Magazine article Opera Canada

Debut: Cheryl Hickman

Magazine article Opera Canada

Debut: Cheryl Hickman

Article excerpt

Cheryl Hickman is just 30 years old, but she already knows she is one lucky soprano. "There are very few dramatic spintos out there," she says. "I may have to wait longer for my career to hit prime time, but there's a great pay-off in the end." Hickman is blessed with a big, clean sound cocooned in a chrysalis of luxurious warmth. At the moment, she is a "Baby Wagner," a designation confirmed by winning the George London-Kirsten Flagstad Award in 1999 for the most promising Wagnerian. Her huge voice has also garnered her a coveted Sullivan Award, which pays for five years of coaching, and a win at the Metropolitan Opera Competition regional level. As this article was written, Hickman was waiting to go on to the Met finals.

Music has always been a part of Hickman's life, she says, because she hails from St. John's, Newfoundland. "It's an island where everyone plays an instrument and sings from a very early age. The weather is also good for the vocal chords because it's so damp and foggy." One of her ancestors was Newfoundland's first Hickman, and the soprano feels a deep kinship to her native province. Her goal is to be able, one day, to manage her career with Newfoundland as her home base. Hickman's Down East sensibility translates into a young, outspoken woman with her feet planted firmly on the ground. "If I ever get diva-ish, or put my head in the clouds," she says, "I hope somebody gives me a good smack."

It was a Kiwanis Festival judge who first told Hickman and her family that he could not imagine where the young girl's voice would be in 10 years. What Hickman knew for sure was that her voice was bigger than anyone else's. She began taking voice lessons with Catherine Harrington, and by the time she was 13, it was clear she had a gift.

Hickman chose to attend the University of Toronto because fellow Newfoundlander, soprano Meredith Hall, was studying with Mary Morrison. Hickman credits both Harrington and Morrison for not pushing her voice too soon into heavy repertoire. "If I started off singing what I'm singing now, my voice would have been ruined." Hickman also praises her mother and father for their unflagging financial support, allowing her career to unfold without the burden of waitressing jobs and loan repayments, although the soprano acknowledges she is a first-rate typist, something that has helped her along when times got a bit tough.

Following her Bachelor's degree in performance, Hickman attended the U of T Opera Division. Unfortunately, it proved to be a difficult time when she found herself on a collision course with then program head James Craig. …

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