is anticipating a short break from the demands of the opera house this summer for reasons that have little to do with rest and relaxation: In July, she will marry the renowned Mozart tenor Kurt Streit. The couple met while doing a concert in Berlin, and together with his 13 year-old son, have established a home base in Austria. “Both of them have become an incredibly important part of my life in the past few years. Of course it has its challenges – as a singer you get very used to being alone a lot of the time – you’re on the road and you can get stuck in your habits and preferences. For me it’s been wonderful to step into a ready-made family. I feel very blessed, I feel very, very happy.”

© Luisa Trisi, April 2011


JUNO Award for ATMA CD with Jane Archibald
ATMA Classique is delighted to announce that its recording Haydn Arias, with Canadian soprano Jane Archibald and l’Orchestre symphonique Bienne under Thomas Rösner, has won a 2012 JUNO Award for Classical Album of the Year...
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Jane Archibald
If the name Jane Archibald is not familiar, it is a name you will want to take note of as she continues to ascend the arc of a brilliant international career: at just 34 years of age, this Nova Scotia-born soprano is heralded as “the coloratura of our tim