Mezzo-soprano Lesley Dolman, 24, has a knack for cutting through the chaff in her approach to opera.
“Singing is basically breathing with pretty songs,” says the Paul Kane High alumna.
She is on a return visit from New York City to perform with the Edmonton Youth Orchestra Concert on Sunday, May 4 at the Winspear Centre.
“I still get very excited coming home. The atmosphere here is very different from New York and I look forward to it. I refer to it as a detox. It’s nice not to hear a siren at 2 a.m. or to hear your neighbours playing polka music at 5 a.m.,” laughs Dolman.
The concert, under the musical direction of Michael Massey, features winners of 33rd annual Northern Alberta Concerto Competition for Piano and Voice. In addition to Dolman, this year’s winners include pianists Jasmine Wang and Jessica Ma.
“In the UBC Symphony I worked with a couple of different conductors, but it feels great to be working with Michael Massey again. It’s such a great welcoming atmosphere and it feels like home,” Dolman states.
The determined singer has worked with two different types of conductors – those who are friendly but have difficulty completing the necessary work, and the more aggressive conductors that terrorize musicians into submission.
“Michael Massey finds a good middle ground. He always gets the work done without terrorizing anybody. He gets work done while maintaining control and respect.”
Growing up in St. Albert, Dolman was a singer in Cantilon Choirs and spent six years playing violin with the Edmonton Youth Orchestra.
Upon graduation, she enrolled at the University of British Columbia, working on a double major in voice and violin. The extremely heavy workload forced her to choose one. Pragmatism weighed heavily in the selection.
“I fell in love with opera. I had to think about what I had to do with my life. The options were better with opera.”
After obtaining a four-year undergraduate degree, Dolman moved to New York City to study at the Manhattan School of Music with Joan Patenaud-Yarnell.
“I had a lot of issues with tongue and jaw tension. My teachers had told me to relax the muscles but it didn’t work. Joan had me improve breathing and I started to relax. It was all about breathing the right way.”
Opera singers tend not to use microphones. They simply need to amplify their existing sound. For that they make sure the air hits the right places.
“We call it a mask. The sound resonates up in the cheek and around the nose and eyes. If you get that right, it cuts through anything.”
During the concert, Dolman sings two great pieces. Ravel’s ShÄ‚Â©hÄ‚Â©razade was created in an era where Europeans incorporated exotic elements into the arts, entertainment, architecture and furnishings.
“Honestly, I fell in love with the orchestra part. It’s full of lush, sweeping lines. It’s beautiful to listen to and the orchestra conveys what I’m saying when I’m in the water. You can almost feel the water underneath you with just with the rhythms.”
As a delightful foil, Dolman also sings Una Voce Poco Fa, an aria from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.
“It’s fun. It’s full of vocal fireworks and it’s from a comic opera.”
Jasmine Wang plays the first movement of Mozart’s Concerto K. 466 and Jessica Ma performs Mendelssohn’s Concerto in G minor.
Highlights from the EYO include Bizet’s Carmen Suite, Kodaly’s Hari Janos and Mozart’s Overture to ‘The Seraglio.’
For more information of Dolman visit www.lesleydolman.com.
Edmonton Youth Orchestra with special guests Lesley Dolman, Jessica Ma and Jasmine Wang
Sunday, May 4 at 2 p.m.
4 Sir Winston Churchill Square
Tickets: $15/adults; $10/seniors, students. Call 420-1757 or purchase online at tixonthesquare.ca or at the door.
For more information on Dolman visit www.lesleydolman.com.