Joyce El-Khoury & Serouj Kradjian: What They’re Made Of

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

Lebanese-Canadian soprano Joyce El-Khoury is coming back to Toronto—and this time, it’s personal. Fresh off of a run as Maria/Amelia in Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, she will take to the concert stage for a recital with longtime collaborator and friend, pianist Serouj Kradjian. 

There’s something special about programming and performing recitals, says El-Khoury. “Recitals, in my mind, are an opportunity for artists to express themselves outside the confines of an opera. They are a great creative outlet—an opportunity for human expression.” Her May 2 performance at the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto (WMCT) will be no exception. 

El-Khoury and Kradjian have created a program that combines bel canto favourites with a collection of the Lebanese songs she grew up listening to. These are pieces that “grandfather sang—songs from my village,” she says, which have been reimagined by Kradjian. This repertoire will be completely new to Toronto audiences, and will include the North American première of Les cèdres by Iyad Kanaan.

“Promoting the culture of Lebanon” is one of El-Khoury’s artistic missions. “Because of recent and historic events, when people think of Lebanon they think of war, of destruction and bombs.” She wants to show the concert-going public another side of her beautiful country. “It’s so culturally rich—the food, the music, the hospitality—you can’t go to Lebanon and not have a good time. You don’t see that in the news.” She hopes to highlight this rich culture in her recital, giving voice to a wealth of music that has not been presented in the West. 

The resulting program is what El-Khoury describes as a “collection of remembrance items,” belonging to both her and Kradjian, who left Lebanon when he was 12. Together with a series of Armenian tango pieces, and the starting lineup of works by Bellini, Liszt, Fauré, Bizet and Delibes, it offers a blend of the “things that I am known for,” as she puts it, “and the things that I am made of.”

“Putting together a recital is like a game of Tetris, but the best part is singing it.” In each piece, El-Khoury aims to communicate something unique, intimate, and relevant to her audience. “Every song has a life, a story. It’s an adventure,” she says with a smile. She delights in colouring “every piece with personal experiences, and connecting each song to an image.” 

As her operatic career takes her all over the world, El-Khoury looks forward to sharing this musical afternoon with the WMCT audience. “It is such a blessing to sing at home, performing for faces you recognize,” says the soprano. “It does a lot of good for my soul, to be in Canada.”

Joyce El-Khoury and Serouj Kradjian will present their recital as part of the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto’s 126th season. Their performance will take place on May 2 at 1:30 p.m., in Walter Hall.

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


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