THE SCOOP | Cecilia Livingston Named New Composer-in-Residence At The Canadian Opera Company

By Anya Wassenberg on October 3, 2022

Composer Cecilia Livingston (Photo courtesy of the COC)
Composer Cecilia Livingston (Photo courtesy of the COC)

The Canadian Opera Company has named Cecilia Livingston as the new Composer-in-Residence for a two-year period.

The COC’s residency is customized for each recipient, and will involve working with the company at various levels, along with mentorship.

“Opera is an art form that continues to evolve and push boundaries like no other,” says COC General Director Perryn Leech in a media release. “I am committed to finding talented new artists to be part of that future and Cecilia’s ability to find a sound world that builds on what has gone before, and excites and enriches the stories yet to be told, stood out incredibly strongly amongst our many applicants. Cecilia already has a wonderful understanding of the voice and, while this residency will provide plenty of opportunity for honing that ability, it will also shed crucial light on the practicalities and day-to-day realities of mounting an operatic work — all important experience for a composer of new opera.”

As part of the residency, Livingston will work on a project from start to finished production, with the COC providing support at every step.

“It means the world to me to come home to Canada and make an ambitious new work with our national opera company,” says Livingston. “I admire the COC’s leadership in supporting Canadian artists on its international stage, and I’m thrilled to collaborate with the premiere presenter of live opera in this country.”

Penelope by Cecilia Livingston with Michaela Kelly, soprano, Christine Teng, piano at the DMA Voice & MM Collaborative Piano Recital, University of Southern California, Newman Hall (Recorded on March 27, 2022)

Cecilia Livingston

The British-Canadian composer’s work has typically focused on vocal works. Here’s more about her dynamic career.

  • A SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in Music at King’s College London and holds a doctorate in Composition from the University of Toronto;
  • Composer-in-residence at Glyndebourne from 2019-2022;
  • Fellowships with The American Opera Project in Brooklyn and Bang on a Can;
  • On the faculty at Banff Centre’s Opera in the 21st Century program;
  • She won the inaugural Mécénat Musica Prix 3 Femmes for her opera Singing Only Softly;
  • Nominated for two 2020 Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Theatre (including Outstanding New Opera);
  • Her harp and vibraphone duo Garden is on the 2020 JUNO Classical Album of the Year for Solo or Chamber;
  • Her work has been performed at Bang on a Can’s summer festival, Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, the 21C Music Festival at the RCM, the international World Choir Games;
  • Her work has been performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Kingston Symphony, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, and with Toronto’s Thin Edge New Music Collective;
  • Upcoming projects including working with Soundstreams, the Canadian Art Song Project, and a recording project with Canadian poet Anne Michaels and soprano Hera Hyesang Park for Deutsche Grammophon.

“I am very excited to welcome and work with Cecilia,” says Johannes Debus, COC Music Director. “I admire her artistic ideas and vision, as well as her ability to express complex matters through a musical language that is equally accessible and comprehensible as it is sophisticated, intelligent, and evocative. I trust the COC can further nurture her unique talent in writing for the human voice, and I am looking forward to experiencing first-hand the creative energy she brings to the art form.”

Livingston will also be working closely with the COC’s Ensemble Studio to gain a deeper perspective into large scale opera at all levels.

“To me, the theatre is a place of empathy,” says Livingston. “Now, more than ever, we’re hungry for the immediacy of live performance. The singing voice is at the heart of my work, and its electric intimacy drives my thinking about structure, atmosphere, and pacing–about how we listen, and how music can unfold around a spine of melody to create opportunities for audiences to experience something profound.”

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