From a European opera house to St. George's Anglican
By Angela Long
Published August 9, 2016
When packing for Europe, don’t forget your ball gown. Opera singer Lauren Margison always packs hers “just in case” she says while on break from Highlands Opera Studio. You never know when you might become a finalist in an international singing competition at one of Europe’s most prestigious opera houses – the Nuremberg State Theatre – and asked to perform two arias.
On July 26, Margison was chosen as one of 12 finalists in the inaugural Meistersinger von Nürnberg singing competition launched this year in Germany.
The contest was open to singers of any nationality between the ages of 18 and 35 in the general category, and up to 45 in the German-themed category. Organizers received hundreds of recordings from singers all over the world, inviting a fraction of the applicants to audition in Paris, Hamburg, Moscow, Stockholm, Nuremberg and Toronto. Margison made the list, auditioning with nearly 40 other singers in Toronto at the end of April.
At the age of 24, Margison was one of the youngest of 88 singers to finally walk through the doors of Nuremberg State Theatre on July 23. After the preliminaries and semifinals, Margison was the youngest to make it to the finals.
In an interview with a representative of the German press, the competition’s jury president, Prof. Siegfried Jerusalem, says opera singers require a “certain maturity” to sing well.
“You don’t achieve maturity through singing lessons at high school, it evolves from singing on stage,” he says.
Margison, it seems, is an exception. As the daughter of famed opera tenor Richard Margison and stage director and violinist Valerie Kuinka, and founders of Haliburton’s Highlands Opera Studio, Margison attributes her voice’s maturity to her “unique experience growing up.”
“I’ve been going to see opera since I was in the womb,” she says.
From the six arias selected by Margison, the jury chose two for her to perform in her black satin ball gown.
Now Margison was standing in a “quintessentially European opera house” with “gorgeous gold filigree” glittering and the Nuremberg Philharmonic Orchestra warming up behind her. “It was scary,” she says, but also exhilarating.
She sang Puccini, Mozart. It was the moment she knew she’d received the “stamp of approval” from one of the most illustrious juries in the world of opera.
She knew her days of making sandwiches for students of the Highlands Opera Studio were finally over. This month, she will sing her “first actual lead of all time,” she says, as Marguerite in HOS’s production of Faust. “I guess I’ve come up in the world,” she laughs.
Lunch break is almost over and Margison will return to St.George’s Anglican Church to practice a love duet. It’s not the Nuremberg State Theatre, but she would rather be here than anywhere else.
A cottager of the Haliburton Highlands her entire life, she says, “I love big cities, but this is where my heart calls out to.”
Margison sings her heart out at the Northern Lights Performing Arts Pavillion on Wednesday, Aug. 31 and Thursday Sept. 1 for Faust. For tickets and more information: www.highlandsoperastudio.com.