Corona Serenades: Q&A with Chantal Dionne, soprano (Canada)

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Meet Chantal Dionne, soprano (Canada), singer for Corona Serenades


The Acadian soprano Chantal Dionne has a wide repertoire ranging from opera to mélodie to oratorio. On the opera stage she has been heard as the Fourth Maidservant in Strauss’s Elektra with the Opéra de Montréal as well as a Flower Maiden in Wagner’s Parsifal under the direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin at the Festival de Lanaudière. Roles she has sung abroad include Micaëla in Carmen (France), Pamina in Die Zauberflöte (Vienna), of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni (Italy) and Marguerite in Faust (United States). A laureate of the Concours Musical International de Montréal, Chantal also won a triple triumph in Italy at the 56th Gian Battista Viotti International Competition: first prize, the public prize and the prize for the best foreign contestant. As a concert singer she has performed in Mozart’s Requiem and Coronation Mass, Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Missa Solemnis. Her debut recital disc, Romances, with pianist Louise-Andrée Baril, was an international success.

How has the crisis affected you?

First of all, it caused the cancellation of all my professional contracts, such as the concerts scheduled between March and August of this year, as well as daily private lessons, teaching courses at summer festivals and recordings. But not everything is negative. The confinement protocols forced me and my children to review and reorganize our family environment. From this comes a lot that is positive. For example, we make a schedule for the use of the computer according to my firstborn’s CEGEP online courses, my younger daughter’s fifth-year elementary school homework and my own professional needs. Also, preparing meals together, we try more exotic dishes, cakes, salads etc. We discover the pleasure of exercise at home with yoga and workouts, which are easily found on the internet. Obviously daily walks are necessary! We also discovered the pleasure and especially the relaxation of crochet. We are starting on our Christmas gifts. I have started to work on a vegetable garden, which will keep me busy during the summer and ease my disappointment over the cancelled and lost contracts.

What are your five favourite operas?

This is a question I find difficult to answer because there are too many that I like and for different reasons. How to rank them in order of importance? I’m going to name five that touched me as a young artist. Whether through their technical challenges or their complex characters, these operas have made me evolve as a singer.

Carmen. Micaëla was the first role that I sang professionally. The vocal challenge is considerable (especially the duet with Don José) but what made the greatest demands on me was how to make this “good pious, loving and caring young girl” a strong woman in love who will not give up the struggle to recover her beloved. I remember finding it rather complex as an exercise given my limited stage experience at the time.

Die Zauberflöte. Pamina was the first role that I sang in Europe. In Rome, more precisely. We sang in German with the dialogue in Italian. It was a great challenge that taught me a lot about the importance of knowing the music fully before the first rehearsal. In the years that followed, I sang Pamina many times in different professional conditions: in English with dialogue in English, in German with dialogue in French, in German with dialogue in English, in German with dialogue in German…phew!

Dialogues des Carmelites. Blanche is the role that moves me the most in the French lyric repertoire. The character and the historical context of the work fascinate me. I am particularly fond of works based on real events. Here Poulenc’s music is harmonically engaged and transports me artistically and vocally like no other work in the lyric repertoire. It’s one of my favorite operas.

Elektra. I never sang the role of Elektra and probably never will! But I had the opportunity to participate in the Opéra de Montréal production as a Maidservant under the brilliant musical direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the fabulous Alain Gauthier as director. Apart from the principal roles, which were taken by singers from abroad, several secondary roles were sung by Canadians and/or Quebecers. Great singers. Magnificent musical experience. The strength of the character of Elektra (here sung by the soprano Lise Lindstrom) accompanied by the powerful music of Strauss, all around a huge seven-metre-high sculpture designed by the Spanish sculptor Victor Ochoa. It is hard to describe how this surpassed everything as a human experience.

Verdi’s Requiem. Yes, I know, this is not an opera, but I want to tell you about my favourite opera singer and the performance that marked me most as an artist. It’s Leontyne Price! Obviously, Ms. Price sang in several operas, all worthy of mention. But it was her technical achievement in Verdi’s Requiem (on video) with maestro Karajan as conductor that inspired me and motivated me to continue my work with my voice teacher. She remains my favorite singer.

What movies, television shows and books do you recommend?

I am currently reading L’ombre du vent by Carlos Ruiz Zafòn. My eldest gave it to me at Christmas and I admit that I really like the literary sensibility of the author. I also like the Muchachas trilogy by Katherine Pancol. A television series I recommend is La casa de Papel (La maison de papier/Money Heist). A Quebec series we recently watched is Fragile. Highly recommended. Netflix series I like: The Last Kingdom, Marco Polo, Sense 8, Outlander, The Crown, The Irishman.

Why did you join CORONA Serenades?

I joined the CORONA Serenades to support this initiative, which helps people who are on the front lines to fight this virus as well as lyric artists who live in isolation and are unable to practice their profession and passion or to make a living.

Links :

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

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