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Q&A | 41 Questions For Jean Stilwell

By Michael Vincent on January 18, 2017

Jean Stilwell (Photo courtesy Classical 96.3 FM)
Jean Stilwell (Photo courtesy Classical 96.3 FM)

Every so often MT poses 60 questions to a local or visiting artist in Toronto who has made our classical music community that much more interesting. They pick and choose. The minimum response is 20 answers. A kind of Rorschach personality test, if you will.

Toronto’s Jean Stilwell is one of Canada’s leading mezzo-sopranos. Stilwell first burst onto the opera scene with the title role in Bizet’s Carmen in Vancouver, which lead to performances in opera houses and concert halls throughout the world. She has been seen on TV as a panelist for the hit show ‘Bathroom Divas’,  is a frequent guest on CBC broadcasts, and has recorded extensively on the CBC and CMC labels.

Stilwell is heard on Toronto’s The New Classical FM as co-host of “Classical Mornings with Mike and Jean” —  Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 10:00 a.m.

What are three things about Toronto that make you want to live here?

The arts, the people i.e., the multicultural assimilation, the influence of Jane Jacobs and our thriving city centre.

What are three things that Toronto doesn’t have but should?

More beautiful lakeshore, an infinitely superior Toronto Transit System, acknowledgment and utilization of the importance and great need for our social workers.

Name your favourite concert hall/venue in Toronto

Koerner Hall

Name your favourite concert hall/venue anywhere

Vienna State Opera and Suntory Hall, Tokyo

Your role models?

Meryl Streep, Judi Forst, Maya Angelou, and Georgia O’Keefe.

Your favourite sound?

The bass voice of Martin Talvela.

Your favourite smells?

Ex Idolo – Thirty Three perfume, freshly roasted coffee, and the perfect body chemistry.

Your least favourite smells?

Rotting garbage.

The historical personalities, both good and bad, that fascinate you the most?

Isadora Duncan, Frida Kahlo, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Maria Callas.

The dumbest thing that you’ve ever done to your hair?

Dyed my hair carrot orange….

What are the three things you’d like to change about Toronto?

TTC, Lakeshore, and The Gardner.

Is there a local music store that could sell you anything?

No.

Your first three record store purchases?

Three Dog Night, Beatles Revolver, and Carmen by Bizet.

If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you?

Turks and Caicos.

The strangest place you’ve ever been to?

Khmer Rouge Killing Fields, and Cambodia.

The three books that you read that made an impact on you in your formative years?

All of Herman Hesse’s novels, Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and The Outsider by Albert Camus.

Whose musical style do you covet?

Kurt Elling.

Where was the last place you traveled to for work or pleasure?

Barbados.

What is your biggest phobia?

Memory lapse.

The cliché that you overuse?

WTF?

Shoe of choice?

John Fluevog.

The different career path that you could have gone on?

Psychology.

Your ancestry?

British.

Your major character flaw?

Feelings of inadequacy.

The character flaw in others that you can’t abide?

Cruelty.

What was the luckiest moment in your life?

When I was first cast as Carmen.

What was the unluckiest moment in your life?

Diagnosis that my Mother had A.L.S.

What are you the most proud of?

My Son.

What is the best thing about your work?

As a singer = making music.

As a Radio Co-Host = laughter, listening to beautiful music.

What is the worst thing about your work?

Waking up at 3:30 a.m.

The relatively normal piece of clothing that you believe you’d look the most ridiculous in?

A poncho.

The talent that you wish you possessed?

Dancer.

What are you listening to as you answer these questions?

Dishwasher and my dog breathing….

What musical instrument do you secretly long to play?

Drums.

What is the one animal that scares you the most?

Green Anaconda.

If you had a motto, what would it be?

To Thine Own Self Be True.

Scariest situation you’ve ever been in?

Waiting to go on stage for the final act of Aida as Amneris.

Your favourite word?

Love.

The thing that makes you the happiest?

Love.

The thing that makes you the angriest?

War.

The one place that you have the least interest in ever visiting?

Pakistan.

To read more from our Q&A Series, click HERE.

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Michael Vincent
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Michael Vincent

Michael Vincent is Publisher of Ludwig Van. He publishes regularly and writes occasionally. He has worked as a senior editor over fifteen years and is a former freelance classical music critic for the Toronto Star. Michael holds a Doctorate in Music from the University of Toronto.
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