Winnipeg's prize winning opera talent Lara Secord-Haid, who has recently returned from a 15 city tour of China, (with plans for future performances in Austria, Russia and Korea); will be appearing this spring in Manitoba Opera’s Werther. In Werther, that opens April 29th at the Centennial Concert Hall, Secord-Haid, who graduated four years ago from New York City's esteemed The Juilliard School, will be playing the role of "Sophie," a younger sister to Charlotte, played by Lauren Segal.
Secord Haid says that Massenet’s Werther is "an incredible masterwork."
"My character, Sophie, is the younger sister of Charlotte who is entwined in a forbidden love with Werther. Much of the drama and music of the opera is richly dramatic, pulsing with the tragedy of an impossible love; I think Sophie’s role in the opera is to let the sun shine in for a few moments. Her young, light, naivety serves as a foil to the dramatic goings-on. You hear this in her music. She has a very gay theme that announces her appearance," she says.
To prepare for Werther Secord Haid noted that, " The whole cast arrives in Winnipeg three weeks prior to opening and we rehearse every day. I am very much looking forward to getting started. I look forward to the intimacy I will develop with Massenet’s score in working on it with a skilled talented team."
Secord- Haid is the only child of Winnipeg's Elba Haid (President and CEO of Real Care, a pioneer in providing home and institutional healthcare services in the city) and the late architect Marshall Haid, and is named after her ancestor the heroic Laura Secord (Lara is the great great grand neice of Laura Secord).
Elba Haid, who was elected Chair of the MB Opera at last year's general annual meeting, says, "I’m very excited that we are bringing Werther to Manitoba Opera for the first time. I recently saw a production at the Metropolitan Opera and was so moved by the opera. It has some of the most beautiful music in all of opera. It’s not surprising that at one time it was more popular than Carmen. I think our audience is in for a wonderful evening at the opera."
Secord Haid recently garnered First Prize for Canadian singers, chosen out of 18 North American finalists at the 46th annual George London Foundation Awards competition, winning $10,000 US. The competition, which was held this month in New York City, is named for its Jewish, Montreal-born founder George London, such that there is a special prize given to a Canadian each year.
Secord Haid says she was in "utter shock" to win the award. "I am so grateful that I had good friends who were also in the finals that could help keep me from floating away. I’m also very glad I had the chance to thank Mrs. Nora London in person for the award and for her tireless efforts to grow the George London Foundation so she can help young singers like me."
Secord Haid was also named a laureate of the 2015 Jeune Ambassadeur Lyrique (JAL) national audition hosted by Montreal's Théâtre Lyrichorégra 20. This prestigious accomplishment resulted in a solo concert performance for Secord-Haid in San Miguel, Mexico last January, as well as, her Chinese fall tour. As Secord-Haid explains, “the mandate of the JAL is to promote young Canadian singers in Europe and Asia. Each year they do a national audition tour to select the singers they consider the most promising to have an international Operatic career. These singers are invited to Montreal in November to sing on 4 concerts for a panel of Opera directors and touring agency directors from Europe and Asia. These directors are at liberty to hire the singers they hear and JAL provides bursaries to subsidize the successful young artist’s travel. Being a laureate of JAL means that you were selected in the national tour to participate in the concerts in Montreal.”
To see Lara perform, click here:
In her tour of China, Secord-Haid performed heavenly works by Verdi, Bellini, Donizetti, Mozart, Gounod, and Offenbach. The twenty eight year old Secord-Haid told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that the most memorable part of the intense tour of China was the engagement and enthusiasm of the audiences. "We performed for lots of children. We would look out and see 5-10 year olds in the audience with their parents and grandparents and they were beautifully behaved and actively engaged in the performance. We were never asked to change our program to condescend to children and I really appreciated that. I believe that at any age that we listen to classical music we will hear and understand what we are ready for. This gave me such hope for the future of opera, seeing young people as enthralled with opera as I was when I was their age. It really warmed my heart."
The eloquent Secord-Haid, an accomplished pianist who speaks German, French, Italian and Hebrew, graduated from Joseph Kolinsky Collegiate, began voice lessons at age twelve.
In 2004, at the beginning of her career, she sang with the Chai Folk Ensemble, and in 2005 earned the Silver Medal for her Royal Conservatory of Music Grade Seven singing exam. In 2010, she won five gold medals in the Manitoba Music Festival and in 2011, she graduated from Boston's New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Lorraine Nubar, and then enhanced her vocal training with a Master of Music degree in 2013.
"Lara's father introduced her to Opera from the time she was born. Marshall listened to The Met operas every Saturday afternoon,” says Elba Haid, who has been involved with MB for a number of years before becoming Chair recently.
Immediately following her four-week Chinese tour, Secord-Haid flew directly to Montreal to perform in this year's JAL competition. Secord-Haid had to fight off her jet-lag given the 12-hour time zone difference and her physical exhaustion from the tour itself.
But, once again, Secord-Haid was named a laureate of the 2016 JAL. "It was a mental struggle to stay focused more than anything else. I think when we’re tired the body (and by extension, the voice) is willing but it can be harder to harness the mind to the task at hand. It was a test of focus and mental endurance most of all, "Lara says of the competition.
As a result of the JAL, Secord-Haid garnered three bursaries including future engagements with an Austrian opera company (Landestheatre Linz) as well as, concert recitals at the Jeonju International Sori Festival in Korea. There is also the possibility that the rising opera star will embark on a multi-city tour of Russia, and details are being worked out.
Secord-Haid performed her first major role in August 2013 as "Donna Elvira" in Vancouver Opera's co-production of Mozart's Don Giovanni and gave a compelling performance as "Giulia" in Juilliard Opera's 2012 production of La Scala di Seta. She marked her MO debut as "Marzelline" during its 2014 production of Beethoven's Fidelio, wowing audiences with her charismatic stage presence and compelling vocals.
As Elba Haid says of her eloquent daughter’s success, “Lara had the opportunity to attend some of the finest schools in the world and she has had a lot of “angels” surrounding her and opening doors for her. This is one tough business and she appears to be making her way. I think that she has been successful to date because of her talent, her sheer tenacity, and her hard work. She has not given up on herself even though throughout there has been adversity. She is surrounded by a complement of professionals who would really like to see her succeed. What she achieves from here is in the hands of the universe."
As for the Manitoba Opera, Elba Haid says, "I feel blessed that I have a wonderful group of board members to work with and I’m very hopeful that during my term [as Chair] we can launch an endowment campaign to ensure the long-term sustainability of such an important organization in our community.”