Sharon Azrieli is a Canadian soprano and cantor from Montreal, Quebec. Azrieli performs classical and operatic works, playing parts such as Juliet in Charles Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, Mimi in La Bohème and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. She attended Juilliard and has performed with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company.
Early life and education
Azrieli was born in Montreal, Quebec to Canadian architect, philanthropist and Holocaust survivor, David Azrieli. Azrieli moved to New York City after attending Vassar College, where she graduated with a degree in Art History, and an Associate Degree in Illustration from the Parsons School of Design. While studying illustration she got a Diploma in Vocal Performance under Ellen Faull at the Juilliard School, where her mentors included Joan Dornemann, Principal Prompter at the Metropolitan Opera and the late Herbert Breslin. Joan Dornemann invited her to attend her Vocal Arts Institute in Israel over three successive summers where she performed several leading roles, including Norina in Don Pasquale and Musetta in La Boheme.
The Canadian Opera Company's artistic director, the late Richard Bradshaw, scouted Azrieli, starting her career as a professional opera singer. Barshaw hired her as an understudy for the part of Juliet in a production of Gounod's Roméo et Juliette and as Mimi in a small-stage production of Puccini's La Bohème. Artist manager Matthew Laifer spotted Azrieli's performance and invited her to his roster. Under Lafier's management, she performed with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Chamber Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the Haifa Symphony Orchestra in their production of Rossini's Stabat Mater and Beethoven's Mass in C Minor. Other works included a concert of Puccini arias and Leonard Bernstein's Songfest. She also worked with Alexander Brott of McGill Chamber Orchestra, and understudied for Mirella Freni as Adrienne Lecouvreur with l’Opéra de Paris. A significant event in Azrieli's career came when she played the part of Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro at the Sarasota opera.
Azrieli put her opera career on hold after the birth of her two sons. To support her family, she enrolled at the Academy for Jewish Religion in New York and began her first job as a Cantor for Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor. Azrieli and her sons moved back to Montreal in 2000, where she became a full-time cantor at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom from 2001 until 2003.
Return to the stage
After her sons had grown up, Azrieli returned to opera. She became a student of Bill Schuman, a vocal coach who had previously worked with Celine Dion, Aprile Millo, and teaches at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. With Schuman's help, Azrieli primed her voice for Verdian soprano roles. Azrieli performed Leonora in Il trovatore and Aida. She performed the roles of the prioress in Dialogues des carmélites and Leonora in La forza del destino with One World Symphony Orchestra. She sang the role of Mimi in "La Boheme” with the New Jersey association of Verismo opera company and La Gioconda in La Gioconda. She has performed at several major festivals including Brott Music Festival in Hamilton, Ontario, and Festival Sefarad in Montreal. at Carnegie Hall, at the Metropolitan opera and at the National Arts Center in Ottawa.
Azrieli sits on the board of directors for the Azrieli Foundation. She created the Foundation's $150,000 composition and commission competition called the Azrieli Music Prize, which promotes new Jewish and Canadian music.
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