Magazine article Opera Canada

Measure by Measure: Tenor Owen McCausland Has Some Dramatic Ambitions and Some Clear Ideas about How to Achieve Them

Magazine article Opera Canada

Measure by Measure: Tenor Owen McCausland Has Some Dramatic Ambitions and Some Clear Ideas about How to Achieve Them

Article excerpt

There is something of a wise old man in the young tenor Owen McCausland--particularly when he talks about life management and career planning. He is sensible in conversation, arguments well weighed, talk sedately paced, views taken always longue duree. With his neatly trimmed ginger beard and the broad-shouldered physique of a hockey player, the Maritimer looks any age the stage directors will need him to be. No wonder he already sang Tito--a Mozart role that usually goes to a much older tenor--when the Canadian Opera Company asked him, a member of the Ensemble Studio and the understudy, to jump in for an indisposed Michael Schade for four performances of the Christopher Alden-directed La clemenza di Tito in 2013. Maturity was also in evidence in a more recent Alden-directed production at the COC, Monteverdi's Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, where he sang Testo, the Narrator of the entire piece, as an anguished film noir protagonist in a long, rumpled trench coat. This early Monteverdi work affected him as few have before or since."I'm obsessed with Combattimento" he says."It's a huge statement against war and violence. There's something of Romeo and Juliet in its tragedy. No matter what else happens in this kind of conflict, people dying is the only inevitable result."

There has been a lot of Mozart and pre-Mozart in McCausland's professional life recently, and he's currently keeping most of the doors open with a kind of omni-tenor Fach curiosity. In the just announced COC 2017/18 season, he returns to Mozart as Pedrillo in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serai! in the adaptation by Lebanese-Canadian-French playwright Wajdi Mouawad, which received a lot of notice in France when it premiered at Opera de Lyon last year. But while he's eager to test-drive quite a vast number of roles, McCausland has an inkling that in 10 years' time he will be settling into a more dramatic track. "It's an interesting evolution, how your voice changes, especially through your 20s. If you compare early recordings by a singer to the later ones, you can tell how the voice is evolving. And you can relate to certain things. A lot of tenors in their early careers did a lot of different things. And when you're my age, a lot of the roles are debuts. I'm fortunate, I haven't found myself in stuff where I shouldn't be yet; and I have had good advice. In the future, we'll see. I can definitely see growing into a larger instrument, dramatic and spinto repertoire. I'm moving forward with caution, growing into the repertoire. At the same time, I don't want to miss out."

Before being offered a place in the COC Ensemble Studio in 2011, the Saint John, New Brunswick-born McCausland studied for a BMus at Dalhousie University and, after moving to Toronto, coached with tenor J. Patrick Raftery. Although there are comparatively few concert and performing arts venues in Atlantic Canada, the region is not lacking musical talent: Jane Archibald, Nathalie Paulin, Suzie LeBlanc, Wendy Nielsen, Measha Brueggergosman, Sally Dibblee are just the first half dozen that immediately come to his mind. "But you kind of have to leave to find instruction and build a career," he acknowledges. And at this crossroads in a singer's career, right after leaving a young-artist program, Canada itself doesn't look big enough as a market. When Opera Canada met him in November, McCausland had just returned from an audition trip to New York. …

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