Magazine article Opera Canada

Beyond Words & Music: Soprano Sally Dibblee Aims Straight for the Emotional Heart of Every Role

Magazine article Opera Canada

Beyond Words & Music: Soprano Sally Dibblee Aims Straight for the Emotional Heart of Every Role

Article excerpt

"A chic, sexy, irresponsible Musetta," enthused the Vancouver Sun in response to Vancouver Opera's La Boheme in the Spring of 1998. "Lovely lyric tone and exquisite control," gushed the Salt Lake City Tribune a few months later after her U.S. debut as Liu in Utah Opera's Turandot. "A career-making performance," extolled Victoria's Times-Colonist of her first Violetta, sung in Pacific Opera Victoria's production of La Traviata in October.

Glowing reviews like these are becoming more and more frequent in the blooming career of Canadian Soprano Sally Dibblee. And no one could deny she deserves them. Although her career is still in its ascendant, Dibblee already has a wide range of roles at her command. At her service is a keen sense of musicianship, a charismatic stage presence and a lyric soprano voice that is agile, flexible and expressive.

Dibblee also realizes that no longer are opera careers built on voice alone. From Susanna (in Le Nozze di Figaro) to Susannah (in Carlisle Floyd's eponymous musical drama), a role has always been an equal synthesis of voice and character for Dibblee. "To do roles with such powerful dramatic acting possibilities is so satisfying," she says. "To me, opera isn't-and never will be-just singing. I can't think of doing Violetta without the emotional intent. It isn't possible. I just couldn't stand and sing it without the emotion."

Although opera is currently Dibblee's primary career focus, she came to the form later than some singers do. Born in Woodstock, New Brunswick, she lived in the same house until she went away to university. Music was always part of her life. "I can remember being four or five years old, too young for junior choir, but sitting beside my sister who played organ for choir rehearsals. Later, I took piano lessons, was is the band, in high-school musicals and I sang for the local IODE meetings."

After high school, Dibblee (pronounced "dibble") enrolled in voice studies at Mount Allison University, where she gradually became acquainted with opera. "My two best friends at the time were also studying voice," she remembers. "We decided we had to go down to New York to see La Boheme at the Met. We had standing-room-only tickets at the back of the theatre and we cried all the way through it." After a brief pause, she adds, "It was wonderful."

After graduation, she was off to Cape Cod, Mass., for the summer of 1988, to sing for the College Light Opera Company. 'We did eight shows in eight weeks," she recalls. "There was South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, The Mikado and many more--it was a real smorgasbord of musical theatre." However, an exclusive musical-theatre diet did not suit Dibblee's palate. "After that summer, I sort of knew that wasn't really what I was meant to do. I don't think I am the musical-theatre type, and I knew I could sing a different level of music, and that cut musical theatre out of the options.

"So I went back to university and did education. I was all set to become a teacher. But the day I was supposed to leave for practice teaching, I phoned up my voice teacher and said, 'I don't want to be a teacher! What do I do?"' With consummate wisdom, her teacher, Nancy Vogan, replied, "I knew that. I was just waiting for you to discover it." From then on, Dibblee knew it was performance she wanted, and she has never looked back.

In 1989, she began three years of study with Lois Marshall at the University of Toronto's Opera Division. Marshall was a powerful formative influence. "She conveyed depth of feeling right across a room," recalls Dibblee. …

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