In Conversation – with Suzie LeBlanc, Part III

The same mist hangs in thin layers
among the valleys and gorges of the mainland
like rotting snow-ice sucked away
almost to spirit; the ghosts of glaciers drift
among those folds and folds of fir: spruce and hackmatack–

– Elizabeth Bishop (excerpt from poem ?Cape Breton?)

Suzie Leblanc is an internationally acclaimed Canadian soprano. Her most recent project, the album I Am in Need of Music, a group of 11 songs whose settings she commissioned from six prominent Canadian composers and whose lyrics were based on the poems of Elizabeth Bishop, a new England poet who spent her formative years in Canada’s Maritime provinces (read The Voice Magazine’s review). In order to prepare to sing these poems for the album, as well as for sheer love of Bishop’s poetry, Suzie and artist Linda Rae Dornan retraced the steps of a hike Bishop took through Newfoundland in 1932 (this is documented in the video ?Walking with EB?). Recently she took the time to answer Wanda Waterman’s questions about her influences, inspirations, and future plans. (See Part I and Part II of this interviewer here in The Voice Magazine.)

How the Trip Influenced the Album

I am not sure that I was more connected to Bishop after the trip, but I was certainly more connected to myself and to my surroundings. I had time to read her prose and her letters, not just her poems, which meant that my knowledge of her was broadened. I like to think of it as being able to see a larger map of the area I was working in. Her spirit and her sense of humour were palpable throughout the whole trip.

On Conductor Dinuk Wijeratne

It was actually very inspirational working with Dinuk. He couldn’t have been a more perfect choice as a conductor of this recording; he knew each of the players, having conducted Symphony Nova Scotia, and he seemed to understand and adapt to the style and language of each of the four composers.

He already knew Christos Hatzis a little, but now he studies with him at the University of Toronto! I like to think I helped build that bridge.

Dinuk is incredibly gifted as a pianist, composer, and conductor. We met in Halifax to discuss the Elizabeth Bishop centenary and the possibility of commissioning Canadian works for it. Dinuk wrote a piece for the centenary in 2011, but his piece is not on the CD because it absolutely needed to be on a DVD. You see, it has 30 capoeira dancers in it, and they need to be seen!

Creative Needs

I need to be passionate about a project or an idea and feel that I have enough support and talent to make it happen. (A little cash doesn’t hurt, and a lot of cash goes a long way when it comes to supporting great art!)

Creative Influences

Books
When Women Were Birds, by Terry Tempest Williams (and all of her other books!)
Elizabeth Bishop’s prose and poems
Ru, by Kim Thuy

Albums
The Rite of Spring, with the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick Nezet-Seguin

Films
Bergman’s The Magic Flute
The King’s Speech
La Grande Bellezza

Next on the Horizon . . .

Tours
Ontario tour with the Blue Engine String Quartet, this autumn
Touring Canada with Bishop songs, spring, summer, and autumn

Recording Projects
Editing my just-recorded Acadian Christmas Album (2014 Christmas)
Recording Barbara Strozzi with Constantinople
Singing in The Myth of Europa, Toronto Masque Theatre, April 2014

Teaching, Speaking, and Aspiring
Teaching at the Orford Festival in June
Early July Concert at Orford
Mid-August appearing at the Acadian Congress Recital
TedTalk, Edmundston, NB
Singing the role of Melisande (Debussy) in a stage production.

Would love to help John Plant with the creation of his opera Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, on a libretto by Gertrude Stein!

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