Spotlight on: Lida Szkwarek

Spotlight on: Lida Szkwarek

Jenna Simeonov
Winnipeg-born soprano Lida Szkwarek is a past finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, and she makes her Edmonton Opera debut this coming seasons as Micaëla in Carmen. Lida will return to Calgary Opera to sing First Lady in their 2016 production of Die Zauberflöte. She’s also sung on stages in Saskatoon and at The Banff Centre; speaking The Banff Centre, I was recently reminded of a beautiful story by a mutual colleague of Lida and mine, where Lida’s now fiancé, tenor Michael Marino, proposed to her on the Eric Harvie Theatre stage after a performance of Don Giovanni (#operaproposals?). Cute stories aside, I was thrilled to have Lida speak so eloquently on what singing means to her, and about figuring out what she wants from this crazy career.

1. Why do you sing, and why are you pursuing it professionally?

When I’m singing, I’m fulfilled. My appreciation for classical music began to develop at a very young age. The variety of emotions I felt while experiencing this music made me realize that one day I myself wanted to be able to help others experience those same emotions through my own performance. Many great artists as well as people in my own family inspired me to dream big and work hard to achieve those dreams. My operatic development has had its many ups and downs. I’ve constantly been reminded of what a huge undertaking it is to be able to perform in this incredible art form and it’s only made me want to do it more. I sing because it is who I am, and what I love to do.

2. What does “good singing” mean to you? What does it feel like when you achieve it?

Good singing to me feels like freedom. Freedom from fear, criticism, and even myself. I know I’ve sung well when I have that ‘out-of-body feeling’ where I barely know whats happened. In these instances I simply let myself be and create. Sounds cheesy, I know, but really this is one of the many reasons why I love to sing and continue to sing well.

3. What do young singers need to do more of? What should they do less of?

I think singers need to listen more to their inner-selves. As young singers, we get so much information thrown at us. Where we should go. What we should do. What I’m allowed to sing. Even what we should wear! In the end, it’s your life and your dream. Often the people who are are giving you advice are not the ones ultimately deciding what your operatic fate will be. They’re helping guide you on your own path. So take it all with a grain of salt. Although some of that advice could change your life, only you will know what feels truly right.

If I were to give young singers one piece of advice on what to do ‘less of’ it would be to stop comparing themselves to others. I know everyone does it. Knowing what amazing summer programs people are doing, how they’re winning first place in competitions or getting into a Young Artist Programme, does not make you any less great a singer. It only means you need to continue working hard and putting yourself out there to achieve the same goals…if that’s truly what you desire. From my own personal experience I know this can be incredibly difficult. Once you reach a certain point in your career you learn that wasting your energy on wondering what other singers at your level are doing simply breeds negative energy in your own development. Instead focus that energy into yourself and invest it in a positive way. Even if nothing comes of it, at the very least you will be a happier, more positive person.

4. Do you have a “bucket-list” role that you’d like to sing? Why?

The one role that I’ve always be hoping to perform is Susanna from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. She’s very different from all the roles I’ve ever performed. She’s young, vivacious and generally…happy. I’ve been very lucky to sing a lot of my dream roles already and having the chance to perform as Susanna would really be thee icing on the cake for me. I also wouldn’t mind being Musetta and smashing a couple of plates every now and then.

5. How do you explain your job to non-music folks?

Opera is such an obscure occupation in Canada. Almost everyone I speak with about my singing is very curious about what I do. I find that people generally think opera is something they’ll never understand, even though the’ve never even tried to see a show. I love it when people ask, “So do you like, sing everyday”? The answer is yes. I also get, “So do you make a living just on singing?” The answer…kind of? People seem to think it’s more of a hobby rather than a full time career. It’s a lifestyle in a sense, and more relatable then they might assume. I always urge them to come out and see a show before they cast it aside as something that’s not for them. Preferably one with me in it.

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