Science Student Turned Opera Singer

Published: January 27th 2010

Lauren Segal
Pic: courtesy of Canadian Opera Company

Lauren Segal is a rising star in the Canadian opera scene, but it took her a few twists and turns – including a couple of science degrees – to get there. A graduate of the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, Segal has performed such roles as Sonya in COC’s War and Peace, Aljeja in From the House of the Dead, and Siébel in Faust, as well as numerous roles throughout the country – and even earned the distinction of being the only Canadian in the inaugural Young Singers Project at the Salzburg Festival in Austria in 2008.


Shalom Life recently chatted with the singer – who plays Mercédès in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Carmen, starting tonight – about her choice of opera over science, the road to Carmen, and how her Jewish background plays into her work.


You did your Bachelor of Science in physics and astronomy at York University and your Masters in Physics at the University of Toronto. How did you get into opera?


I was always interested in music growing up and played various instruments, but I only started really listening to opera when I joined the choir at York, because I found that I was doing a lot of science – which I loved – but I needed some music as well. So I joined the choir in my second year and met some people there who were studying opera, started listening to it because of them, and I just fell in love with it. I found a teacher in my third year of my undergrad and I’ve been with her ever since. After my Masters I had to make a choice of which direction to take, and I chose opera.


So what made you choose opera?


I’m definitely passionate about both physics and opera, but I loved it so much and it’s a really wonderful feeling when everything goes right. I just loved it, and I had to give it a try.


Can you tell me about your role in Carmen?


I play Mercédès, who is one of Carmen’s friends. She is a very idealistic, romantic girl who is looking for love but not also finding it [laughs]. It’s a fun role and I’m also covering Carmen, so I’m finding it very interesting to learn both of them and see how they both work and work together.


Opera is a different way of telling the story – there’s not much actual dialogue and the songs are in a foreign language. How do you engage with the audience?


In terms of the language, most singers do have some sort of handle on all the different languages, and if you don’t, you’ve done lots and lots of prep work so you know exactly what you’re saying. And when you’ve added all the elements together, all the lighting and costumes and orchestra, everything melds together and you just tell the story and everything connects really well. That’s when it works really well – when everything is in sync with everything else.


Does your Jewish background play into your work at all, or has it influenced your work in any way?


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