Part Two: The World of Bravissimo…with James Westman

2013 would not be complete without my last interview of the year – shining the spotlight on Canadian baritone James Westman. Starting off his career as a former boy treble, Westman  has performed the leading roles of Verdi, Puccini, Massenet, Donizetti, Janacek, Bizet, Britten and Mozart for many principal Opera houses in North America and Europe.


Photo: Rob Harris

This evening, he will perform with the rest of the stellar Bravissimo cast at Roy Thomson Hall and if you’re not going, well, you should be. Schedules have been very tight but I was lucky enough to hear what the talented baritone has been up and what is in store for 2014.

1. I believe this is your first time performing for Bravissimo – what drew you to this particular performance?

I met Attila Glatz at Roy Thompson Hall’s Pops concert last year, where he graciously asked me to sing for his New Year’s Eve concert.  It is amazing the work he does to promote such fine music throughout North America and Europe. It is a thrill to be a part of such an exciting concert!

2. When performing so many opera favourites, how do you prepare yourself when you need to change characters quite a few times in a span of just a few hours?

We have many different operas represented in this gala and I have to change characters very quickly! A quick mind set in my dressing room is all I get! A challenge yet also a reward.

3. If you could sit down with any composer, singer or musician, who would it be and why?

My two favourite composers are Verdi and Mahler! I would love to have a cup of tea with them! Mahler was such a significant part of my early musical development as a child. Verdi, I relate to, now later in my career, especially in the physiological characters in Verdi’s father roles. Two completely different composers yet such a part of my artistry.

4. The ladies always get this question but I will throw it over to you as well – how do you put together your costumes and ensembles for performances?

Of course men’s outfits are rather boring just wearing tails! However, I am excited to be talking with Rosemarie Umetsu about next season. I am collaborating with her on something different for my New York Philharmonic performance next year and some other galas!

5. What can we expect from you in the coming year?

Next year will be a very rewarding year, singing with the New York Philharmonic, Vancouver Symphony, Winnipeg Symphony, Ottawa Lyric Opera, Utah Opera, and the Canadian Opera Company. I am also excited about the recording release of Bramwell Tovey’s Opera “The Inventor”, in the title role of Sandy Keith.  Next summer I will be working on a cd comprised of Canadian songs by Glick, Beckwith and Holman, recorded at the Wilfrid Laurier University, where I am currently a professor of voice and opera.

For more information on upcoming concerts, please visit

Part One: The World of Bravissimo…with Wallis Giunta

For the last few seasons, New Year’s Eve at Roy Thomson Hall has established quite a musical reputation for itself. An event that has brought together opera enthusiasts from all over the city, Bravissimo! Opera’s Greatest Hits was one of the very first productions that I worked on with the unstoppable duo, Attila and Marion Glatz – masterminds behind performances such as PBS’s latest sensation A Salute to Vienna

This delightful opera gala has brought together Canadian greats such as Isabel Bayrakdarian, David Pomeroy and Richard Margison. Two years ago, Wallis Giunta made her Bravissimo debut and is returning once again by popular demand. Next month, the mezzo soprano will also performing with the COC as Dorabella for Mozart’s Così fan tutte.

wallisGiunta-photo-credit-Michael-Edwards (1)

Photo: Michael Edwards


A lot has changed since I last spoke with Wallis two years ago. What better way to finish off the year than having another wonderful chat with her once again.

1. This is your second time returning to the Bravissimo stage and we are so glad to have you back! What kind of repertoire can we expect tomorrow night in comparison to the 2011 performance?

The main difference this time, I would say, is that my repertoire is all exactly for my voice type, with Mozart, Rossini, and Bellini, compared to some pieces last time, like the Carmen and Rigoletto excerpts, which I can sing in concert, but not on the opera stage…yet! This time I have all roles I could do now, including two roles I have performed before, and even an excerpt from Cosi Fan Tutte, which I am in rehearsals for right now with the Canadian Opera Company.

2. For those attending Bravissimo for the very first time, how would you explain the musical atmosphere that will take over the evening?

It is truly opera’s greatest hits, and each piece on the program will be a selection of the best and most beautiful music in the whole repertoire.

3. From a performance perspective, how do you prepare for a musical event like Bravissimo in comparison to other productions?

We have much less time to prepare for an opera concert than a regular staged opera. With the former, you usually have just 2-3 rehearsals over a few days, and the latter can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to put together.


Photo: Michael Edwards

I am extremely blessed to have the Ottawa designer McCaffrey Haute Couture dress me for all my concerts. When I have a performance coming up, we talk about the specific requirements and choose something from their collection, or collaborate to create something new. I am also the face of their label, and model for them when they launch new collections.

5. The world of fashion is changing within the classical music industry. How do you find your style evolving as you take on new productions, media opportunities, etc.?

I’ve realized that one’s image plays a very important role in how people perceive them, and judge their professionalism, dedication, maturity, etc. I am naturally inclined to be very simple, and even quite androgynous in the way I dress, but more and more now I find it helps to embrace a look which will meet people half-way between what they are expecting a female opera singer to look like, and how I really feel like presenting myself.

6. What is a typical Wallis outfit when you’re offstage?

I really like the simplicity and comfort of onesies, and I strive to find pieces that are fit for wearing in public, as opposed to the PJ variety. I’m also very happy in yoga clothes. I live and work in my body, and I really can’t deal with being constricted in my movement!


Photo: Michael Edwards

For more upcoming concert please visit:
Also, don’t forget to visit for more gowns!