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Opera singer tips hat to Glenn Gould for keeping her on track

What : A Viennese New Year Where: Royal Theatre When : Jan. 1, 2:30 p.m. Tickets: Starting at $40, Royal box office (250) 386-6121 Leslie Ann Bradley can thank Glenn Gould for keeping her on a musical path. Well... sort of.
Opera singer Leslie Ann Bradley says a family connection to Glenn Gould helped with her commitment to practise. She will join the Victoria Symphony Orchestra for A Viennese New Year next week.

What: A Viennese New Year

Where: Royal Theatre

When: Jan. 1, 2:30 p.m.

Tickets: Starting at $40, Royal box office (250) 386-6121

Leslie Ann Bradley can thank Glenn Gould for keeping her on a musical path.

Well... sort of.

The Canadian soprano, who’ll join the Victoria Symphony for A Viennese New Year, has a grandmother who’s a distant cousin to Gould . Gould, who died in 1982, was one of the 20th century’s most celebrated classical pianists.

When she was a child, Bradley’s parents -- a fashion stylist and a farmer in Port Perry, Ont. -- would sometimes remind their daughter she was related to the great one.

“They never really put pressure on me,” Bradley added with a laugh. “The only time I would hear about it was if I didn’t want to practice the piano.”

On New Year’s Day the New York-based soprano will be joined by tenor Adam Fisher for operetta favourites, including selections from Franz Lehar’s rarely performed Gypsy Love and the popular Watch Duet from Die Fledermaus. Alain Trudel will guest conduct.

This year Bradley -- who divides her career between symphony concerts and opera roles -- performed The Marriage of Figaro with Pacific Opera Victoria and the Brahms Requiem with the Victoria Symphony. She also sang Mozart’s Coronation Mass with the Toronto Symphony and Don Giovanni with the Vancouver Opera.

Bradley says her grandmother who first stirred her interest in music. A farmer’s wife with nine children, she was a “very good” pianist who played in the local church in Greenbank, Ont.

“That’s where my love of music came from, spending time with her every Sunday as she played in the church,” Bradley said, phoning recently from her sister’s home outside Calgary.

While friends listened to the pop hits of the day, Bradley became increasingly fascinated with classical music. She took music lessons at age 12. In high school she sang and played the piano as much as possible, taking private voice coaching on the side.

By 2003 Bradley was studying in Montreal with a voice teacher named Marie Daveluy. Her teacher taught her singing well was not just a technical feat, it also meant expressing one’s soul. As well, Daveluy dispensed advice on her social life. Suspecting her student was focusing too much on her musical studies, she suggested Bradley acquire a French-Canadian boyfriend.

“I was such a geek,” Bradley said. “And yes, very shortly afterwards, I did.”

Even after her professional career commenced, the singer made a conscious effort continue her studies. To take herself to the “next level” with her repertoire (which had focused on lighter roles), she took a master’s degree at the Univeristy of Toronto, studying with voice professor Lorna MacDonald.

Recently Bradley has linked up with Grammy-nominated mezzo-soprano Margaret Latimore for further coaching. The collaboration has been fruitful, with Bradley discovering new vocal colours in her lower register.

She says her long-term goal is to sing music requiring more vocal heft, such as the notoriously challenging role of Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello.

Bradley added: “I think if you listen to what your voice is telling you, it will take you on a fabulous journey. And that’s really all I’ve done.”