Recognized for the luminosity and effortless agility of her voice, as well as her commanding stage presence and profound acting ability, Canadian soprano Shannon Mercer enthusiastically embraces a range of repertoire from early to contemporary music, from Francesca Caccini and Monteverdi to John Beckwith and Ana Sokolovic. Shannon maintains a busy and challenging performance calendar of opera, concert, and recital engagements throughout North America and Europe while also sustaining an active recording presence, capturing some rarely performed works.
In the 2015-2016 season, audiences will hear Shannon sing Pamina in Die Zauberflöte with Calgary Opera; Purcell’s The Fairy Queen and Mozart’s Esultate, Jubilate with the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra; and the Messiah with the Oregon Symphony.
Her 2014-2015 engagements included a wide variety of music recreating the musical life of Boston’s early days in the Early Music Guild’s “American Dream” with the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Bach’s Mass in B-Minor with the Bach Sinfonia, and Berg’s Seven Early Songs and Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with the East Texas Symphony. Canadian engagements included Handel’s Messiah with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, a concert of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Cantatas with Montreal’s St. Lawrence Choir, and Beethoven’s Mass in C with the Calgary Philharmonic.
In the 2013-14 season, Shannon continued her exploration of contemporary music with The Music of Aarvo Pärt presented by Soundstreams at Toronto’s Koerner Hall, and a reprisal of Ana Sokolovic’s Svadba - The Wedding with Opera Philadelphia. She performed Fauré’s Requiem with the Kansas City Symphony and Bernard Labadie, a Christmas concert with the Pax Christie Chorale in Toronto, Handel’s Messiah with the Edmonton Symphony and Portland Baroque Orchestra, and a series of pre-Christmas concerts of Bach Cantatas with Early Music Vancouver. Shannon performed in Seattle for Bach’s St. John Passion and St. Matthew Passion with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and Stephen Stubbs presented by Pacific MusicWorks, in Québec City for Handel’s Solomon with Les Violons du Roy and La Chapelle de Québec and in Vancouver for performances of Mozart’s Requiem with the Vancouver Chamber Choir.
Shannon’s 2012-13 season featured a concert of Mozart arias with the Edmonton Symphony, returns to Toronto for the 30th anniversary concert of Soundstreams, a reprisal of Ana Sokolovic’s Svadba – The Wedding with Queen of Puddings Musical Theatre which took her to Paris, Belgrade, Orléans and Dublin and on a tour of Western Canada with performances in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
Other Canadian engagements included Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Ottawa Choral Society, Handel’s Messiah with the Calgary Philharmonic, Bach Cantatas with Early Music Vancouver, two concerts with Les Violons du Roy of Bach’s Lutheran Masses, performances in Vancouver with Pacific Musicworks and the Vancouver Chamber Choir, and concerts in Montreal with both La Nef and Viva Voce. She appeared at Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for “A Celebration of Canadian Art Song,” in the Aldeburgh Connection’s Benjamin Britten anniversary celebration, and with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in a performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. Engagements in the US included Boston Early Music Festival’s new production of Monteverdi’s Orfeo and Handel’s Messiah with the Seattle Symphony and conductor Stephen Stubbs.
Recent highlights include an educational tour to Sault Ste-Marie and Sudbury with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, performances with Ensemble Caprice of their highly acclaimed recording collaboration Salsa Baroque in Ottawa, Tel Aviv and Stockstadt, Germany, a US West Coast tour with Les Voix Baroques and Early Handel Cantatas with Tragicomedia conducted by Stephen Stubbs in Boston and New York. She also debuted in Mexico City in Bach’s Mass in B-minor with the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Mexico and Carlos Miguel Prieto.
Fostering a deep commitment to performances of contemporary opera, Shannon has appeared with The Queen of Puddings Music Theatre in a number of works by Canadian composer Ana Sokolovic: Svadba - The Wedding, Love Songs, a one-woman virtuosic tour-de-force in performances across Canada and at the 2010 Holland Festival, and a production of The Midnight Court in London. She has also participated in world premieres of James Rolfe’s Inês, John Beckwith’s Crazy to Kill, and Andrew Hamilton’s Beckett: Feck It! The role of Pamina in Die Zauberflöte has figured prominently on Shannon’s calendar, having performed it with Opera Lyra Ottawa, Opera Hamilton, and with Pacific Opera in both Victoria and London. Other recent opera roles include Despina in Mozart’s Così fan tutte with the Canadian Opera Company and her much-lauded French debut in the title role of Marin Marais’s Sémélé which was recorded with the renowned Hérve Niquet/Le Concert Spirituel on Glossa.
Shannon has performed in New York’s Carnegie Hall with Les Violons du Roy, Roy Thomson Hall with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in Luc Beausejour’s Clavecin en Concert, in Houston with Mercury Baroque and Les Voix Baroques, and at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center in an all-Mozart recital featuring renowned American soprano Barbara Bonney. Shannon’s most popular recital program, “Wales - Land of Song” with Skye Consort, recalls her Welsh roots and is based on her acclaimed 2009 recording for the Analekta label.
Illustrating Shannon’s breadth of musical interests and exceptional vocal talent, her award-winning discography ranges from baroque to contemporary, from traditional Welsh folk music to Christmas songs. Her latest releases feature Berlioz’s Les Nuits d’été and Palej’s The Poet and the War with Toronto’s group of twenty-seven (g27) chamber orchestra and conductor Eric Paetkau (Centaur) and A Traditional Christmas with John McDermott and Virginia Hatfield. Shannon has also recently released two versions of Bach’s St. John Passion, one with Les Voix Baroques and Arion Baroque Orchestra (ATMA) and one with Portland Baroque Orchestra conducted by Monica Huggett (AVIE). Other recordings include Vivaldi: The Return of the Angels, the JUNO Award-winning Gloria! Vivaldi’s Angels, both on Analekta, the JUNO-nominated Salsa Baroque with Ensemble Caprice (Analekta) and the Prix Opus-nominated O Viva Rosa (Analekta), one of the first recordings entirely devoted to Francesca Caccini. Shannon’s other recordings include Wales - The Land of Song, the JUNO-nominated Bach and the Liturgical Year, Mondonville, English Fancy (Analekta) and Marin Marais’s Sémélé (Glossa). Shortly to be released on the Analekta label are Trobairitz featuring songs composed by Sean Dagher, based on texts from 12th- and 13th-century women troubadours from the Occitan region of France, and Adagio with Ensemble Caprice.
Shannon can be heard in two of renowned Canadian composer Alexina Louie’s comic operas: in the DVD of Gemini-nominated Burnt Toast, an 8-vignette series directed by Larry Weinstein and as Minister Blais Grenier in Mulroney: The Opera which premiered in movie theatres across Canada in April 2011. A hit in movie theatres across Europe and now available on DVD, Shannon also stars as Judith in the film version of Monty Python funny-man Eric Idle’s Not the Messiah, a role she debuted in the world premiere at Toronto’s 2007 Luminato Festival and at the Caramoor Festival and subsequently reprised in a US tour to Houston, Washington, and Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl in the summer and at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall.
An alumnus of San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Opera Summer Program, Shannon began her operatic career as a member of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Program. A Career Development Grant from the Canada Council for the Arts and the 2004 Bernard Diamant Prize allowed Shannon to spend an extended period of time in Vienna where she studied German operatic repertoire with renowned voice coach Margaret Singer. She also received the Virginia Parker Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto Career Development Award.
A native of Ottawa, Shannon Mercer now resides in Toronto.