Tracy Cantin

Tracy Cantin

Emerging voice in opera

Tracy Cantin, who has performed in Edmonton, Montreal, Chicago and Melbourne, Australia, owes her budding international opera career to someone who isn’t even in the music business — her mother.

Tracy Cantin, who has performed in Edmonton, Montreal, Chicago and Melbourne, Australia, owes her budding international opera career to someone who isn’t even in the music business — her mother.

“My mother knew I could sing even before I did,” said Red Deer-born Cantin, with a laugh. “She told me I used to sing in church when I was younger” — although Cantin doesn’t have any solid memories of this early stint in the choir at Innisfail Baptist Church.

Cantin’s astute mom went ahead and hired a private voice teacher for her when she was 12, and this singing instructor immediately noticed a special quality about her voice.

“My teacher heard a talent in me that I didn’t know was there,” said Cantin, who was given various opera CDs to listen to. Before then, Cantin, who was born in Red Deer and raised in Spruce View and Prince Edward Island, didn’t even know classical singing existed. She had only ever sung folk and jazz tunes in school.

But the recordings by Maria Callas, Joan Sutherland, and Spanish opera star Montserrat Caballe, left her transfixed. “It didn’t matter that they sang in German, Italian or French, the music was stunning. . . . Hearing their glorious voices transported me to another world . . . . ”

Now Cantin is doing the same for other audiences while performing in the apprenticeship program of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

The 28-year-old, who is in the final year of the program, won a Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artists Award this month. She was among eight award winners out of nearly 200 applicants, and the only classical singer.

Awards adjudicators describe Cantin as being “on the cusp of an international career,” noting the critical reviews that have called her voice “luminous,” and “capable of strength and extraordinarily accurate virtuosity.”

Cantin is grateful for this recognition and the award’s $10,000 prize. As someone who has been in the post-secondary educational stream for about a decade, she said “this takes an awful lot of the financial pressure off . . . . It’s an investment in my future,” said Cantin, as the money will allow her to fly to auditions in Toronto or New York this fall.

The former Central Albertan spent her earliest years on her parents’ tree farm near Spruce View, which was close to her grandparents’ cattle and beet operation.

When she was 10, her father, who had often travelled overseas to work on large-scale international construction projects, decided to move the family to P.E.I., where he got a job working on Confederation Bridge. “It allowed us more family time because he didn’t have to travel,” she recalled.

After the bridge was completed five years later, her parents tried moving the family back to Alberta. But they only lasted a couple of months here before realizing their new lives and new friends were back in P.E.I., where they decided to return.

But her grandparents were still living in Central Alberta, so Cantin opted to enrol in the music program at the University of Alberta after high school. She also participated in the Opera NUOVA summer opera training intensive program in Edmonton.

She recalled her official stage debut was as a seamstress in the chorus of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman with the Edmonton Opera. The inauspicious role hooked her on the greasepaint and glory of stage performance. “It was really the first time I was around opera singers.”

After a year of teaching singing to young students, she decided to go for her master’s degree in musical performance and literature at the University of Western Ontario, and then to an arts diploma at McGill University in Montreal.

Cantin next successfully auditioned for a spot in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s apprenticeship program and is the only Canadian in what’s considered to be one of the leading opera training programs in the world.

“It’s a good way to bridge the gap between a student life and a professional life,” said the singer, who’s getting a lot of public exposure through performances with the company.

One of her favourite experiences was singing the part of Donna Anna, the lead soprano, in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. “That was a lot of fun. It was also my first leading role.”

Another career high was being asked by Andrew Davis, music director and principal conductor of the Lyric Opera, to be the soloist for his concert with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Cantin found herself singing Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony down under ­— but one of the most remarkable things about that night was knowing that her grandparents were in the audience. “They’ve been at my every performance . . . . It was so amazing that they had come all that way to cheer me on . . . .

“I have the greatest family in the world. They have been so supportive and so loving,” said Cantin.

