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Opera Mariposa brings emerging talent to Whistler

Squamish tenor Lyndon Ladeur among performers at June 3 concert

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Squamish might be best known for its adrenaline sports offerings, but the "Outdoor Capital of Canada" has spawned at least one opera singer.

"For me, I loved singing when I was a kid," says Lyndon Ladeur. "I always thought I'd be a pop diva. It's all I wanted. But I never took lessons until I was in Grade 12. I was a sports kid. My dad was big on me playing sports. So was my mom. I still love it. I wish I could play hockey today."

Ladeur still calls Squamish home, but he's heading into his fourth and final year at the Vancouver Academy of Music. In the meantime, he's also found plenty of work as an in-demand tenor.

"Tenors in general (can be) a bit of a commodity. There aren't a lot of us," he says. "A lot of times people will call me and say, 'I need someone to do this small role' and I'd say, 'yes!' I'm almost too busy now."

One of his occasional gigs has been with Opera Mariposa, a Vancouver-based opera company run by young artists to help showcase emerging talent. Next up, Ladeur will perform with them in his first Whistler show called Opera in the Woods on Sunday, June 3 as part of the Whistler Chamber Music Society's concert series.

"They're such a great company and I love that they're using emerging artists," he says. "The bigger companies around the globe often aren't using local performers."

Along with Ladeur, the show will feature Kathryn Nickford as the soprano, Jason Cook as the baritone and Nikolai Maloff on piano. Ladeur will be performing selections from Mozart—including one of his favourites from The Magic Flute.

"It will be a lot of fun (with) different selections from different shows," he says.

Ladeur says he always enjoys an opportunity to show opera in a more accessible light. "We want to show people of our generation that when we go to watch opera—I'm in shorts and a t-shirt. It's not the picture of a snobby person you see in the media. For us, it's a fun night out. It's capable of being that if you want it to be," he says.

His unlikely journey to opera proves that. Though he was entrenched in sports as a kid, Ladeur also took part in musical theatre as an extra curricular school activity.

Then, when he was in Grade 12, Ladeur connected with Melissa Braun (before she started the Squamish Academy of Music) and became one of her students. "I went to Melissa wanting to explore music in general," he says. "We started by doing musical theatre and pop stuff."

It wasn't until she encouraged him to compete at the Howe Sound Music Festival that he began to delve into classical music (the festival required participants to perform both musical theatre and classical selections).

"She was like, 'Oh well, let's just teach you a classical song,'" he recalls. "It was so apparent my voice just naturally fit that style of music. Even to this day, my voice keeps growing. It gets bigger and bigger. I really fell in love with it."

After school, Ladeur moved to Ontario to attend Waterloo Unviersity and study math. "I went for four months and got really homesick," he says. "I decided I was going to come home."

He worked in the baking department at a local grocery store while thinking about his next move. Then, on a whim, he wound up auditioning for the Vancouver Academy of Music. "I've always loved school and going to school," he says. "I hadn't had the music education most people would've had. I thought, 'I'm going to go to a smaller school.'"

With his last year upon him, Ladeur is beginning to think of future plans like graduate school or a young artist program.

"Vancouver has new music opportunities—young composers bringing out cool, fun repertoires. Vancouver Opera is doing a lot of great shows," he says. "But the younger people are starting to realize ... we'll have to start companies to make shows happen. They're not paid, but it's getting us in the right direction. For us, it's about buffing up our resumes so we can move onto something different."

For now, you can catch Ladeur as part of Opera Mariposa on Sunday, June 3 at Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church at 5 p.m.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for youth (under 35) in advance at the Whistler Museum (cash only) or online at whistlerchambermusic.ca.

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