"Oh my gosh, Mom, I want to live here!" I remember the moment well, that summer day in 1998, when I entered the Christie Mansion's music room at St. Joseph's College, the recently closed women's residence at St. Michael's. It was a hot day, and my mom and I had been all over UofT in search of a place for me to live in residence, not an easy task for a professional-faculty student. St. Joe's was our last stop, and I fell in love with a place that would inspire me through many working hours.
People ask me when I decided to become a singer, and I always have the same answer: I didn't choose this path, it revealed itself to me. In fact, I first applied for both science and music at university, and to this day I cannot remember a conscious decision to abandon the science for the music. After completing my Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance in 2002, I took one year of the Opera Diploma program at the UofT Opera School and later, in 2005, obtained my Master's of Music in Operatic Performance.
Now came the big question: What next? Ideally, a young singer auditions for a position in a professional training program that will further her artistic development and bridge the gap between student and professional. These positions are extremely limited, but here I was, that August two years ago, offered a spot in the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, straight out of school! I felt truly blessed to get my first choice, close to my family, at a time when I was about to transition from mezzosoprano repertoire to soprano. Knowing I would be guided and supported on a dailybasis was an incredible feeling.
In the Ensemble our days are very full. We are constantly challenged and always singing. The COC's own gifted professional staff coach us regularly; we have sessions and master classes with visiting teachers, coaches and conductors; perform smaller parts in the COC's mainstage productions and also understudy larger roles. Watching a working company put a show together is an extraordinary experience all by itself. But we also get to know the artists in the various shows. Their advice and insights about the life and business of a singer are invaluable.
I was lucky to have joined the company during its final season at the Hummingbird Centre and be part of the inaugural celebrations and opening season at Toronto's brand new Four Seasons Centre. When the ribbon was cut and our national anthem playing, my eyes were filled with tears. New opera houses aren't built every day, and I will never forget being one of the lucky first people to sing in one of the most beautiful halls in the world.
It was in my time at St. Joe's that I discovered what I have to offer and how I want to contributeto connect with others through breath, sound and beauty. Being able to sing and perform is a celebration of life and a sharing of what it is to be human. Life at St. Joe's epitomized these everyday miracles. I will always remember the Sisters allowing me to sing in the chapel before important occasions. Each time I finished warming up, I would lay my hand on the stained glass windows and breathe. The smooth, coolness of the glass centred me, and the colours infused me with the energy, vibrancy and joy that to me are the essence of singing. Now in my third and final year with the COC Ensemble Studio, I recall this ritual often, as I know that how far I've come and where I am heading is founded on where I've been.
In March 2006, Melinda Delorme joined St. Joseph's one last time, singing at the Sunday Mass marking the official closing of the residence. She chose Ubi Caritas, the Holy Thursday Mass hymn derived from plainchant, representative of the Sisters of St. Joseph's charism, Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor. Last season she had parts in the COC's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk and Elektra as well as in the COC Ensemble Studio's production of Swoon. During the 2007/08 season, she will sing the roles of Berta in The Barber of Seville, and Donna Elvira in the Ensemble Studio production of Gazzaniga's Don Giovanni. She will be understudying Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro and Tatyana and Madame Larina in Eugene Onegin.