Arts

Singing at centre stage 

Photo: Kristin Hoebermann

Soprano singer Joyce El-Khoury has done what most singers only dream of.

Born in Lebanon, the University of Ottawa grad immigrated to Canada with her family at the age of six. She always had a big interest in music, having sung in choirs growing up. Her family had always been supportive, saying she had a voice to be discovered.

While many artists and musicians face family pressures to pursue harder academics rather than their artistic passions, El-Khoury’s situation was the opposite. She was thinking about studying nursing, but her parents advised her otherwise.

“You know, Joyce, you really should be singing, you have this gift,” she recalls them telling her. At that point, she didn’t know much about classical singing or opera, but she went ahead and auditioned for the program at the U of O.

El-Khoury completed her bachelor of music in 2005. After an operatic class featuring the production Carmen, she says she knew this is what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

“That was it, I only wanted to (study) opera,” she says. “I totally fell in love with it.”

And the hard work paid off. In 2009, El-Khoury made her Broadway debut with the ’s MET In the Parks Recital Series.

Because of her involvement with the MET, El-Khoury was more recently involved in the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre’s production of Met Opera Rising Stars: Bel Canto Showpieces on March 15. The series featured performers from or who had trained with the Metropolitan Opera, performers who are now at the cusp of  international careers in opera.

El-Khoury has spent almost all of her time with opera, travelling to perform all across the globe. The minute one job ends, she’s off to do the next one.

“Last year in June I went to an apartment in Philadelphia and put everything in storage,” she says. “I was going to be home literally nothing over 13 days (of the year). I’m on the road all the time.”

She says it’s good for aspiring singers to realize how competitive the field is, something that any type of schooling doesn’t teach you. She adds that it’s important to find out what kind of niche you want to present to the world, to stand out from others who are auditioning for the same roles. “You have to look the part that you are wanting to sing,” she says.

The lack of stability may be scary for some, while others may feed off of the drive to succeed further. “You’re living in suitcase, on the move. You have to be comfortable being alone,” says El-Khoury.

“There are many sacrifices, but that’s the price you pay to get that feeling you get when you’re on stage,” she says. “To me it’s totally worth it.”