Magazine article Opera Canada

Kirsten MacKinnon

Magazine article Opera Canada

Kirsten MacKinnon

Article excerpt

Important competitions can boost careers, as witness the experience of Canadians who have won the annual Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, starting with Teresa Stratas in 1959. The latest is 26-year old Kirsten MacKinnon, the 17th Canadian to reach the top at the Met as a winner of the 2017 Auditions in March. "I had a few moments of unbelievable nerves, then I settled down to enjoy the experience," she said on the morning after her win." It was so special--nothing beats singing on that stage with orchestra."

A hefty prize of US$15,000 came with the Met win, which she intends to put to good use covering all the bases in a burgeoning international career: "It'll go towards lessons, coaching, health and travel expenses, housing, and performance attire." The Met win caps a string of important prizes that have helped MacKinnon along the way, including a George London Award and a major grant from the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation for Young Canadian Opera Singers. The Met win also came just after MacKinnon made an auspicious COC debut as Panuna in Die Zaubeijiote last January. "It was my first Pamina, and a wonderful experience."

MacKinnon grew up in the suburbs around Vancouver's lower mainland. Her father is a structural engineer and her mother a kindergarten teacher, and of their four children, only the lone daughter was musically inclined. "My mom told me I was singing in my crib." She started singing lessons with a local teacher, Lois Weninger, at age six." I remember her being very strict, but also very supportive from day one. She could sense that I was hungry for something substantial and she totally gave it to me, to feed my musical appetite from the beginning."

MacKinnon had her first taste of the stage at eight, in her first competition: "I sang 'Tale as Old as Time" from Beauty and the Beast. I remember I was wearing a little floral frock and the buttons just didn't want to stay closed. Throughout the entire song, I was singing, but clutching the fabric with my hands. I sat down afterwards and my mum asked: 'Were you nervous?' I said: 'No, momma, my dress was coming apart!'"

She made her opera debut at 10 as one of the spirits in a Vancouver Opera production of Die Zaubeijiote. Her professional debut came a decade later, as Annina in La traviata for Opera Philadelphia.

Like several prominent Canadian singers, MacKinnon received her professional training at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. …

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