Young opera singer wins prestigious prize
By Jenn Watt
Published March 6, 2018
Soprano Lauren Margison, a fixture of opera in the Haliburton Highlands, says she’s still in shock after being chosen as one of six winners of the George London Foundation Awards competition in New York City.
The competition highlights the voices of young opera performers and had more than 150 applicants. Of those, 72 were invited for live auditions. Seventeen were chosen as finalists, according to a press release from the George London Foundation for Singers.
Margison, 25, was among two other Canadians and three Americans to win the contest and take home $10,000.
“Winning the George London competition is one of the greatest honours of my career, and life,” said Margison in an email to the Echo.
“I am honestly still slightly in shock about the whole thing. However, it has given me a wonderful vote of confidence, and renewed drive to push forward and continue to better myself as a singer, and a person.”
Those in the Highlands will remember Margison from Highlands Opera Studio’s Faust, where she played Marguerite, and Cosi fan tutte, where she played Fiordiligi. In December she performed in the original Indigenous opera, Mishaabooz’s Realm, staged in Montreal and Haliburton.
Margison is a member of Atelier Lyrique de l’Opera de Montreal and is set to join the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio this year.
“The Canadian Opera Company Ensemble is one of the most prestigious young artist programs in North America. It is similar to the one that I am completing this year with the Montreal Opera,” she said. “It is a very high level professional training program that gives young singers on the cusp of their careers the polishing and stage experience they need to break into the full-time professional world.”
It’s a salaried position for two years starting the third week of August through to June each year.
Margison’s parents Valerie Kuinka and Richard Margison are the general director and artistic director respectively of the Highlands Opera Studio. Richard is a tenor, while Kuinka is a stage director and violinist.
However, despite their artistic backgrounds, Lauren Margison said her parents didn’t put any expectations on her to pursue the family business.
“They honestly never pushed me towards the arts. [They] facilitated my own self discovery and were incredibly wonderful and open to whatever it was that I felt passionate about,” she said.
Her first foray into music wasn’t opera at all, but singing Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and the Spice Girls in an exclusive kitchen performance for her parents at age 10.
“That is when they realized that I may have a bit of performer in my blood,” she said.
“During my teens, I really fell in love with jazz music and ended up being part of a group called Real Divas, which was formed by jazz legend, Bill King. … At age 18, I realized that opera was truly what my heart called to.”
Competitions offer exposure for young opera singers, but Margison says there are many who enter and don’t make it through who are high level performers.
“Even if you don’t win, you never know who hears you and falls in love with your voice,” she said. “I haven’t done too many competitions; less than five so far.”
Although Margison is about to join the Canadian Opera Company in August, she still intends to join the Highlands Opera Studio this summer.
“I couldn’t imagine a summer without it, nor would I ever want a summer without it! Sadly, I was unable to accept the role of Mimi in La Boheme as it conflicts with the starting date for my contract with Canadian Opera Company, however I will be participating in concerts and masterclasses until [August] 19! I know that my parents have found a group of wonderful artists for La Boheme and I will be very sad to miss it and especially sad not to work with my mother who will be stage directing La Boheme.”
Asked if she gets nervous before her stage performances, Margison said she embraces the jitters and channels them into her singing.
“Before I go onstage, I feel electrified and excited beyond belief,” she said. “It is an incredible rush.”