She added, “It isn’t easy or cheap to become an artist, but I’ve had a lot of help and support all the way through” — first from her family, and now from the Alberta awards program for emerging artists.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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

Just Posted

Erika Fetterly, owner of EFP Studios, recently launched the Let Them Have A Voice campaign. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta photographer’s campaign aims to give youths a voice

An Innisfail photographer is giving a platform to young central Albertans so… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels hosted the Medicine Hat Tigers in the first game of the shortened 2020-21 season on Friday. The two teams faced off again in Medicine Hat Saturday (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Red Deer Rebels fall to Medicine Hat Tigers on Saturday

Tigers 7 Rebels 2 The Red Deer Rebels have lost two straight… Continue reading

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

More than 120,000 Albertans have signed up to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the first two days of appointment bookings. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta Health Services apologizes after seniors struggle to book vaccine appointments

The CEO and president of Alberta Health Services is apologizing after seniors… Continue reading

Red Deer’s Kyle Moore, 26, will be a houseguest on Season 9 of Big Brother Canada. (Photo courtesy Big Brother Canada)
Red Deer man will be a houseguest on Big Brother Canada

A Red Deer man will be a houseguest on the upcoming season… Continue reading

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped save a missing pet recently. The two dogs have more than 80,000 followers on Twitter. (Contributed photo)
WATCH: Red Deer science dogs help save lost pet

Red Deer science-communicating dogs Bunsen and Beaker helped rescue a missing pet… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is condemning alleged vandalism at the… Continue reading

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Machin waits to appear at the Standing Committee on Finance on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. Executives who engage in so-called "vaccine tourism" show both an ethical disregard for those less fortunate and a surprising lack of business acumen, experts argue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine tourism is both unethical and bad for business, experts say

Executives who engage in so-called “vaccine tourism” show both an ethical disregard… Continue reading

Edmonton Oilers' Jesse Puljujarvi (13) and Toronto Maple Leafs' Justin Holl (3) battle in front as goalie Jack Campbell (36) makes the save during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, February 27, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
No Matthews, no problem: Minus NHL goal leader, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 4-0

Leafs 4 Oilers 0 EDMONTON — The Maple Leafs knew even with… Continue reading

The Pornhub website is shown on a computer screen in Toronto on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pornhub policies reveal legal gaps and lack of enforcement around exploitive videos

OTTAWA — Serena Fleites was in seventh grade when a sexually explicit… Continue reading

Sean Hoskin stands on a neighbourhood street in Halifax on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Hoskin was diagnosed with COVID-19 almost a year ago with symptoms that still persist. Some provinces have established programs to deal with long-term sufferers but Atlantic Canada, with relatively low numbers of patients, has yet to provide a resource to assist them. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
On East Coast, exhausted COVID-19 ‘long haulers’ hope specialized clinics will emerge

HALIFAX — On evenings when Sean Hoskin collapses into bed, heart pounding… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators goaltender Matt Murray (30) stands in his crease as Calgary Flames left wing Andrew Mangiapane (88), left to right, defenceman Rasmus Andersson (4), Matthew Tkachuk (19), Mikael Backlund (11) and Mark Giordano (5) celebrate a goal during second period NHL action in Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Calgary Flames beat Ottawa 6-3 to end Senators’ three-game win streak

Flames 6 Senators 3 OTTAWA — The Calgary Flames used a balanced… Continue reading

Crosses are displayed in memory of the elderly who died from COVID-19 at the Camilla Care Community facility during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on November 19, 2020. The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection is likely to be much higher than recorded because of death certificates don't always list the virus as the cause of a fatality, experts say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Death certificates don’t accurately reflect the toll of the pandemic, experts say

The number of people who would have died from a COVID-19 infection… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough to cover the average pinky nail but is made up of more than 280 components and requires at least three manufacturing plants to produce. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
From science to syringe: COVID-19 vaccines are miracles of science and supply chains

OTTAWA — A single dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is barely enough… Continue reading

Most Read