If you're wondering what the DQ In David DQ Lee's name stand for, it's not, as Lee himself jokingly tells friends, Dairy Queen or drama queen, but Dong Qyu, which is Korean for "Star of the East."
If you're still unfamiliar with the name, you're probably not alone. He hasn't been in a Canadian production since 2004, when he sang Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro for Pacific Opera Victoria. His name hasn't figured on the competition circuit since 2007, when he represented Canada at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. And while he has made several CDs, including a 2004 ATMA release of Haydn's Arianna a Naxos with Yannick Nézet-Séguin as collaborative pianist, he remains little known in his adopted country.
Born in South Korea, where his first taste of performing came as a boy soprano soloist with the World Vision Korean Children's Choir, his mother sent him east to Canada at age 13 with an older brother who had fallen in with the wrong crowd. Settling in Vancouver, he added the name David and joined the British Columbia Boys Choir. He sang with it as a soprano, alto and, after his voice broke, bass. But even then, Lee found he could still sing in the soprano range, which he wanted to maintain even if, as he wildly imagined, he'd need to don a dress to do it.
But that was all before he saw Farinelli, the 1 994 movie based on the life of the 18th-century Italian castrato. The film turned Lee's wodd upside down, whetting his appetite for all things counter-tenor. He remembers buying a CD of American countertenor Derek Lee Ragin and poring over an Opera News feature on another American, David Daniels.
In 1996, Lee auditioned for the Vancouver Academy of Music, singing two pieces in his bass voice and two as a countertenor, including Handel's "Lascia ch'io Pianga," which he had heard in Farinelli. The jury was bowled over, and he was accepted. In his first year, coached by the late Phyllis Mailing, he trained as a bass-baritone, but then switched to countertenor.Today, he credits Mailing particularly for her training in proper vocal technique and for introducing him to German and French art songs.
Lee has looked primarily to sopranos and mezzos as vocal role models - Renée Heming for her breath control and pianissimos, Cecilia …