Magazine article Opera Canada

Debut: John Haley-Relyea: The New-Found Success of the Young Bass-Baritone Has Its Roots in a Long-Standing Family Tradition

Magazine article Opera Canada

Debut: John Haley-Relyea: The New-Found Success of the Young Bass-Baritone Has Its Roots in a Long-Standing Family Tradition

Article excerpt

THE NAME RELYEA IS WELL KNOWN IN OPERA THE-atres and concert halls across Canada, thanks to bass-baritone Gary Relyea's long and illustrious career. And now we have another singing Relyea: the 23-year-old John Haley-Relyea, a bass-baritone with a voice that has matured in a remarkably short time. This young Canadian has already been praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for his "emotional immediacy, unforced vocal power and vibrant stage presence," and by Montreal's Le Devoir for his "agility, power and ease." These days, Haley-Relyea (who has added the surname of his wife, Sarah Haley, to his own) is becoming known as an artist with great potential.

In the last four years, he has sung with the orchestras of Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Quebec City, Kingston and Hartford, Connecticut; and has appeared in La Sonnambula with Opera in Concert and in La Sonnambula with Opera in Concert and in Die Zauberflote with Opera Atelier, both in Toronto. Now--at an age when most singers are just dreaming of singing with major opera companies--he's preparing for his debut this June at the San Francisco Opera, as Colline in La Baheme.

What makes all of this particularly remarkable is the fact that only in recent years did Haley-Relyea decide to pursue a career as a singer. "I started singing as a boy soprano at the age of eight, but I put it aside when my voice started to change and took up the guitar," he explains. "I always thought I would have some sort of career in music, but it wasn't until I turned 17 that I started singing again. My father had an idea that I might have a good voice, and I found singing came easily."

It was his father who taught Haley-Relyea when he resumed his vocal studies, and the Toronto native credits his rapid development to the "unsurpassed training" and "professional attitudes" he received from the elder Relyea, who is in many ways a role model to his son. (There was also, during his teenage years, a stint in a rock band called Velvet Jesus, which he jokingly boasts of surviving "with an intact voice and only a slight loss of hearing.")

At the age of 20, he was off to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where he studied voice and gained much-needed theatrical experience in student opera productions. Then Haley-Relyea continued his studies during the summer of 1995 in the San Francisco Opera's Merola Program: an intensive 10 weeks of master classes and productions, culminating in a competition for the participants. …

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