Jordan de Souza, “the fast-rising young Canadian maestro with a busy international career” (Ottawa Citizen), is currently a Guest Conductor, Assistant Conductor, and Cover Conductor at the Canadian Opera Company, the National Ballet of Canada, and the Bregenz Festival (Austria), and is the newly appointed Resident Conductor for Tapestry Opera, Canada’s leading contemporary opera company.
There’s a great deal more in the bio you can find on his website.
In February Toronto audiences will encounter him
- playing the piano in collaboration with Wallis Giunta for Tapestry Opera’s upcoming songbook VI Friday February 5th and 6th
- as conductor with the Canadian Opera Company (Le nozze di Figaro) in performances February 23rd & 25th.
I had to ask him some questions.
1) Are you more like your father or your mother?
I feel fortunate to have inherited characteristics of both my parents and strive to be like them in many ways: I have my mother’s inward temperament (and hair) and aspire to her sense of purpose and compassion; I inherited my Dad’s cerebral matter (and love of sport) and follow the example of his love of family and work. I have both of them to thank for my love of music: being part of a large family, music was our lifeblood. (I’m the seventh of eight children, a.k.a. #LeadingTone or the best time signature of 7/8) We had four pianos in the house growing up and there were times when they were all going simultaneously!
2) What is the best thing about what you do?
Music gives us the chance to be. We learn to listen and appreciate diverse vantage points, to engage as a community in a creative act that reflects the sum of its parts but has a life of its own. Poverty of mind and spirit is not a new challenge but, with art as the oxygen of society, we have the chance to understand each other and ourselves better. When the world is dark, it keeps the light inside you bright.
3) Who do you like to listen to or watch?
My favourite people to listen to are my nieces and nephews: I’m always guaranteed to discover something original, quirky, and wonderful! This season I began with the National Ballet of Canada and I’ve fallen in love with the art of dance. I’ve learned so much about music (e.g. phrasing, gesture, etc.) from watching the dancers.
I also watch my Toronto sports teams as often as I can: I’ve been a Raptors, Jays, and Leafs fan since childhood and enjoy following their progress on my ESPN app and catching the odd game now that I’m back in Toronto. (Though I also secretly root for the San Antonio Spurs…)
4) What ability or skill do you wish you had, that you don’t have?
I’d love to be able to dunk a basketball like Vince Carter, hit a homerun like Bautista, or dance around the pitch like Messi. Sport has always been a major passion: I admire the art of athletes as much as the athleticism of artists.
I heard a high C at the opera last week that easily warranted a bat-flip!
5) When you’re just relaxing and not working what is your favourite thing to do?
I enjoy spending time with friends and family. One of the advantages of a life in music is that we meet so many people over the course of our varied projects; and we spend real, valuable moments with them. Seeing somebody every day for six weeks and going through the vulnerability of creating a theatre piece forges a certain connection. And then you don’t see them again: sometimes for three years, sometimes for ten. But when you do, it’s great to catch up and reminisce! I’m working on Figaro at the COC right now and there are two other alumni from St. Michael’s Choir School that I’ve known since I was a child: Robert Pomakov was in my older brother’s class and Michael Colvin has been familiar to me since childhood.
More about Jordan de Souza’s upcoming projects Tapestry Songbook and conducting Marriage of Figaro
1) How was Songbook VI –the upcoming Tapestry recital with Wallis Giunta and yourself at the piano—assembled?
This is a superb endeavour by Tapestry: all the repertoire being presented was commissioned by Tapestry over the last 36 years. It’s a testament to their innovation, dedication, and longevity. The works are all at least 50% (if not 100%) Canadian: that is, the librettist and/or composer is Canadian (with half the pairing sometimes an import such as a Scot, Irishman, or American). The rep is incredibly varied and showcases a wide range of musical expression. Consider that while all of these works might not have been homeruns as a whole, they each have some really thoughtful and moving musico-dramatic scenes. It will be a pleasure to collaborate with so many talented young artists, as well as my dear friends Wally and Michael, in bringing them to life again. A veritable treasure trove of Canadian dramatic music!
2) At the same time that you’re preparing the songbook – a recital by you on piano in collaboration with Wallis Giunta, you’re also preparing to conduct The Marriage of Figaro at the Canadian Opera Company later in the run. Could you talk about stretching yourself, reconciling piano & conducting, modern singing with Mozart?
Conductors have a universal disease that propels us to be eternally immersed in as much music as possible. For me, I seem to have avoided specialization by loving too much diverse repertoire. I love working on Bach and Mozart as much as Verdi and Puccini, Strauss (either) and Wagner, or contemporary repertoire. Each informs the other. Understanding rhetoric, Affektenlehre, and the lack of diacritical markings in baroque music shapes me as a musician and, while I wouldn’t play Verdi like Bach, I can’t look at f-minor as an innocuous tonal region or sing the interval of a rising seventh without feeling the reverb of the rhetorical idea of exclamatio. Anything that brings this music to life in our imagination (i.e. left side of the brain serving the right) is encouraged. Regarding the piano vs. conducting, I think it’s crucial for conductors to stay in touch with an instrument: we must actively make music in a chamber setting in order to stay fresh in enabling others from the podium.
3) If you were offered the chance is there any opera or piece of music you’d like to perform either with Tapestry or with anyone else in Toronto?
I’m not a big bucket list guy: I’m too engrossed in what I’m doing presently to think about what I’d rather be doing; perhaps it’s one existential crisis too many. But if you asked me right now to choose any opera to conduct next month… La forza del destino just popped into my head.
4) Is there a teacher or influence you’d care to name that you especially admire?
Too many to name! Suffice it to say that musicians are some of the most fortunate because we have a built-in system of mentorship. We would be searching in the dark (which is sometimes good) without the guidance of those who have walked the path before us. I’ve had the pleasure of studying with several wonderful mentors who understand that failure is necessary and acceptable, and that criticism can be a positive and creative agent. But above all, they’ve taught me that as an artist, you get to create the world. So why not use some imagination?
Jordan de Souza will be collaborating with Wallis Giunta in Tapestry’s Songbook VI on Friday February 5th and 6th, and conducting the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Marriage of Figaro February 23 & 25.