The warmth and darkness of a mezzo-soprano

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2002

Liesel Fedkenheuer has sung with opera companies and performed at vocal recitals all over North America, but said Juneau is one of the most interesting places she has been.

"Cape Cod was neat, and New York is always thrilling, but it's been incredible here," said Fedkenheuer. "It's beautiful."

Fedkenheuer was raised in Calgary, Alberta, and began her musical career playing the violin at age 4. She began studying singing seriously when she was 18, and now, more than 10 years later, she rarely has time to play her violin.

"Every once in a while, I'll get out my violin and do a bit of fiddling," Fedkenheuer said.

Fedkenheuer is a mezzo-soprano, a vocal range between soprano, which is high, and contralto, which is the lowest female voice.

"It's basically a different quality of sound in the voice," said Fedkenheuer. "It's warmer and darker."

Her training with a classical instrument helped her vocal career by developing a musical foundation. She said she enjoys singing for many reasons.

"It's a combination of singing beautiful music, communicating with an audience, bringing joy to listeners and collaborating with other artists in recitals," she said.

Fedkenheuer graduated from the opera division at the University of Toronto's faculty of music and made her debut in 1998, singing the world premiere of the aria "Gramarye" from Randolph Peters' opera "The Golden Ass."

She recently completed two years with the Canadian Opera Co. Ensemble, where she sang in operas such as "La Traviata," "The Rape of Lucretia" and Cavalli's "Giasone," among others.

"With opera, you just get a tremendous feeling singing with an orchestra," said Fedkenheuer. "It's really fun to act and be in character."

In 1997, 1998 and 2000, she attended the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Calif. Every summer, the vocal department, headed by Marilyn Horne, holds a competition. The winner of the competition becomes a part of the Marilyn Horne Foundation.

Liesel Fedkenheuer with Miah Im

When: 8 p.m. Friday, May 24.

Where: Chapel by the Lake.

Music: Classical. Concert to include songs by Duparc,

Verdi, Schubert, Wolf, Hundley and Korngold.

Tickets: $20 for general admission, $16 for students and seniors, at Hearthside Books, the door.

Linda Rosenthal, founder and artistic director of Juneau Jazz and Classics, said the foundation was founded in 1993 by Horne, "one of the great mezzo-sopranos of our time."

Its mission is to encourage and support the vocal recital through its presentation and through related educational programs across the United States.

"The recital and opera are completely different," said Fedkenheuer. "The recital is more intimate; you put more thought into the music and discuss it with the pianist. It's really yourself coming through."

Juneau Jazz and Classics received a grant from the foundation to host Fedkenheuer and pianist Miah Im, both of whom are winners of the 2000 Marilyn Horne Foundation Competition.

"This is my first time in Alaska," said Fedkenheuer. "It's definitely been just a great experience."

Community outreach is an important part of the foundation, and Fedkenheuer and Im have spent most of this week performing in Juneau schools. Rosenthal attended their performance at Mendenhall River Community School on Monday morning and was impressed by Fedkenheuer's musical ability.

"Although I've known from her CDs that Liesel has a beautifully rich and full sound to her voice and sings with great musicality and expression, I was totally captivated - right along with the kids - by her engaging presence, the expressiveness of her gestures and the beautiful way that she connects with her audience," Rosenthal said.

Connecting with the audience didn't always come easily to Fedkenheuer. Although opera came naturally to her, recital singing was more difficult.

"I've always been a bit of a ham, so acting and being a character wasn't a problem," Fedkenheuer said. "And back in my instrumental days, I was communicating through an instrument. As a singer, you are the instrument and you must learn how to communicate with the audience."

Emily Wescott can be reached at

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