Spotlight on: Aidan FergusonInterview
Canadian mezzo-soprano Aidan Ferguson is an alumna of l’Opéra de Montréal’s Atelier lyrique program, as well as Operavenir, the Opera Studio at Theater Basel, Switzerland.
In her honest interview, Aidan talks about perfection, what she calls “beige singing”, and her not-so-secret dream of singing Scarpia.
Why do you sing, and why are you doing it professionally?
I was listening to Chris Mayell and Isaiah Bell’s first episode of Overthought, A Podcast titled “Why do we do this?” this fall and I think I have been ruminating on this exact topic ever since.
I don’t believe that there is one reason why I sing. I obviously have a deep love for music, and singing in particular. But to be honest, in those times of doubt and struggle (vocally, emotionally, professionally), love is not always enough to keep you going. I have been singing in choirs since I was five and it has always been something that has connected me with people. Having struggled to “fit in” my entire life, singing was always the place where I felt among people that accepted me. I still feel that exact same thing; regardless of whether you like my singing or whether we get along, there is something pretty amazing about the respect I feel from the opera family (99% of the time). That support, generosity and connection that I have from people I’ve met through singing (colleagues, audience members, coaches…you name it) is what has kept me singing in the times of doubt/struggle.
Many people have told me along the way “If you could see yourself doing something else, then go do it!” I have always felt a bit of frustration at that statement. I know that it comes from a place of wanting to warn young singers about the crazy journey that lies ahead. It is a crazy life, but there are many different things that I could be doing, but I am choosing this career right now. I believe this is what I am suppose to be doing.
[Stage director] Tom Diamond says, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” I believe that I have been very lucky in my life/career. I have been ready for the opportunities that have presented themselves. We will see where this career leads next.
What does “good singing” mean to you? What does it feel like when you achieve it?
When I was in school I thought good singing was something that meant the following things always had to be there: beautiful tone, good diction, legato, following everything in the score… pretty much being perfect.
Now I think of good singing as something that moves me. I am the most disappointed when I hear “beige” singing. It’s pretty, everyone likes it, it goes in every room, nothing unique about it, plain and perfectly boring. I want to hear the entire spectrum of colours and feelings. Life, and especially the life of our character is messy, our singing should reflect that.
The few times I have achieved all around good singing, and not just a really amazing note or phrase, I have felt fully present and in the moment of what I am doing. I have a couple very strong memories of achieving that “thing” we all strive for and all I remember about it was being dedicated 100% to the act of communicating.
What do young singers need to do more of? What should they do less of?
Man, I could list a bunch of stuff that I wish I had been told, or things that I was told and wish I had listened to. The problem with this career is you just have to do it so that you can teach yourself. YOU are the only person who will be with yourself through all the hills and valleys of this career, so start treating yourself with as much kindness and support as possible. It’s a life-long journey and investing in your own mental, physical and emotional well being is equally as valuable as a lesson or a coaching, in my opinion.
That being said, this article in the Huffington Post by Jennifer Rivera should be read by everyone.
Do you have any roles you’d love to sing, regardless of voice type?
- SCARPIA! Who has not been in the intermission of Tosca wishing they could sing the Te Deum?
- Sister Helen from Dead Man Walking. The music, the character and the impact it has on an audience make it a definite bucketlist role.
- Any Wagner/Strauss role. It’s just a whole different ball game that I would love to play in.
How do you explain your job to non-music folks?
Being as I just moved to Calgary and am meeting a lot of non-music people, I am very well versed in explaining my job. After saying “I’m an opera singer,” I usually get the “Wow! Really? That’s amazing” type of answer. Then begins the dialogue where I usually start telling them everything about the career, from vocal technique, to how crazy it is to meet someone the first day on a new contract and you might be staging a love scene that night together, to how many people are involved on and off stage in a show, the nerves, the music, etc…Opera is a pretty daunting thing to break into and so I try and be as non-judgemental and open to answering any questions they have.