Talking with singers: Beste Kalender Photo: Codrut Tolea.

Talking with singers: Beste Kalender

Jenna Simeonov

This month, eight singers and two pianists will take the stage of Carnegie Hall to make a nod to the legendary Marilyn Horne and her remarkable mentorship of a generation of artists. Horne founded The Song Continues, an annual celebration of art song, and this year’s event on January 28 will mark the end of her extraordinary tenure as an operatic inspiration.

Joining the likes of Warren Jones, Martin Katz, Isabel Leonard, Lester Lynch, and Nicole Cabell, is Toronto-based mezzo-soprano Beste Kalender. We spoke with her about learning from Marilyn Horne, and the value of true artistic mentors.

What sort of impact has Marilyn Horne and The Song Continues had on the current generation of professional singers?

Since its establishment, The Song Continues has impacted so many artists in various ways. Each year, with Ms. Horne’s leadership, the program invites a number of singers with great talent, most of whom are at the beginning of their careers, to perform at Masterclasses with world-renowned names. Some of these young artists are featured at the Spotlight Recitals and have the opportunity to perform with distinguished pianists, such as Ken Noda and Warren Jones. The masterclasses and recitals typically conclude with a Song Celebration Concert, mainly performed by professionals who already have or recently started an international career.

For us performers, it is very crucial to be exposed to the right people at the right time. The Song Continues at Carnegie Hall has introduced many great singers at the beginning of their careers to the world’s top professionals in the business, to supportive audiences, and to prominent critics.

I know many colleagues who have met their favourite mentors, got their first connections with the Metropolitan Opera, or connected with highly regarded agents in the States during or after their performances at The Song Continues.

Beste Kalender in recital with Warren Jones, Carnegie Hall.

What can you tell us about your own relationship with Marilyn Horne?

Ms. Horne has always been my idol. I recall being overwhelmed with awe and admiration when I found myself auditioning for the Music Academy of The West in front of her 4 years ago. Our mentor-student relationship started that year but we had developed a deep connection the year after, when I was offered the lead role at Music Academy of The West’s production of La Cenerentola. I have had the privilege to prepare my first Angelina under Ms. Horne’s guidance, and our hard work paid off.

Beste Kalender in La Cenerentola, Music Academy of the West.

It was a very successful production and introduced me to many critics and opera fans in the US. Then I was invited to sing at The Song Continues Masterclass with Stephanie Blythe, another great mentor and inspiring, world famous mezzo-soprano. This was a great learning and performing experience for me.

The following year, Ms. Horne and Carnegie Hall invited me to perform a shared Spotlight Recital with the world renowned pianist Warren Jones. My recital debut at The Song Continues attracted attention from Musical America and I was named the New Artist of The Month right after the concert. Ms. Horne has been there for me at every step of the way, whenever I needed her. She taught me how to sing Rossini and how to develop as a performer; and she inspired me so much with her interpretation of Carmen, Romeo and many others.

In addition to her professional mentorship, she is such an inspiration with her warmth, delightful personality, and love for people and beautiful music. I feel quite blessed to have her in my life.

Beste Kalender with Marilyn Horne.

How does it feel to sing on a program among a distinguished roster of artists?

I have had the pleasure of performing with Warren Jones at last year’s Spotlight Recital at Carnegie Hall and I am really excited to be performing with him again. He always has very creative ideas about the pieces. After every rehearsal with him I find myself looking at my interpretation from a different angle, adding more layers into it.

Isabel Leonard, Martin Katz, Lester Lynch, Susanne Philips…just some of the names from the star cast roster of this concert. I look forward to hearing them live and singing with them for our great mentor: Marilyn Horne.

What do you look forward to most with this concert?

This Song Celebration concert is the most special them of all, as it will be a tribute to Ms. Horne and a celebration of her glorious career as a performer and as a mentor. This year will mark Ms. Horne’s last year leading The Song Continues at Carnegie Hall and I am so delighted to be part of this grand celebration of her life.

For details and ticket information for The Song Continues on January 28, click right here.

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