10 Questions for Norine Burgess

Norine Burgess’s stage presence and elegant singing keep her busy in opera houses and on concert stages around the world.  Recently she was heard in Beethoven’s 9th (Vancouver Symphony), Clairon in Strauss’s Capriccio (Pacific Opera Victoria), as Annio in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito (Opera Vancouver), and in recital in her native Calgary.  An extended run as Miss Mary Lloyd in the Vienna Volksoper’s production of Kálmán’s Die Herzogin von Chicago earned her rave notices: “she is so perfect in the role that it is almost impossible to imagine a production without her.” (MusicWebInternational). She debuted at the Salzburg Festival in 1997 in Die Zauberflöte, and has worked with such notable conductors as Sir Charles MacKerras, Manfred Honeck, and Helmuth Rilling.

Her extensive discography includes the Healey Willan Requiem with the Kitchener-Waterloo Philharmonic Choir (EMI); Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 2, “Lobegesang”, with the Internationale Bachakademie conducted by Helmuth Rilling; a Christmas CD Michael Schade for the Canadian Musical Heritage Society; and a DVD of the Vienna Volksoper production of Die Herzogin von Chicago, which was featured as DVD of the Month in Gramophone: “A strong cast headed by the attractive Canadian soprano Norine Burgess…tremendous fun!”

Muse of Fire, to be presented this coming week in a co-production of Talisker Players and members of Groundling Theatre Company, a celebration of Shakespeare, via six composers: Igor Stravinsky, Howard Blake, Jean Coulthard, Alexander Rapoport, Mark Richards, and Antonio Vivaldi.  Five of the six compositions in Muse of Fire are for mezzo-soprano & instrumentalists, so in a very real sense Norine Burgess will be playing The Muse.

I ask Burgess ten questions: five about herself and five about Muse of Fire.

1) Which of your parents do you resemble (what’s your nationality / ethnic background)?

Norine Burgess

Mezzo-soprano Norine Burgess (photo credit: Johannes Ifkovits)

When I was a toddler, I looked exactly like my dad; but now, not only do I look very much like my mom, I apparently sound exactly like her on the phone; people can’t tell us apart. My family tree is rooted mostly in England, with a Scottish branch thrown in for flavour.
2) what is the BEST thing / worst thing about being a singer?

The best thing about being a singer is the emotional connection the human voice has for people; unlike an instrument, we all have a voice, so it seems to go straight to people’s hearts & emotions. Of course, that’s the worst thing too, because whatever I am affected by in my life tends to show up in my voice, sometimes making performing challenging.

3) who do you listen to or watch?

I listen to Ella Fitzgerald, the Barenaked Ladies; I watch Smash, because I love the process of building a musical (that’s where I got started)

4) what ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?

The ability that I wish I had? well, to be honest…. (I have kids, & I’ve read & watched Harry Potter a LOT)… I wish all that magic were possible, & I could use a wand!

5) When you’re just relaxing (and not working) what is your favorite thing to do?

I love to do yoga, read, garden, hike… paint (but that requires more time than I usually have)

Five more about Muse of Fire

1) How do the songs in Muse of Fire challenge you? 

The songs challenge me, each group in a different way: Stravinsky is especially tricky because it is so sophisticated & intellectual, especially the first piece. It has taken a little while to find the tunefulness. The Couthard was also a challenge in terms of pure mechanics–counting & intervals. It took awhile to find the melody & the arc of the song. The other groups were perhaps less challenging in that respect, but had other challenges of fitting the ensemble together, or vocal technique, dealing with high notes, long-held notes, etc. Of course, singing in English, the challenge is always to make the words as clear as possible, & infused with meaning.

2) what do you love about Muse of Fire

I always love working with the Talisker Players–I feel like it’s a team effort, a discovery together, rather than an instrumental group with the addition of a vocalist. I always learn a great deal (shifting! who knew?), & I enjoy the rehearsal process almost as much as the performances.

3) Do you have a favorite number or moment in Muse of Fire?

I think my favourite piece is the whole group of Blake songs, perhaps the final one most of all.

4) How do you relate to Shakespeare & the presentation of his works in Muse of Fire as a modern woman?

Shakespeare wrote clear, beautiful, evocative words which we still find touch our hearts even now.

5) Is there anyone out there who you particularly admire, and who has influenced you?

So many people I admire & who have influenced me–dear friends, singing teachers, my children (parenting is an amazingly life-changing experience!)… too many to name.

Muse of Fire
A celebration of the Great Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare

Tuesday, April 17 & Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 8 PM
Pre-concert chats at 7:15 pm
Trinity St. Paul’s Centre, 427 Bloor Street West

Norine Burgess, mezzo soprano;
members of Groundling Theatre Company
The Talisker Players Email: words.music@taliskerplayers.ca

Individual tickets:  $30 / $20 (seniors) / $10 (students)
Tel: 416-978-8849 ~ General information: 416-466-1800

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