After a twenty-five year career on the international opera and concert stages, soprano Wendy Nielsen is now Head of Voice and a Lecturer in Voice and Opera at the University of Toronto. In addition, she is Head Vocal Consultant for the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio and maintains an active private voice studio in Toronto teaching many of Canada’s prominent performers. Ms. Nielsen made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1996 as Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte under the baton of James Levine. Subsequent performances there over twelve seasons included: Countess Almaviva in Le Nozze di Figaro, Micaela in Carmen and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. Her international orchestral perfomances were numerous, notably opening the Lucerne Summer Festival as Elsa in Lohengrin with Ivan Fisher conducting the Budapest Festival Orchestra. Other significant performances included appearances with the Bejing Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Beethoven Festival in Krakow Poland, Madrid Sinfonica, Prague Autumn Festival, Toronto Symphony, Düsseldorf Philharmonic and Montreal Symphony.
A native of New Brunswick, Ms Nielsen attended Mount Allison University and earned a Bachelor of Music from the University of Lethbridge, and a Masters of Music in Opera from the University of British Columbia. In addition, Ms. Nielsen holds three honorary doctorates and has garnered numerous awards recognizing her contributions nationally, provincially and locally. Ms. Nielsen is the Artistic Director of three vocal programs at St. Andrews by the Sea, namely: Vocal Techniques Workshop for undergraduates, Opera Workshop for graduate students and young professionals, and a Professional Development Workshop for those in mid-career. She has guided these programs since 1994, helping them to evolve into the nationally recognized programs that they are today.
The NB Competitive Festival of Music played a large role in my early development. I was chosen as Star in 1985 and that was just the encouragement I needed going forward to complete my graduate degree in Opera. The scholarships were very helpful also! It was a difficult spring for me as my grandfather died the week before the festival, I very nearly didn’t compete as I didn’t feel somehow that it was respectful and I was also emotionally tired. My grandmother, his wife, told me that I should absolutely sing in the festival as he was such a music lover. Borti Nielsen, my grandfather, emigrated from Denmark to NB around 1920. He met my grandmother and they had four children. Music was a priority and all of the children had music lessons.
I have enjoyed now two careers in music. For twenty-five years I sang in opera and concert venues around the world including the Metropolitan Opera for twelve seasons. Now, I am Head of Voice at the University of Toronto and am the Head Vocal Consultant for the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio. I feel very fortunate to be passing on my knowledge both at these two institutions and in St. Andrews, NB at the opera program that I oversee every summer.
Music festivals are so important to young musicians, thank you and keep up the good work NBCFM! Congrats on 80 glorious years!