Canada’s Barbara Hannigan will receive an Grammy for best opera recording. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canada’s Barbara Hannigan will receive an Grammy for best opera recording. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Nova Scotia’s Barbara Hannigan already has a Grammy, but this nod is especially personal

Picking up her third Grammy nomination is wonderful in itself, but for Nova Scotia opera singer Barbara Hannigan this one feels especially personal.

It’s because members of the recording academy selected “Benjamin: Lessons in Love & Violence” for best opera recording. The project was written by English composer George Benjamin with Hannigan’s voice specifically in mind.

And unlike many of the fellow nominees, which include works by German composer Richard Wagner and Austria’s Alban Berg, this one doesn’t have the track record of a tested classic, which suggests voters found a certain magic in the album.

“To have a world premiere nominated for best opera recording is totally cool,” Hannigan says with a laugh during a rehearsal break in Munich, Germany.

“It’s not an oldie-but-goodie, and it’s not a new recording of something everybody knows.”

Hannigan has a fresh perspective on the Grammy process now that it’s been two years since she picked up her first golden gramophone.

She says calling herself a Grammy winner is certainly a “feather in your cap” because it places her within a community of other creators who’ve gained that rare internationally recognized award.

The 48-year-old contemporary opera singer says it’s amusing to know that nearly three decades after making her professional debut in Toronto she appears to be hitting a new stride.

“I’m a real ‘slow burn’ kind of artist,” she says.

“I’m just so happy that I’m here still doing what I love. I feel that even more so now than I did 10 years ago.”

“Lessons in Love & Violence” was created by Benjamin who drew from the real-life relationship between King Edward II and Piers Gaveston. Hannigan plays Isabel, the king’s scheming wife who tries to usurp his power and replace him with their son. It’s a part the Waverley, N.S.-born performer found especially fun to portray.

“The whole opera I had a fake gin and tonic in one hand, and a fake cigarette in the other,” she says. “I don’t often get to play those kind of people.”

Hannigan won her first Grammy with ”Crazy Girl Crazy” in the classical solo vocal album category. The ambitious project allowed the soprano to steer the ship in more ways than one — she was also co-arranger and conductor.

“Lessons in Love & Violence” was a reunion of sorts with Benjamin who previously worked with Hannigan on his first full-length opera “Written on Skin” in 2013. She says the composer has a general rule where he doesn’t work with the same singer twice, but he made an exception to collaborate with her again.

“When a composer writes specifically for you it is a privilege,” she says.

“I often say that composers are also my singing teachers because they’ve taught me things about my voice and my musicianship… I’m their muse when they’re writing but then they become mine. It’s a very symbiotic relationship.”

This report was first published Nov. 21, 2019.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, which causes COVID-19, emerge from the surface of cells isolated from a patient in the U.S. and cultured in a lab in a 2020 electron microscope image. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories
Alberta adds 463 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

The central zone has 818 active cases

Red Deer teacher Janelle Van Tetering had her students write letters to attach to Blankets of Hope, which will be donated to the Mustard Seed. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer teacher, students donate ‘Blankets of Hope’ to those in need

A Red Deer teacher and her students are giving warm blankets and… Continue reading

RCMP have charged a Sylvan Lake man for allegedly defrauding five people of more than $100,000.
Advocate file photo
20-year-old woman killed in collision: Blackfalds RCMP

A 20-year-old woman was killed in a collision on Saturday, says Blackfalds… Continue reading

Patrick Malkin, co-owner of The Granary Kitchen, says he wants the provincial government to lift COVID-19 restrictions that shutdown in-person dining. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer restaurant owner ‘frustrated’ in-person dining restrictions are still in place

Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced the restrictions won’t yet be eased this past Thursday

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Toronto Maple Leafs' Alexander Kerfoot, centre, tries to get the puck past Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom, right, as Noah Hanifin looks on during first period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Morgan Reilly’s three assists lifts Maple Leafs to 3-2 win over Flames

Leafs 3 Flames 2 CALGARY — Morgan Reilly’s three assists helped the… Continue reading

Green Bay Packers' Adrian Amos (31) reacts after intercepting a pass intended for Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Evans during the second half of the NFC championship NFL football game in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Road warriors: Bucs win 31-26 at Green Bay, reach Super Bowl

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ road… Continue reading

People arrive to be tested for COVID-19 at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, January 24, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Too soon to know if Canada’s COVID-19 case decline will continue, Tam says

MONTREAL — It’s still too soon to know whether the recent downward… Continue reading

Flowers are seen at the front door of Dr. Denis Vincent's dental practice in North Vancouver, B.C. on March 31, 2020, after he died of COVID-19. The British Columbia Dental Association has written a letter to Premier John Horgan urging him to include dentists in a priority group for the COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dentists, teachers disappointed they won’t be prioritized for vaccine in B.C.

VANCOUVER — Dentists and teachers are among the groups that are disappointed… Continue reading

Indiana Pacers guard Justin Holiday (8) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward DeAndre' Bembry (95) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Anunoby’s hot hand helps short-handed Raptors beat Pacers

Raptors 107 Pacers 102 INDIANAPOLIS — OG Anunoby scored a season-high 30… Continue reading

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

OTTAWA — Under fluorescent lights, Wendy Muckle surveys the supervised consumption site… Continue reading

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) headquarters Connaught Building is pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. nbsp; THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Taxpayers’ watchdog sees complaints spike, raising worries about pandemic tax season

OTTAWA — Canada’s taxpayers’ ombudsperson says his office has seen a steep… Continue reading

Most Read