Sharon Azrieli, soprano

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

My first love was Ella Fitzgerald records at 12. I found them in the garage, but we always had music in the house. My mother insisted that we all take piano lessons, and I was given voice lessons starting at age 16. My father always played classical music; my mother listened to opera every Saturday. Although my parents never wanted me to pursue a professional career in music, after I was accepted to Julliard (after my third audition!!!), they finally accepted my destiny.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

  1. My parents not wanting me to be a singer
  2. My divorce with two beautiful babies, even though I was so happy that I had them, it was necessary that I put a hold on my career to raise them. I believe this is the reason why women that are in the prime of their career often choose never to have children. I have had many female friends and colleagues that have chosen not to have children for this reason.
  3. Getting back into my career after raising my children, I encountered ageism. The world of opera is geared towards tall, young, gorgeous 25-year-olds. Maybe rightfully so … you need to be strong as an ox, fit as a fiddle, and willing to take incredible abuse on your body and soul.

Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?

I’m always the most proud of the last one that I did, so it’s difficult to answer. You can listen to them and you tell me!!! I always strive to be better each time around. I’m very happy with the latest one, Frankly Sharon, and I’ll be recording a follow-up collaboration with Frank Wildhorn this summer, which I’m very excited about.

Which particular works do you think you perform best?

People seem to like my work as a cantor, and people seem to have responded well to the Frankly Sharon album. My foray into the jazz and Broadway world is my next musical calling.

What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?

I meditate every day, and I enjoy swimming for exercise. My children, family, and dog are my strength.

How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?

I come from a place of, “yes!” Whatever people ask me to do, that I think I can do well, I do.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

The biggest thrill of my life was making my Carnegie Hall debut with the Fauré Requiem; the sound of that hall is just incredible! I have sung there three times in different contexts, and it’s not only beautiful, it’s historic. The energy you feel looking out at the loges from the stage of the Isaac Stern Auditorium is just awe inspiring. No matter how quiet the orchestra is, the acoustics are so good that you don’t have to worry about projecting. I’ll never forget a year ago when I heard on the same day, Carnegie Hall, the MET, and Broadway closed, it was like the world was ending. I hope to be able to return one day in the near future.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences?

More music education – start teaching kids music at a very young age, bring children to live performances, teach them to enjoy while being attentive! Stop giving children tablets to shut them up, don’t let children have a tablet turned up loud at a dinner table in a restaurant; make them a part of the conversation! They can are capable of so much. I remember when my father brought me to my first ballet at age 4. I was absolutely in awe! I remember that performance as a turning point of my life in music.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

As a young child my dad took me to the ballet, to Gilbert and Sullivan, to orchestral concerts, and we had music on all the time. I remember seeing Yaëla Hertz, a friend of my father’s, in concert with the McGill Chamber Orchestra, who had one of the first, if not the first, female concertmasters in a North American orchestra! Even listening to concerts under a seat with a colouring book at a young age taught me to appreciate live music and the concert experience.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

To be working, no matter what or where, as long as someone wants to hear me; As a musician, I believe it is to be appreciated by one’s peers.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

If you really need to do it, don’t give up, but learn to do it well.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Singing!

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Balancing family and singing.

What is your most treasured possession?

My family.

What is your present state of mind?

Wishing everyone could get the vaccine so the world could return to normal – we can all get back to performing, and I could go tour my new album!

Sharon Azrieli’s magnificent soprano has been heard to great acclaim across the globe, from New York to Tokyo, and from Tel Aviv to her native Montréal. From her debut as Juliette (Roméo et Juliette) to recent portrayals of Gioconda (La Gioconda) and Nedda (I Pagliacci), Azrieli has been deemed “utterly charming” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune) and praised for her “exceedingly beautiful voice, full of feeling” (Ha’aretz).

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One comment

  1. Dear Sharon Azrieli, I was excited to read your interview responses. You make a whole bunch of SENSE regarding music in general and the importance of family.
    I believe the name of the music school/college you went to is spelled JUILLIARD, not Julliard… I know this because I went to MSM (Manhattan School of Music) as a French horn performance major, and while being a student, I also played with The National Orchestral Association under Leon Barzin and others. I also played at Carnegie Hall a few times with that orchestra as well as at Alice Tully Hall, but those days are long gone. I now love going to YouTube for live performances of all types. I don’t play any longer.
    I’ll be sure to look you up, Sharon, on YouTube because I’ve never heard you sing and I’m not on Facebook nor on Twitter. Nevertheless, I want the hear you sing.
    I too was born to musician parents, both of whom played flute in the Jerusalem/Radio Symphony under Israel Broadcasting Authority so I too heard a lot of music growing up. Nice talking to you, and I hope you’ll write me back. Thank you for “listening,” and lots of wishes for your success, which you’ve already accomplished so my wishes are uncalled for…
    Respectfully, Nadav.

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